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. 28 Comments.

  1. I personally feel that many of the pressures to be thinner, or a more “ideal” body type comes from fellow women (although indirectly definitely from the patriarchy). Perhaps just from growing up basically my entire life in an era and environment where I was taught about feminism, I never really witnessed many boys who put down girls for what they looked like (although I may just be lucky) – but I sure did see a lot of girls pressure and put down other girls. I’ve always known to never take a boy’s opinions on my appearances to heart, but for some reason I would feel so much more insecure if it came from a girl.

    I think the culture of girls putting down other girls exists due to a literal worldwide long history of women always being looked down upon, no matter by who. It also maybe comes from biology, or literal evolution, where women may have needed to compete with other women for their and their family’s own survival. So, as we teach our boys to become more careful with the words they say (which sadly don’t always reflect their actions), we also have to make an active approach to teach our girls to support each other! If women don’t even have each other’s backs, who will?

  2. My whole life, I have never had high self-esteem. Growing up, I had always been the skinniest in my family, yet the one that was never happy with her body. I was the kind of girl that did not like to buy new clothes because I thought that nothing looked good on me. Then and now, I never go out without putting a sweater on, no matter how hot it is. I have gained weight during the years, and more even after I had my son, I am as unhappy with my body as I was before, still do not like to buy clothes because they will not look as pretty on me as they do on the store mannequins. Society had taught us that the perfect body type is skinny, and so has made us never to be good enough just the way we are. We are always looking for a new diet knowing well enough that once you are done with it, we will eat everything we were not allowed to while dieting gaining all the weight back. Anorexia and bulimia are harmful because they mess with your head and kill yourself to be skinny and never think you look good enough.

  3. This topic is something I wish received more positive media attention. The ideal standards of beauty have become so far fetched and unrealistic. The lengths at which many women will go to achieve the look of their favorite celebrity or whatever happens to be “in” at the time is scary. Simply because so many people want the fastest solution without considering their health. High profile celebrities are paid immense amounts of money to promote “quick fix” dietary supplements, leaving their followers to believe that they really use the product they are promoting and it truly worked for them. For example, a very popular thing now is slimming herbal teas, or weight loss pills. These become dangerous when “said” celebrity promotes them and her followers that have all very different dietary needs, restrictions, and sensitivities all decide to try the product. Many have had to face the results of health complications or body reactivity if their body rejects the formula.

    Generic, “one size fits all” diets have also become an issue. Society has adopted these notions that carbs are bad and we have to count and cut calories in order to lose weight. I wish more social media influencers promoted health, health concerns and the effects of unhealthy diets instead of constantly trying to sell these cookie cutter plans. All of our bodies are different and therefore require different things.

    I’m a firm believer that until we each learn how our own personality body works (what it likes/doesn’t like, how it responds to physical activity and different eating routines), we will constantly be going in circles of trying to achieve this societal standard. Aside from society’s standard, we would continue going in circles trying to make ourselves happy. As women, we are reminded everyday of society’s standard of beauty. It’s everywhere-on buses, covers of magazines at the grocery store, daily blogs/news. And covers typically read something like, “try this diet” or “7 day detox to lose 10 lbs.” But the concept of actually living a sustainable and healthy lifestyle doesn’t see this kind of proactive attention.

  4. Nowadays losing weight and dieting is a normal thing for girls to do. Girls lose weight usually aren’t because they think they need to. They lose weight because of society’s expectation. Whether they like their bodies aren’t that important, but the what others think of their body shapes is more crucial. Especially, looking at the Victoria Secret’s models’ extremely thin bodies, that becomes a goal. However, before they are getting onto the stage, they do really inhuman diet. This is definitely not a goal what people should go after.

    Social media has been telling people what is so-called a beautiful woman. And the way they determine it is only about their appearance.It’s like a propaganda telling girls to get thinner than a healthy body is. And this pressures girls to do extreme diet that actually hurts their bodies. Sometimes it just ends up getting heavier than before which causes them to get depression.

    Losing weight is not a bad thing to do. But only when your weight is overly high, for example, you are unable to breathe easily when you only climb three- floor of stairs.That is when u need to lose weight; for the reason of having a healthy body. The way of losing weight is important too. LIke the method mentioned above, having healthier food choices and regular exercises are the best way to get a healthy body. Having a right definition of what beauty is really changes things. It’s not about how thin you are that makes you beautiful, but what a person you are. It’s about your inner side of beauty.

