Who’s Delusional?

In a comments thread, I just quickly made up this list of things I said, out loud or in my mind, while dieting:

  • It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!
  • This didn’t work the last dozen times I tried it, but that’s because I didn’t try hard enough/I was on the wrong diet/something bad happened that made me start eating again!
  • I’m doing it for my health, not because of how I look!
  • I’m not focused on numbers, and it’s all about health, but my goal weight is 110!
  • I know 95% of dieters gain it back, but they don’t have the willpower I do!
  • Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!
  • This time, I’m going to keep it off permanently.
  • Once I get thin, there is no way I will ever let myself get fat again.
  • When I’m thin, I will be happy.
  • No one will fall in love with me until I’m thin.
  • When I’m thin, I will deserve X, Y, and Z.
  • Fatty foods don’t even taste good anymore.
  • I don’t feel hungry!
  • I’m not obsessed with food!

Every last one of those statements was a crock of shit. Most were downright delusional.

But nobody ever told me I sounded delusional. Nobody ever accused me of lying through my teeth, even though I pretty much was. Nobody ever accused me of “making excuses” for spending money on diet programs whose own friggin’ marketing literature said they would not work for most people. (“Results not typical.”) Nobody ever dismissively sniffed that I was only saying all that because I hated my body, even though that was entirely true.

But now, when I’m actually pretty realistic about health, eating, and weight; I’m happy with my body; and I’m telling the truth as clearly as I can, citing my sources and being careful not to say anything I can’t back up, people are totally saying all those things.

Go fuckin’ figure.

Posted in Fat

38 thoughts on “Who’s Delusional?

  1. I have told myself all those things. It’s weird how anxiety-producing letting go of them feels; last night I had to specifically tell myself “No food restriction! Eat what you want!” and I swear I got a little panicky at the idea.

  2. I’m just loving the way that Tde hasn’t read any of the arguments you link to liberally, but goes on pushing the calories in/calories out argument without the slightest interest in actually, you know, paying attention to anything anyone says which might force hir to re-evaluate hir beliefs.

  3. Is there anything you recommend saying to people who are dieting and/or recommend diets? Lately, I’ve been finding “Sucker!” (preferably with the cartoon visual of turning into a giant lollipop) tempting, but I don’t think it will help.

    I’ve actually tried “It looks to me like deliberately losing weight generally doesn’t produce a net improvement in quality of life–that’s why people regain the weight”. This doesn’t seem to work terribly well. Too complex an argument or just needs more repetition?

  4. People who are in the full blown diet delusion will not accept any of our information.

    I work with many women who are always zapping away cardboard frozen food at lunch time- the diet frozen meals- and complaining about how shitty they are– but how they are trying to be “good.” I, in turn, pull out real food from home or nice stir fried veggies or sushi bought downtown and they stare at me like I’m from outer space. Eating real food like veggies on rice with ginger sauce, etc. they are always salivating over my food.

    When I point out they could just as easily have the food I have, they pshaw the very idea- because *they* need to lose weight- bot be a big fattie like me. (No one says this- its the standard perception in the room).

    I tell them to let go and just eat what they need to eat- forget about the scales. Nope. None can do it. Instead, they have all taken up with a diet class that is every Monday- where employees are taught to obsess over food, weight, etc. in pursuit of health. Because size= unhealthy, of course. I laugh the whole time and take myself for a nice long walk every Monday while they are being indoctrinated. Hmmm… wonder in the long run who’ll be the healthiest?!? Those who eat processed frozen meals and sit around obsessing– or the fat one who eats fresh, whole foods and takes a walk after eating each day?

  5. “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!”

    Yeah, this is a popular mantra, well familiar to me, which originated on pro-ana boards. Shows you how fucked up the line really is.

    I think I had every single thought on your list when I dieted in the past. Here’s on to add which I would tell people anytime they commented on my weight loss, which was frequently: “It’s all mind control.”

  6. Oh my God, yes. Every last fucking one of them. But then, the diet culture is part of the same culture that tells women that they are never good enough and that their only value is in their ability to make babies to perpetuate the patriarchy. Funny, then, how the very aspects of women’s bodies that used to appear on fertility goddesses are now the parts that cause revulsion — thighs and bellies.

