Lose Weight, Stop Dieting

Can a feminist diet?” wondered Kjerstin Gruys, a UCLA sociology grad student. “The question haunts me. I’m a feminist, a recovered anorexic and, yes, I’m on a diet.”

She knows the horrors of obsessing over “bad food.” Women become starving anorexics or binging/vomiting bulimics or fall into the most common food ailment: binge-eating disorder which is marked by overeating in secret, lying about eating, craving unhealthy foods, and putting food first.

Feminists pan diets that “drain women’s energy, happiness, and wallets – often while risking our health,” Gruys notes. And in the end, diets usually fail.

Still, slim women are rewarded and heavy women are punished. So what’s a girl to do?

Gruys has chosen to forgo both mirrors and dieting.

I don’t know if avoiding mirrors will help, but when I stopped dieting I lost weight because I also lost my food obsession.

So I don’t believe in diets. But I do believe in healthy eating – which brings satisfaction without feeling uncomfortably full.

Since I’ve found that poor food choices leave me hungry even if I overeat, I appreciate new food guidelines that recommend lots of delicious fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with yogurt, nuts, and peanut butter. Milk and cheese don’t seem to affect weight, so add them too.

Foods to enjoy more sparingly include French fries, red meat, processed meats, refined grains, sweets, sugary drinks, fruit juice (who knew?), fried foods, and butter. Potatoes make this list, but the butter and sour cream we put on them are the real problem.

I’ve found that labeling foods “bad” just leads to obsession – you want what you can’t have. So I have my burgers and fries (a couple times a week) and a little candy too. But I’ve also learned that whole foods are luscious.

And don’t forget to exercise and get plenty of sleep.

The starvation beauty ideal is ridiculous – and unattractive, if you ask me. But living healthfully will help us to lead fuller lives.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 4, 2012, in body image, feminism, psychology, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Every time I start obsessing about my weight, I go to Stop Hating Your Body:

    http://stophatingyourbody.tumblr.com/

    And after reading about women who hate their chins/eye-brows/knees/thighs/tummies/lips/skin-color I can see the fail of body talk and am reminded that I want a body I can live in, not that others can look at.

  2. People tend to laugh at me when I tell them I have a problem with body image, and food since I’ve always been thin. The way binge eating is described here outlines my behaviors exactly. I eat in secret, and am always hungrier after I eat “bad” foods even if I’ve eaten a LOT. I used to go to Jack-in-the-box multiple times a week, order a bunch of food, and no matter where I was headed (even if I was going home) I would sit and eat it in the car. I’ve gone to the store to get cheese at night, sat in my car in the parking lot and eaten the whole thing.
    I restrict myself so much because I’ve always been thin, and now that I’m getting older I have such a paralyzing fear of gaining weight. Due to that restriction my binges are frequent, and very intense.
    I love what is said here about throwing diets out the window, and not labeling food as bad, and simply eating healthy foods with a sprinkling of “fun”(?) foods in there too so that binge eating isn’t as likely.
    Love it. A great topic that I think more women should read about. I’m going to link this on my sites :) thanks!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I had often thought my problem was exaggerated by being short (5’1) and so needing to keep calories low. So it’s interesting to hear about tall women experiencing the very same thing.

  3. I agree that dieting is very harmful, not even as much to your physical health, but to your mental health. When people diet and restrict their intake, they soon become obsessed about food. This makes life absolutely miserable. Social calendars go down the drain, as you have to schedule things around “meals”. People may not want to go out with friends and make up excuses, simply because they do not want to eat out. Furthermore, the healthiest and thinnest people I know have never been on a diet and do not even understand the concept of dieting. I have a family member who has the perfect body, but she does not make an effort to diet or work out. Instead, she eat what she loves and stops when she is full. She indulges in her favorite foods every single day, and does not even comprehend why a person would deprive herself of something that she wanted to eat. In the past when food was scarce, people would eat as much of they could because they did not know when it would come next. This is the mindset that a dieter takes upon. This leads to unhealthy binges and regret. There is a saying that French women weigh less because they do not have guilt over what they eat. This is absolutely true in my opinion. I know that I feel the worst about myself when I weigh myself, and when I do not my day is much better, regardless of what the actual number is. Weight fluctuates, the amount a person eats every single day fluctuates. The key to being happy is to not care about food. It should simply be a way to fuel your way through the day and to enjoy during that meal time.

    • Thanks. re “I have a family member who has the perfect body, but she does not make an effort to diet or work out.”

      In high school I had known someone like this. It took me a long time before I “got it.”

