Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Losing It

The South Beach Diet. The Atkins Diet. The Medifast Diet, Nutrisystem Diet, Weight Watchers Diet, low-carb diets, low-fat diets, I’m on a diet.

How about, diet and exercise?

What does the word “diet” mean in our society? Is it a way of life, or is it something we subject ourselves to when we want to look and feel skinnier? By and large, it’s the latter.

I have a diet. We all do, whether we notice what we shove in our mouths or not. But most people don’t think of diets that way. The focus is almost always on slimming down.

It’s really hard to go against such an overpowering current, to ignore the army of voices chanting “smaller, smaller, smaller,” to actually try to gain weight. Because it becomes ingrained in your head that gaining is bad, bad, bad. You don’t want to gain weight. Because then you’d have to diet.

I’ve hit my head against this many times. It’s easy enough to tell someone you’re trying to gain weight. What’s not easy is dealing with their reaction. One response I got, verbatim, was “Why on Earth would you want to do that?”

Granted, this person does not live in the U.S. and has never seen me outside of Facebook. But that is exactly the wrong thing to say to someone trying to recover from an eating disorder. Even if it’s part of a compliment that includes “you look great.” Actually, especially then.

Because it made me question my goals. Why should I gain weight if I look “great” the way I am? Doesn’t that mean I’ll look fat after five more pounds? When people question your decisions, you start to question them yourself.

I don’t think this would be such an issue if “diet” hadn’t all but lost its other meaning, the one that is, ironically, the first one under the entry in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

“a. food and drink regularly provided or consumed”
Diet should be seen as a lifestyle. Eat healthy to be healthy, whether that means you lose or gain. Our bodies all need something different, but it’s so ingrained by our culture that we. Must Lose. This is something I still struggle with sometimes. But here’s some food for thought...the first entry in Merriam-Webster under “gain”?
“1: resources or advantage acquired or increased : profit
 Maybe we should all take a page from Merriam-Webster’s book.
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