  7. Yeah, this is a popular mantra, well familiar to me, which originated on pro-ana boards. Shows you how fucked up the line really is.

    Actually, Rachel, that’s been a diet mantra for decades. (My guess is it actually originated with Weight Watchers, but I don’t know.)

    The fact that it’s been adopted by the pro-ana community, however, does indeed show you how fucked up it is.

  8. Nancy, lots of people have given you great responses already, but I’ll add that I think the best strategy is just to make it clear that you do not want to talk about/hear about dieting. Something like, “I have my own experiences and I’ve done my own research, and I strongly disagree with you about dieting. Since neither of us is going to be converted, let’s respectfully agree not to discuss this subject anymore.”

    When you’re dieting, hearing that diets don’t work is just fuel for you to start going on and on about your favorite subject. But hearing that someone doesn’t want to hear about your fucking diet at all? Is a serious kick in the gut.

    So that’s the best I got.

  9. Shit, dude, my dad’s 66 and he still believes that crap about himself, despite my many entreaties to the contrary. So if you “got it” when you’re half his age (or less?), congratufrickinglations. One less wet noodle to torture yourself with, one more to be eaten.

  10. One less wet noodle to torture yourself with, one more to be eaten.

    As long as it’s wet with Alfredo.

  11. Also, my Dad’s almost 72 and still yo-yo dieting, although he’d lose it if he heard it described that way. See, thin him is the REAL him. Fat him is some other guy. Definitely not the same body going through torture.

  12. Been there, done that, grew out of the t-shirt.

    I have to agree, Chiara, that the notion that I can eat what I want is scary. I think it’s largely because I don’t trust myself. If I’m not restricted, then I’ll just eat EVERYTHING IN SIGHT! Of course it’s completely ludicrous, but there it is.

  13. Been there, done that, grew out of the t-shirt.

    LOL!!! That might need to be my new tag line.

  14. Chiara, CJ,

    I really hear you about the fear of being allowed to eat whatever you want. It’s like, if I actually stop thinking about my food, then I’ve given up and I’ll never be pretty or normal. (which is… screwed up, according to the academic half of my brain).

  15. First, I want to make clear I think you and the message you’re spreading is great.
    I do want to say that some people who adopt healthier lifestyles (foodwise, exercisewise) lose weight. It’s not necessarily all a big lie, the calories in/calories out thing.
    I have been heavy and thin. I have “dieted” (i.e., chosen unhealthy food plans for short periods of time to “fix” my weight problem) and I have specifically chosen NOT to diet (but to make good, wholesome food choices). The latter worked for me.
    Obviously I think that healthy eating and taking good care of your body is the answer. Whether it results in weight loss or not.
    But to suggest that anyone who loses a significant amount of weight will never keep it off and that we are all delusional is sort of reverse discrimination, isn’t it?
    I was overweight for a very long time. I lost a large number of pounds (over 75) and 2007 is my eighth year at this healthy (not super skinny) weight.
    I don’t starve myself, eat diet food, obsess about what I put in my mouth, or do anything else radical. I exercise almost every day, but was only able to start that after finding something I loved to do; before that it felt like torture.
    I just want to say that sometimes choosing a healthy lifestyle results in weight loss. And that’s ok too :-)

  16. Yeah, Mia, some people do lose significant weight permanently as a result of eating better. Lucky them. I’m jealous. I want thin privilege too, if only so that I can be given credence when I tell the world it exists.

    But when it’s widely assumed that we will automatically lose weight if we “eat right and exercise,” and that we must be lying if we say we are eating better and exercising and haven’t gotten thin as a result, can you blame us for getting a wee bit testy? Being assumed to be incapable of being honest with anyone, including myself, about how I live my life is flat-out crazymaking.

    Know what’s my fave, Kate? When I see these specials on Oh So Scary Obesity and they interview someone who’s lost a bunch of weight and then say, “This time she intends to keep it off for good.” What, the first 62 times she dieted it was just for shits and giggles?

  17. I do want to say that some people who adopt healthier lifestyles (foodwise, exercisewise) lose weight

    I never said they didn’t. I said the vast majority of people who go on diets regain. You and I are drawing the same distinction.

    I don’t starve myself, eat diet food, obsess about what I put in my mouth, or do anything else radical. I exercise almost every day, but was only able to start that after finding something I loved to do; before that it felt like torture.