  4. I agree %100 with this article. I never understood why some people would go on a diet rather than work out. I’ve heard of different diets such as the popcorn diet and the liquid diet. After I researched these diets I found out that people are basically starving themselves to lose weight. When people follow certain diets they should be sure that they are in taking the recommended amount of calories per day, which is usually 2000-2500 depending on your weight, height, and age. If your body is not consuming enough calories per day it can be really dangerous. In fact, you can deprive your body of the proper nutrients it needs to function. In my opinion, one should work out and eat healthy if they want to lose weight instead of dieting. Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight, it takes hard work, patience, and dedication.

  5. Most of the women are insecure, especially when it comes to weight. I totally agree with this post. Many people nowadays count on calories before each meal. They try to find an easy way to lose weight refuse to do any exercise. Basically, most of the diets recommend you to eat less. I love to eat fast foods, but on the other hand I knew I would regret after eating it. I’m not an expert, but I have tried many type of diets I’ve come to realize that rather than being on a diet I need to change my eating patterns and habits, by doing exercise, I could still lose weight without cutting off my favorite food.

  6. I agree with this opinion. Dieting is not the only way to loose weight. We are humans, and we need to eat food. As the writer claims that she makes the efficient, healthy and delicious diet. I think this is the best way to keep our body healthy and also the best way to loose weight. If we use wrong methods to loose weight, many disadvantages will come for sure such as anorexics. Besides, I think another very good method is exercising. Having exercise is a very good way to keep our body in a good condition and the important thing is keeping doing. We can’t just doing exercise when we want to and stop exercising if we want to sleep longer.

  7. Malar Ganapathiappan

    I think one of the problems is that society has become obsessed with dieting; it’s very popular and a myriad of celebrities are known to have gone on specific diets. I completely agree with the fact that dieting isn’t the answer to losing weight but eating healthily is. To lose weight, there is no reason to eat less than 1000 calories on a daily basis. A reason diets are so alluring is that they’re in some ways easier and cheaper to go through with than eating balanced and healthy meals daily. Also, it seems to make sense that if you put less food in your body, you will put on less weight. This simplistic view doesn’t take into account all the other reasons individuals gain weight. If only everyone was knowledgeable about the facts in this article, such as to eat certain foods in moderation, do regular exercise, and get an ample amount of sleep. I believe that starvation isn’t the key to being attractive but being healthy is.

  8. I like this article because it surprises me and also fits my condition. Although I think I have good body imagine and do not care much about others’ views, I do not think women should keep slim instead of keeping healthy. And although I do not think women should lose weight for men, I am trying to lose weight. It is really hard for me to go on a diet. I can eat only apples for two days and lose several pounds but eat a lot on the third day and gain more. This makes me feel difficult, upset, and guilty. I fully agree that “labeling foods ‘bad’ just leads to obsession”. Maybe I should change and choose a healthier diet.

    • I’d highly recommend you eat a healthy diet that embraces all food. Enjoy all the wonderful healthy foods and have a little fun with treats, too.

      This notion that women should only eat apples, for instance, to be thin comes out of a very crazy culture. It’s not what women were meant to eat or who we were meant to look.

  9. Food has different effects on everyone, some obsess, other don’t have a problem with their relationship with food. Their are people who can eat whatever they choose yet never gain weight because of their metabolism. I fit in the category of gaining weight if I don’t watch what I eat. Often individuals find themselves dieting only to come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work. It’s all based on the relationship you have with food, and changing your entire mentality.Guy’s makes an interesting point, “Labeling foods as ‘bad’ just leads to obsession-you want what you can’t have.” Her statement is true, I’ve been on plenty of diets, and I failed 95% off the time because of restricting myself of foods I wanted. I would indulge in food then tell myself I would start fresh the next day, ultimately lying to myself. It’s best to see a nutritionist or do some homework on healthy foods to change your mind frame. People shouldn’t limit themselves to never eating a piece of candy or french fries rather do so sparingly as a little treat. In many scenarios people gain more weight while dieting, so stop dieting and live a healthy lifestyle; eventually the ponds will shed. Include exercise and drink plenty of water will help the process of losing weight or staying fit. Although knowing what to eat is half the battle it’s actually taking the initiative to do so which can be the obstacle most people have a problem with; I certainly do. I found this blog to informational the tips given in the post will help me with my struggle to lose weight.

    • I’ve been thinking about what you say here. This may not be “dieting” in the way I mean it if you’re counting calories to make sure you don’t overeat — as opposed to restricting your calorie intake. And it may work for many people. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends doing this. I only see it as a potential problem if a person starts getting obsessed with the numbers.

  10. I absolutely agree with this article! Dieting doesn’t really help you. I feel like the more you restrict yourself from foods you want to eat, there will be a day where you just go all out and binge. A close friend of mine used to have a binging problem and she told me that she would constantly count calories and starve herself, she decided to just stop all of that and now she feels better. I don’t believe in diets because I feel they are only temporary results, what really helps in the long run is a healthy lifestyle/routine. Counting calories is fun to me but it gets addicting so I’ve stopped myself!

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