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Diet Isn’t Only a Verb

May 11, 2012

Trigger warning: Discussion of the two types of diets.

Fat people are conditioned for deprivation. If we eat, we’re lazy and stupid and don’t care about ourselves or the fact that we’re taking up ALL the healthcare. If we stop for a taco or a hamburger when we’re weak with hunger and too busy to cook, we deserve whatever ridicule this act garners, even if that ridicule comes from within.

In fact, that inner ridicule is one of our only saving graces. We’re expected to try to lose weight, even if it never happens. Try telling someone that you’re giving up dieting — forever. It’s like telling someone you’re giving up sex forever. The level of disbelief is mind-blowing.

A few months ago, I went to a nutritionist. The consultation came as a perk with my gym membership. I was a little nervous because I am hardwired to believe that any medical professional is going to try to put me on an impossible diet. But I had just been diagnosed with hypoglycemia and I wanted to talk to someone about it.

It took about 30 seconds for the nutritionist to tell me that my blood sugar is out of whack and that the only way to fix it is to eat more.

Eat. More.

And more balanced. I am hypoglycemic. If I eat too many carbs without enough protein, I don’t feel well. I get shaky and disorientated, then everything hurts, and then I need a nap. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, I need a nap. I’ve had to pull over on the side of the road; I’ve fallen asleep in college classes and been woken up by irate professors; I’ve fallen asleep when I should be doing something for or with my kids.

I realized a long time ago that diets don’t work. Despite being on all the diets, I’ve never lost an appreciable amount of weight. For my particular body, just about any change in my routine (eating differently or adding more exercise) causes a small weight loss, usually less than ten pounds, and then my weight buoys right back to where it was. As long as I don’t overcompensate with binging, my weight stays very stable. Learning to appreciate that stability has taken a lot of time and effort.

But now this nutritionist tells me that I need to be on a diet. My body needs a certain number of calories to function — a significant number of calories. It needs protein every time I eat something carbohydrate-rich. I can’t just eat what I want, when I want, without causing very uncomfortable things to happen.

At first I panicked. I’ve worked so hard on giving up dieting, on teaching myself that it’s okay to eat when I’m hungry and to eat what I want. Now I have to start counting carbs? And calories? And protein grams? Seriously?

And then I realized something that made it all okay. Sure, the verb diet means restricting food intake, either by reducing calories or cutting out types of food. For the vast majority of people, the verb diet leads to deprivation and failure and self-hatred.

But the noun diet is different. As a noun, diet is what and how you feed yourself. It’s self-nurturing. Diet feels good because it feeds your brain and increases your energy and is one of the purest forms of pleasure.

In many ways, the verb diet is the lack of the noun diet. All deprivation, no pleasure. All self-hatred, no self-nurturing.  Starving yourself doesn’t work. Diet, the verb, is a big fat fail.

But the noun diet? Feeding yourself food that makes you feel good, inside and out, works every time. It supports your health, physically and mentally; it stimulates your senses; and it keeps the things that need balance in your body balanced.

So, in honor of International No Diet Day, I’d like to propose something pretty radical for the Body Acceptance world. I say, take back the diet. Figure out what your body needs to feel good right now. Not 20 or 50 or 100 or 300 pounds from now.


Maybe that’s the last piece of birthday cake. But, maybe it’s also a handful of nuts to balance out the sugar in that cake. Eat enough calories today to function fully and happily. Eat to satisfy your senses. You eat with all of them, don’t you? Build your diet around what tastes good and smells good, around what gives you a satisfying feeling in your mouth and in your belly. How about adding some foods that sound satisfying when you chew them or feel good between your fingers when you bring them to your mouth?

Be radical.

Own your diet.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2012 2:51 pm

    im dealing with something very similar. we believe (but not 100% positive yet without more tests) that my seizures seem to happen with low blood sugar and dehydration. OH how hard it is to MAKE myself eat. even when i don’t want to. ESPECIALLY if im nauseous, as nausea usually =low blood sugar.

  2. The Real Cie permalink
    May 22, 2012 5:41 am

    I actually did give up sex forever, 14 years ago. I don’t like casual sex because it makes me feel cheap and dirty, and I can’t do relationships because of my mental illness. It makes me suicidal when I inevitably get screwed over. Bipolar disorder is bad enough, but when you throw in borderline personality disorder and ice the damn cake with OCD (manifesting as hoarding disorder, and no, I do not hoard animals) then your chances of having a positive relationship are right out the window.
    I think that people would be more accepting if I said that I ate small children for breakfast and molested puppies than revealing that I am celibate by choice. And revealing that I’m fat and don’t diet? Oh boy, I’m really asking for the hoards to storm my castle with torches now!

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