  5. I think people tend to stay away from diets or actively trying to lose weight, because they have the fear of never being able to eat anything they like ever again. I don’t believe in cold turkey only eating foods that will make you skinny, and forgetting every tasty meal you’ve ever ate that might not have been the healthiest, but I do believe in having everything in moderation. What I have found most helpful with trying to look my best, while feeling my best, is to eat things that come from the Earth, and read the labels to everything! If it’s processed, you don’t need it. If it has 100 grams of sugar, you don’t need it! Calories do not matter, but those sugar and carbs labels on things that probably should not even have sugar/carbs in them, will help make a little dent in becoming a healthier person. Do fun activities that involve a little bit of moving around, and if you need a cheat day, have a cheat day! But do not over indulge and ruin the five days before of eating and doing healthy things. I think the frenzy over looking like a twig is overrated, it’s all about feeling great in who you are, and eating foods that fuel your body.

    • I think it’s a great idea to eat healthily. But I also know that dieting can get people obsessive about food. Which is what happened to me. So that I actually Lost weight when I stopped dieting, and gained a healthier relationship with food.

  6. There is a great pressure in the society about how men and women should look. Men with six packs and women with slim bodies are considered “Sexy,” while heavy or fat men and women are considered ugly and unhealthy. This has made many people especially adolescents men and women with negative body image concerns more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal than those without intense dissatisfaction over their appearance. Just as Georgia Platts mentioned in her article, eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, are complicated, serious and potentially devastating. They are caused by a complex combination of factors, including genetic, biochemical, psychological, cultural and environmental. Honestly, i have been struggling to loss weight for over a year now. I have used all types of weight loss pills, tea and laxatives in which i lost the weight and after i stopped using this weight loss products i regained all the weight, so sad and depressing. From my experience with weight loss struggle, eating low calories healthy diet and exercise is the key to successful weight loss.

  7. Paige Montgomery

    To me being on a diet adds a lot of pressure, it definitely causes me to obsess and almost certainly leads to binges for me. Diets have never worked for me, my weight has always been its best when I’m eating everything in moderation and not keeping any one thing out of my diet. I think it helps if you were raised avoiding and eating certain foods and drinks, fortunately for me my mom was pretty healthy. I think also how much your eating has a lot to do with stress, when you are stressed out, you tend to eat a lot more, and you always feel hungry because you have that constant fear pulsing through you.

  8. This is the realist thing I have seen yet! because I always put myself on a “diet” and I end up wanting to eat more becuase I become obsessed about the forbidden and it makes me want more and more, just like anything forbidden curiousity gets the best of you. I seriously Have been trying to withhold from eating so much but I think it makes it more hungry and I never understand why but thanks to this post i now understand that it because I have an obsession and if I just think about it as I am eating better or healthier instead of thinking I cant eat then maybe I would be more successful. Dieting to look a certain way is something that we socially put in our minds but I feel uncomfortable at the weight I am not only for appearance but because its unhealthy and I feel it. SO great interesting post !

  9. Thank you for this excellent article!

    The problem is that, for women who hate themselves and their appearance, dieting is a kind of “compensation,” self-flagellation if you will. Sure, starving is dangerous, but it does not match the righteousness and worse, “success” that we feel when we reject food. Whenever I keep my calories dangerously low in a day, I feel as if I’ve done something virtuous. I know it’s stupid, that I haven’t fed myself enough for my body to realistically survive, but it seems small in comparison to the pride and accomplishment I feel- both of which are extremely rare when you have low self-esteem. I’ve heard some people describe starvation or purging as an addiction. This is why I get so furious when people describe anorexics and bulimics as dumb or vain. Sure, most of them are probably aware that what they are doing isn’t healthy. But that doesn’t matter to them. They are sick to the point of suicide for beauty. Beauty is of a higher priority to them than their own lives. That’s not something that should be made fun of.

    This opinion shouldn’t be surprising- advertisements for diet foods very much promote the idea of calories and fat being morally impure. If women’s primary role is to be aesthetically pleasing, it is most profitable to food and cosmetic companies to inspire self-hate in us in order to develop that “need” to buy their products.

    • Oh yeah, been there and done that (judged my worthiness on not overeating — although I never went to dangerously low levels). I hope you don’t mind if I quote you on this sometime in a blog post.

  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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.

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


    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.

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