    And see, that’s not dieting. That’s living a reasonable, healthy lifestyle. I absolutely support and promote that — it’s what the Health at Every Size movement is all about. I also live like that, btw.

    But not everyone who does that will lose weight like you did. Many people exercise, eat well, and remain fat. And until we separate “a healthy lifestyle” from “losing weight” in people’s minds, plenty of people are going to keep going on unhealthy diets and fucking up their bodies.

  18. “This time she intends to keep it off for good.” What, the first 62 times she dieted it was just for shits and giggles?

    I love you, Meowser.

  19. Like I said, I was heavy for years, and I dieted stupidly for years, so I know what you are all saying and I’m agreeing with you! Believe me, I know what it’s like to be on that side of the fence, and to be judged. I get that, I really do. And I struggled with society’s expectations and assumptions about me for so long that it really took a long before I could learn to love myself and accept myself (which I was finally able to do, just BEFORE I lost the weight. I think that acceptance is what finally allowed me to start the healthy living lifestyle I finally adopted, as opposed to yet another pointless and destructive diet).

    All I reallly was saying is this: every time someone makes fun of a fat person, or assumes the person is stupid or lazy or lying, I cringe. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, too many times to count. But every time someone says gleefully says something along the lines of how they are just going to sit back and watch and laugh when people who lose weight gain it all back, well, it just sounds kinda the same to me.

  20. But every time someone says gleefully says something along the lines of how they are just going to sit back and watch and laugh when people who lose weight gain it all back, well, it just sounds kinda the same to me.

    And I hope I haven’t said anything like that, Mia. I don’t take any glee in seeing that happen to other people. It’s a fucking miserable experience, as we both know too well.

    That’s why I’m so passionate about promoting the concept of working toward better health without worrying about weight loss at all. Weight loss is equivalent to living a healthy lifestyle in so many people’s minds, and that just sets people up for failure, shame, and endless frustration. I don’t relish seeing people end up in that position.

  21. Sometimes weight loss will happen. Sometimes weight gain will happen. I don’t think this is about affirming or decrying either situation. They just happen. The reality is, weight loss happens very, very seldomly. Pointing that out shouldn’t be presumed to be a critical measure intended to bring people down. Its not. Its the truth and people should be free to point that out without affirming weight loss when it happens because nothing said there was attacking incidental weight loss. Nothing was talking pleasure in the inevitable weight gain nearly all dieters experience. I feel sad when people diet because I know what they are going to go through when the weight comes back on. I don’t think any genuine fat acceptance advocate could possibly cackle with glee at the awful cycle of dieting. Moreover, I don’t think anything has implied or suggested that response either beyond those who think everyone has to cheerlead for dieters all of the time and just thinking differently is unacceptably negative.

  22. I’m sorry, maybe I wasn’t referring to any particular comment here but rather what I have heard too many times from other women who say they love themselves and accept their weight but, when I lost weight, attacked me. As if I had somehow betrayed a whole movement. If you love yourself, fat or thin, great. If you don’t love yourself, work on it, but don’t take it on me.

    I don’t go around proselytizing about weight loss to anyone. I do talk about eating healthfully (esp eating less processed food, because I have a BIG issue with processed–versus natural/wholesome–food). But I don’t get in people’s faces about it at all, I only talk to those who are interested, and it has nothing to do with what their weight is (I am well aware that there are unhealthy thin people and healthy fat people).

    I guess I just have been worn down by those who strike me as angry and who feel that I should have remained heavy because by losing weight I have somehow kowtowed to society and its expectations of me and all women.

    But I shouldn’t have brought that here. I think it was just lurking there, needing to be let out, though, so I hope you understand.

  23. Well, if someone’s really being an asshole about their weight loss, I probably will (secretly) wish for them to gain it back.

    I define “being an asshole” as any or all of the following: Pressuring me to go on your diet; talking about how horribly ugly you were before you got thin (implying that I must look even worse since you were never as fat as I am!); making blanket statements or strong implications that other people aren’t as disciplined, virtuous or “healthy” as you if they’re still fat.

    But if that’s not you? If you’re nice and respectful? Then no, I won’t wish you fat again.

