Not too long ago I was having one of those diet-think days where my inner monologue was right out of a women’s magazine. Among the thoughts I caught myself thinking was this (you’ll find it familiar, I’m betting): “If I only ate a couple hundred fewer calories a day, I bet I could lose weight.” Luckily, I am at heart a rational person, so that thought led to the following thought process.
Let’s assume for a second that the human body is essentially a Bunsen burner, and it really is as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Since returning to my previous weight after getting off of antidepressants — that is, the weight I was before I started the antidepressants, which is the weight I was before i started my last diet, which is the weight I was before I started the diet before that — I haven’t gained or lost more than a couple pounds at a time, and the changes have always averaged out to zero. I eat a certain amount per day, and I maintain the weight I’m at. So doesn’t that mean I’m eating exactly what I need?
If I ate a couple hundred fewer calories per day, I guess I might lose weight, but I’d lose weight because I was cheating my body — it requires a certain number of calories to do its daily thing, breathe and pump blood and think and type and go to dance class and whatnot. Obviously I knew this — that dieting is about cheating your body, that it’s about literally inducing starvation, where starvation is defined as not getting enough energy to support your daily processes — but for some reason it was a revelation to think about it this way. Even if it were as simple as calories in and calories out, I’m clearly not running a deficit or a surplus, which means I get just what I need. Which in turn means that I need what I get.
Now sure, one of the things that my body needs calories to do is maintain my current weight. Presumably, I use more calories than someone with my metabolism who is smaller would use, at least in the body-as-Bunsen-burner paradigm. But just like you can’t spot reduce, you can’t choose where you’re cheating yourself. You can’t restrict only the calories that are used to keep you weighing 250 (or whatever) and not the ones that are used for thinking and dancing and living. If you cheat yourself, you cheat yourself across the board. How is that worthwhile? How is it healthy?
Even if the people who squeal about how it’s as simple as eating fewer calories than you expend were right about how the body works, what they’re suggesting would be absurd. Consistently denying yourself what you need, not out of genuine privation but out of guilt and self-loathing? It’s not only an absurdity; it’s an absurdity born of the fundamentally absurd Puritan notion that only self-abnegation gets you into heaven. Fuck that. I don’t feel the perverse need to count the number of breaths necessary to get my brain enough oxygen, and then reduce them by a third. I don’t mete out how much water I’m allowed, reasoning that getting enough to stay hydrated would be greedy. If the amount I eat is fueling the amount I do, then it’s the amount I need.
Addendum: Just because I brought it up does not mean that the “no diet talk” rule in the comments policy — or, for that matter, any part of the comments policy — doesn’t apply. I realize we’re getting a lot of visitors right now from the saddest and shittiest parts of the internet, so apparently this needs to be said. Comments about your brilliant diet system, or how I could be on a diet right now, or whatever the fuck diet diet diet, are not getting fucking approved, you dipshits.