Monthly Archives: March 2017

Dieting Shouldn’t be Our Normal State

Diet culture teaches us to tell ourselves that this plate is too much food before we even take a bite.

Everyone is on a diet, always, or thinking about their next diet, or thinking about going back to the diet that they lost 30 lbs on ten years ago. The amount of brain energy we use to think about better ways we can restrict food is absolutely insane.

Dieting shouldn’t be our “normal” state in life yet for most adult women, it’s something they are frequently thinking about.  It’s rare to meet a woman who has never been on a diet or who doesn’t desire to be smaller. It’s disarming to be in a room with a woman who seems to eat freely, without concern for calories, carbs or how other people will perceive her for eating whatever she desires. Try going to the average exercise class full of women and I will bet you $100 that the instructor will say something about working harder so you can wear a bikini in a few months (the assumption being your current body isn’t fit to wear a bikini). Try watching TV for an hour and not see a commercial that promotes either a device that will help melt off fat, a procedure that will make you slimmer or an exercise program or medication that will help you finally lose weight.

Women grow up knowing what dieting is, long before their bodies are done growing. We understand the need to manage and manipulate our bodies in order to receive approval. At a young age we don’t understand why dieting is so important but we learn that it’s just part of being a woman and we really want to be adult women.

We hear our Moms and their friends, or other women in our family talk about how they need to stop eating carbs, or how they just can’t control themselves around sweets or bread. They pinch their stomachs and say “Look at this! Can you believe how fat I’ve gotten?” and laugh. They order diet cokes and salads with fat free dressing when the family goes out to eat. They comment on other people’s bodies too. They say things like “She’s too big to wear that” or “She’s totally let herself go.” We also hear “Have you lost weight? You look so beautiful!” or “Wow, that’s a very slimming dress on her.”

We take it all in. Just as we learn everything else. Big = bad. Fat = bad. Pretty = good. Thin = good.

We grow up watching the women around us push food around their plates instead of putting it in their mouths. We watch the women we love hold onto clothing hanging in their closets that are 3 sizes too small but they keep because of a dream body that still lives in their seams. We learn that dieting is just what women do and because we are desperate to be a grown woman long before our bodies and minds are ready, we too start to regulate our food intake.

We tell our own girlfriends that we’re no longer eating cookies or that we’re watching the carbs. We tell them how we’re going to start exercising so we can lose a few pounds. We aren’t even sure what a pound is or how many of them is enough, but we know that we should have less of them.

We say all of this so proudly and we wait for their eyes to light up with envy, with awe, with approval and love. We know how grown up “dieting” makes us appear and that idea makes an electric tingle go through our bodies starting from the glittery headbands on our heads down to the suede ballet flats on our feet. We feel more bonded to our friends and other women in our lives when they share their diet plans or secrets. We bond over vilifying fat and celebrate our accomplishments when we can squeeze into a dress that was too small a few weeks ago. Food becomes an enemy to never relax around and being willing and able to go hungry for long periods of time becomes a badge of honor.

Little girls learning that they have to be small, pretty and perfect to be loved is not ok.

It’s not ok because they grow up to be women who accidentally teach the same ideas to the next generation.

It’s not ok because all of these women limit their potential because they’re so bogged down by the issues attached to weight, size and controlling their bodies.

It’s all so crazy and sad. And we have to start changing it.

We should be outraged that this has become the normal. That it’s completely accepted that we should all be vying to be as small as possible and that anything else is wrong.

I just want to say for a second that there’s no one to blame here. I’m not blaming mom’s for their daughter’s learning this stuff and you’re not a bad person if you say, think and do the things I’m talking about here. You learned this stuff somewhere too. My own mother constantly told me that I was capable of anything and also that I’d look beautiful even in a burlap sack. But her own words about her own body was a different story and I absorbed all of it as just something women did.