  24. At the risk of getting jumped on, why does anyone care whether I “eat healthily and exercise?” I eat a wide variety of foods that include all kinds of veggies, fruits, and whole grains. It also includes pizza, burgers, and the occasional order of fried chicken.

    I live in a fourth-floor, walk-up apartment. I walk because I enjoy it (although I don’t walk as much as I should for optimum health.)

    But what if I did sit around eating only crap and never moving? What of it? Why is it anybody’s freaking business if I’d rather trade a few (or even many) years at the end of my life for enjoying the ones I have here? If I’d rather see a movie than spend 90 minutes at the gym, isn’t that my prerogative? It’s not like I would insult someone who made the opposite choice.

    I personally think that anyone who actually enjoys competetive fitness is nuts, but I would never, ever suggest that those people stop running iron man races, or whatever floats their boats, in spite of the fact that high-impact exercise is hard on the body.

    All that said, with the exception of my grandfather, who died at 42, my family has been exceptionally long-lived, especially given the fact that most of them were chain-smoking alcoholics. (Another reason that I think anyone dissing my pasta should bite me. I don’t smoke and almost never drink, and never more than a drink or two.)

    My father was told in 1977 that if he didn’t give up smoking and drinking and get a new liver, he’d die within 18 months. He didn’t give up either chain smoking or drinking, didn’t get a new liver and lived until December of 2005. His mother, a chain smoker for almost 75 years, lived to 89. My other grandmother, also a heavy smoker, lived to be 86. My mother died young (67), but survived 9 years with untreated cancer while drinking obscene amounts. Longevity and obesity are in my genes.

    Why do I owe it to anyone to “watch what I eat?” It’s not like I’m forcing pizza down anyone else’s throat. (And before I get the “think about your family” comments, that’s not really an issue in my case.)

    Sorry, this is just a thorn in my side.

  25. I promise, Meowser, you would like me, lol. I really am not like that at all.

    And please don’t think I’m being all whiny and acting like a victim. I’m a big girl.

    But, seriously? I want you to know that, truly, nastiness works both ways.

    I have friends, coworkers, relatives, etc., who might pass me by while I’m sitting in silence eating my salad (which, by the way, is a huge salad filled with vegetables and grilled chicken and beans, not just some sad little tiny pile of rabbit greens) and actually make snide comments.

    You know how fat women are horrified that some thin stranger might make a comment in the grocery store about what’s in their carts? (I’ve certainly been there.) Well, guess what. I’ve had it happen to me, just the other day, but by a large woman who was on line behind me and made an unkind comment about the contents of my cart. I was shocked. And she wasn’t being cute, or smiling, she actually looked me up and down, glared at me, and said something nasty about what I was buying.

    This happens regularly. It’s really tiring after a while. I feel I have to defend myself and, you have to admit, no one should ever have to feel that way.

  26. The last two comments just hit home for me about all the busy-bodyness out there. Like both of you are saying, why is it anyone’s damn business what we eat or how much we exercise? Or whether we do anything else that might “impact our health”?

    Yeah, we have a right to a smoke-free indoor space and not have smoke blown in our faces, I think, but if someone is smoking where I can’t smell it or inhale it? Totally not my business. I’m sure it’s a bitch to try to quit, and being a lifelong nonsmoker I probably don’t know the half of it.

    If someone wants to get themselves plastered every night? Fine, just don’t take the wheel and don’t create a toxic waste dump meth lab in your kitchen — otherwise it’s your life, your body. I might not want to hang around and watch, but then, I don’t have to.

    “Public health” should literally be about “public health.” That is, clean water, breathable air and minimizing the spread of communicable disease. Not about micromanaging everyone’s “lifestyle.” I mean, we have infrastructure to fix and stuff, shouldn’t our tax money be going towards that first?

    Nobody has ever said anything nasty to me about the contents of my grocery cart, and I don’t really notice any “dirty looks” though I could well be oblivious to them. But if they ever did say anything? I think I’d say, “Thanks for sharing, but I already have a mother. If I want advice on what to buy, I’ll ask her,” and hold up my cell phone. (If you don’t have a mother, I’m sure you could borrow mine.)

  27. Kate, I’m totally with you on all that, and wrote about it here: http://kateharding.net/2007/05/11/health-is-not-a-moral-issue/
    I hate the busybodies.
    Problem is, there are two separate messages I’m trying to get across:
    1) Health at every size is possible;
    2) Fat people don’t deserve to be discriminated against for any reason, including being unhealthy if they are, and what they eat/how much they exercise are nobody’s business.
    I believe both those things completely. But when I start going down the #1 road — which is important, because so many people don’t believe or understand it, including both concern trolls and fat people who would sincerely like to improve their health but think that means dieting — I can start to neglect point 2, which is equally important.
    So thanks for bringing us back to that.

  28. Nobody ever accused me of lying through my teeth, even though I pretty much was….Nobody ever dismissively sniffed that I was only saying all that because I hated my body, even though that was entirely true.

    But now, when I’m actually pretty realistic about health, eating, and weight; I’m happy with my body; and I’m telling the truth as clearly as I can, citing my sources and being careful not to say anything I can’t back up, people are totally saying all those things.

    That’s what pisses me off the most, actually. When people — not strangers on the internet, but people who I have relationships with and therefore know me well enough to know that I don’t lie about anything else in my life — still assume that I must be lying (or, at the very least, I “just don’t understand” how to lose weight).

    I could make any other statement in the world, and they would take it at face value, because they don’t assume that I’m lying. Logic dictates, then, that I’m not lying about how much I eat/exercise.

    But, sadly, Captain Logic is not steering this particular tugboat.

  29. This whole issue of food and other people’s opinions is an interesting one. In the process of talking about how I must have a higher metabolism (or some such) with my boyfriend, I asked, “Then why am I fat?” His response: “You eat a lot. You outeat me.”

    At first I was offended, then I remembered quite appreciative comments he’d made recently about my hips and the sting was gone. But my response was telling.

    I agree, why shouldn’t I get to eat when and what I want (unless there is an actual medical reason like kidney failure)? I don’t actually eat that much more than others. I shouldn’t have to justify that my food is healthy or that I’m exercising. I should just listen to my body and take its word for what it needs at any given time. And if it needs a Dove icecream bar and I have that available, damned if I’m going to deny it.

  30. “Public health” should literally be about “public health.” That is, clean water, breathable air and minimizing the spread of communicable disease. Not about micromanaging everyone’s “lifestyle.” I mean, we have infrastructure to fix and stuff, shouldn’t our tax money be going towards that first?

    Meowser, this was one of the most fuckfabulous comments I’ve ever come across! If we put more effort into *your* version of public health, nobody would have the time or effort to worry about the next best diet pill, surgery, or what anybody has in their cart. Yeeeooowww!

  31. I definitely think that public health can be a lot more hands-on than that. To me, the definition of a good public health program is one where a collective response is easier and cheaper and more effective (or at least a couple of those things) than individual action. Vaccination, food safety enforcement, centralized availability of reliable information, etc. I don’t think that the problem is public health experts getting too excited about preventing health problems, I think the problem is public health programs that are bound to either not work or fuck people up even more.

  32. I should add that I also believe that the carrot is almost always preferrable to the stick, as policy goes. The government has figured out a way to make it easier to be thin? That’s great. What seems less useful is just making it harder to be fat.

  33. I was a healthy, tall, active, fruit-and-vegetable-loving and, unfortunately for me, naturally chubby child. I went on several vicious, punitive crash diets from the age of twelve to about seventeen, after my dawning realisation that my body type wasn’t considered aesthetically acceptable (at that point it seemed like there wasn’t as much focus on the pseudo-rationale about health).

    I lost three stone (about 45lbs?) on the final diet and have kept it off for coming up to six years with very little effort. Now, numbers wise, I am pretty much ‘perfect’. I achieved this rare feat as, after dieting and (mildly and on a relatively small scale) binging, purging and starving my way through my formative years I have completely fucked up my digestive system. I now have IBS, severe acid indigestion, am lactose-intolerant, and in addition to my otherwise minor hayfever, *throw up* virtually every morning at the beginning of spring in response to the early pollen, and periodically throughout the rest of summer. Oh, how good it feels to finally be at a “healthy” size! Thank goodness for the years of remarks by selfless, public spirited school bullies. Why, if it weren’t for them, I might actually be able to eat a pizza, or have my window open during the summer months without puking!

Comments are closed.