This is a bigger cultural issue (diet culture) we have that goes so deep and is supported by every single one of us taking part in it. I still find myself occasionally thinking or saying things (especially as a joke about myself) that support diet culture even though it goes against everything I believe and teach today. Some things are so ingrained, it’s hard to realized how far, except when they seem to appear out of nowhere. I’m still working on my own deep beliefs about my body and food. It’s a process and one that will take years to undo the damage our diet culture does to all of us.

Diet culture teaches us that we can’t trust our own bodies to tell us how much to eat. It teaches us that we are wrong and sneaky. It teaches us that we need calorie counts, points or portion sizes spelled out for us in order to know how much to eat. Diet culture teaches us to silence the signals that are already available to us in our own bodies, until they’re so faint we can’t hear them anymore.

I can’t stress enough that we don’t need diets or meal plans to tell us how much and what to eat. Unless you have a medical condition that requires careful policing of certain nutrients or food categories (diabetes, celiac, kidney disease etc), you probably don’t need some other authority to tell you what and how much to eat. And if you feel so far removed from trusting your own hunger cues, I can help you get back in touch with them. The best authority to check in with to determine how much food your body needs is you. Your body. Your knowledge of yourself. If you feel good and you’re healthy, if you have ample energy to do all the things you want to do, then odds are you are eating the right amount of food that you need. You don’t need to follow a diet.

This might mean that your body is meant to be a little or a lot larger than you want it to be. This also doesn’t mean you have to be unhealthy. You can eat well, exercise, get good sleep, manage stress and do all sorts of other things in the name of health. You don’t have to necessarily manipulate your size or weight to be healthy. Being slender does not equate health and being heavier does not equal being unhealthy.

Constant dieting is like being at war with yourself and you can’t make peace with food if you are at war.

You may not be ready to give up dieting or know how to stop taking part in diet culture the first time you are introduced to it (whether through a blog post like mine or somewhere else) but what you can do is try to become more aware of your thoughts and beliefs and ask yourself where that came from. Here are a few questions to ask yourself or use for journaling to bring up your beliefs about your body and food:

  • What do you believe about your body? Is it too big, too small, just right? Why? Why is it one of those things? How do you know?
  • Think back to your childhood and teen years. What types of things did the people around you say about their bodies, your body or other’s bodies? How do you think their viewpoints affected you?
  • What do you believe if the right way to eat? What foods do you eat regularly and which do you never eat? Why? Why do you think you choose the ones you do or don’t?
  • What thoughts and feelings do you have about other women’s bodies? Are there certain attributes you are aspiring to? Are there attributes or features that you are trying to change? Why?
  • When do you feel your physical best? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you have judgemental thoughts about food? Do you believe some foods are good or bad? Or that you are good or bad for eating them? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you admire and appreciate about your body as it is right now?
  • When was the last time you ate a meal and received pleasure from eating it (without judgements)? Can you try to receive pleasure from food more often?

I have so much to say on this but I don’t want to bog you down with yet another 2500 word blog post (haha) so keep an eye out for my next blog post which will be on how health coaches are contributing to diet culture and how I’m trying to do things differently!


Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!

 

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What Does Being “Fit” Mean to You?

What does being fit mean to you? Try to remember that fit doesn’t always look like what we think it should look like. Try focusing on function and the joy you get from activity.

If you were an alien visiting this planet for the first time and taking in all the different sources of information we have available to us (TV, internet, magazines/newspapers, books etc) to learn about your new planet and it’s people, you’d quickly form opinions and ideas about our society.

Some of these would be absolutely and hysterically incorrect but others would be very accurate.

For example, an alien might come to believe that “Twitter” is a God who doles out important edicts in 140 characters or less, all day long.

They may determine that our primary food source is french fries and burgers from McDonald’s (and don’t forget the Coke!).

They may wonder why some people on this planet are starving and yet other parts of the world have grocery stores that are so overflowing with food that some of it gets tossed in the trash every day. They may come to believe that every American swallows a small white circle called a “pill” that has a funny name that gives them a dog, a spacious back yard with luscious green grass and a smiling husband and kids but also has to watch out for side effects like diarrhea, skin rashes, leukemia and even death.

This would look like a really strange place to someone who’s never seen any of it before.

Let’s say this alien’s job was to understand what being “fit” meant to humans, in particular, people in America.

I know you know where I’m going here, but just for a minute try to view this stuff through the lens of totally fresh eyes.

What would you see?

What would you learn?

Using the same sources of readily available information, much of it coming from heavily available advertisements and articles, this alien would soon create an idea in their head that being FIT equals:

  • being tan skinned
  • having no visible body fat other than in female breasts and booties (which may or may not be enhanced by implants or injectables)
  • being tall
  • usually being caucasian
  • having well developed and very visible muscles
  • wearing very little clothing but whatever clothing fit people do have is tight fitting
  • spending hours upon hours in an enclosed space called a “gym”
  • eating lots of fruits and vegetables, low fat foods and also powdery substances called “protein shakes”
  • working so hard that your body cries visible tears (sweat)
  • demonstrating amazing feats of strength and endurance by completing competitions like marathons, powerlifting, triathlons etc.
  • moving fast

I’m sure you can think of a few other things that would seem to be typical of a “fit person” in America if viewed through the eyes of an alien. That list is a little tongue in cheek but how much of it do you agree with?

What is being fit? What does it mean to you?

In our real “human” lives we take this same information and internalize it, some of it consciously, and some not so consciously and we kind of develop a similar impression of what it means to be fit.

I have spent many years being frustrated that my body physically didn’t look the way it was “supposed to” despite all the things I did to be “fit”.

I wasn’t the right size, body type or height. My body has and had plenty of visible body fat.

To someone just looking at my outside at most points in my life, and possibly even today, I may not appear fit . . .to them. I know I’m fit regardless of what I may look like to someone else.

Fitness and “being fit” is not a one size fits all definition and it certainly doesn’t have one single look or body type. Being fit doesn’t always look like what we think it looks like.

Here is what being fit means to me.

It is feeling and being strong and capable. Having the energy to do all the things I need to do and not be completely spent afterwards. Or being spent afterwards (sometimes that’s the goal!) but recovering quickly enough to be excited to do it again.

Being fit is being able to carry my snow tires on their rims from my basement to the back of my car without needing to ask anyone for help.

Being fit to me is being able to bike 30 miles on one day and still have the energy to meet up with friends afterwards.

Being fit to me is being able to help a friend move without being totally sore the next day or being sore but not having it destroy me.

Being fit to me is being able to climb several flights of stairs and not be out of breath for very long.

For me, being fit is so much about function than aesthetics.

It’s about feeling powerful, experiencing joy, having good health (something else with more than one definition), pushing oneself and pulling back as needed, and being able to adjust to a change in course.

I’m not planning to ever be a marathon runner or a powerlifter (but props to those who are).

I’m not fast. I’m also not that flexible. And I have some foot injuries that pop up occasionally that slow me down a little and even cause me to modify some things.

However, I also have a lot of strength and endurance that doesn’t quit at the end of a long day.

I know when to rest my body, when to give her the time and care she needs. I know when to push myself and when to back off. I know what I’m capable of, what I’m not and when it’s possible that I might entirely be wrong about myself.

My hard workouts are still hard. Even though I’m physically fit, I get out of breath, muscles cramp, and aches and pains sometimes make me stop before I want to. I sweat. I pant. I get rosy cheeks.

But I’m willing to adapt, modify and change my view if it means being able to continue moving forward, making progress and smashing my own goals. Being fit is accepting where you’re at right now, but also being interested in doing at least one of the following: maintaining, growing, challenging or changing. You decide what, how and how much. You decide what’s enough.

I urge you to question what you believe “being fit” means. If your beliefs about what “fit” looks like don’t match up with what you look like, despite your effort, energy and capabilities, throw it out the window and build your own definition from scratch.

What are you capable of?

What incredible stuff does your body do?

What sort of activity makes you feel incredible? What brings you joy?

What do you wish you were even better at?


Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!