Lose Weight, Stop Dieting

dieting 1Can a feminist diet?

That’s what Kjerstin Gruys, a UCLA sociology grad student, wondered.

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.

dieting 3I 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 loving healthy foods like delicious fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, whole grains, nuts, and peanut butter.

But I do also enjoy some sweets — dark chocolate’s my fave — and an occasional burger and fries.

The focus is on loving healthy foods, not shunning so-called bad foods. And it works for me.

The starvation beauty ideal is ridiculous – and unattractive, if you ask me.

And labeling foods “bad” just leads to obsession – you want what you can’t have.

This is a rerun. I’m on vacation.

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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 December 26, 2014, in body image, feminism, psychology, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Thanks for enlightenment, it would help my wife.

  2. I think anything that makes you really obsessed with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food to the point you can’t have a small piece of cake on your birthday because it isn’t paleo or something is nuts. We should encourage people to eat fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods for health and feeling good, not to look a certain way.

  3. Yup true. I hope young women (and men of course) realize that what you see in many of todays magazines are the models “final state” where they’ve been “cutting” in advance of the photoshoots and that these periods are often preceded by longer periods of “bulking” that causes muscles _and_ fat. The “cutting” periods are often just a fraction of the total work in the fitness modeling business for instance. But you can’t build a body like that trough continous weigh-loss-dieting as building some serious muscle-mass require a surplus of total calories. In other words, many of these models eat more than their daily calorie quota for longer periods of time, some of them much more.

    • Plus, they do all that dieting and, as you say, they don’t look like the models, anyway.

      • Nope they don’t, at least not before the cutting phase has been completed. Not to mention that a lot of these depictions are photoshopped too, combined with makeup and optimal lighting conditions during the photoshoots. No one (including the models themselves) look like that no matter how much you diet and exercise.

  4. Hey, hope you’re enjoying your holidays 🙂

    The cartoon is hilarious 😀 Actually the thing is, most of the time women think that dieting means eating a meagre amount of food. Thus lack of vital nutrients occurs which often leads to severe diseases. Eating a balanced diet is necessary.

  5. This is so true…. the best diet is just healthy food and small portions…. for me! and not going on the scales every day…. 🙂

  6. Being autistic can be a challenge when it comes to food. I can eat a lot of stuff because I have trained myself to. But there is also a whole lot I have to fake eating if I am visiting people. I will take very small bites and spend a long time getting it down. But I do taste everything I am served because that is what a person is supposed to do.

    I have an autistic son that eats different food from myself and a vegetarian son. I just make dinner a couple of times a week.

    I grew up sitting at the table until everything was gone from my plate. My parents were NOT well off at all. Sometimes dinner would take a looong time for me. My parents thought it was funny in retrospect. For me those experiences were just horrible.

    My own sons have had to taste everything. Not after my veggie son turned vegetarian, but before that. My oldest still has to try stuff. My husband eats a hot lunch. My oldest will make his own dinner if there is anything he wants.

  7. I despise the word ‘diet’ – it’s all about having a healthy lifestyle rather than depriving ourselves of food.

  8. Impressive and motivating post.Have a wonderful new 2015.Jaalal

  9. That ‘Real Diet Image’ is worth a million words 🙂

  10. Definitely have had a love hate relationship with food as it pertains to my body. I feel like if I can shift that it would release a whole lot of inner power that is stuck in that obsession to control what I eat, control my body. As a feminist I know better but definitely untangling all of that continues to be a work in progress.

  11. OK, now you’re just toying with me, posting topics that happen to be on my mind recently. I am indeed obsessed with dieting. I managed to go from nearly 270 to 160 several years ago, just by counting calories and exercising more (mostly walking). But I fell off the wagon and regained 60 pounds over the next two years, and I’m struggling to take it off again. Same technique, less progress. And there’s no kind of consistent trend, either. I’ll stay at the same weight for weeks, despite allegedly burning 500-1000 calories more than I eat each day, then suddenly drop 3 pounds literally overnight. Stay around the new weight for a few days, and *BLAM* I’m back up those 3 or even a couple more, where I once again stay for weeks on end before dropping back down and finally staying there. I’ve only managed 15 pounds so far, and it’s taken me from July through December just to get that far (based on my last diet and most advice I have read, 1 or 2 pounds a week is a realistic target).

    Maybe the “throw away the mirrors” approach is the right way to go. I don’t care about mirrors, but I’m a slave to that scale. The first time through, when I was more successful, I only weighed myself once a month. Now I get on the scale faithfully every morning, praying for just a few ounces to be gone.

    On the plus side (no pun intended), carrying these extra pounds and inches means I do less clothes shopping because there just aren’t a whole lot of dresses in styles I like for a 5’10”, 220-pound, 46-inch-waist figure.

    Hey, are you gonna finish that eggnog? I’ll take it off your hands.

    • Sorry about your struggle. I have a history of keeping my weight about the same but at around the holidays I would eat more and then every year for several years I would get sick for some reason and lose my holiday weight. That didn’t happen one year and I tried losing weight and it just made me heavier. I finally gave up and decided to just accept the extra weight. And then I was surprised that I lost weight when I lost my obsession with food. Later I’ve began to focus on healthy food, and started to crave things like salad with chicken. And I found that when I ate really healthy food that I just ate less and lost a craving for most junk food. Although I still get cravings for an occasional burger and fries.

  12. As a “fat” person I can relate to this. I have always been considered fat among my peers. When I was 14, I weighted around 57-59 kilos. This was a problem and I couldn’t shop like my peers. I had to wear from the men’s side, in addition, I used to design and print my own shirts because of my size. I even suffered from lots of hair growing on my face and body which resulted my parents to take me to a clinic to see what is the problem and check if its my hormones. In November 2010, I was 17 years old and I weighted 105 kilos, and I remember the doctor said, lets try to put her on a healthy diet and see how her body reacts, if she loses weight or not. So therefore, I started my first diet in my life when I was 17. It worked perfectly and I ended up eating more than I did before because instead of 3 big meals and snacks, I had to eat 6 small meals including dates and fruits. It worked perfectly and everyone started to notice. I didn’t do any kind of sports, yet, I felt better because I could find my size. However, after few month I had to change my diet to a harder one. I couldn’t keep track, but I remember, one day in April 2011, I entered my class and my classmates clapped their hands for me, for my achievement of losing about 25 kilos in few months. I felt so proud during that time of my life because I was so determined. In June 2011, I weighted 75 kilos which was almost the perfect weight for me according my diet ion’s calculations. Well, it didn’t go so well after that, because I had some problems and I got depressed in which the following year I stayed at home after school doing basically nothing. I lost my hope and my “almost perfect shaped body” It was worse than before because before I didn’t care, but at that time, I did care! Well, I saw the disappointment on my friends and family’s faces and I couldn’t help it. And my conclusion to that story, mood really effects the eating habits. In my case, I used to eat when I am bored or sad, but sometimes when I am too sad, I don’t eat. I cant explain why, but seriously, eating is something I enjoy as I like to watch something while eating, and I would rather wait few more hours to eat while watching something than eat just because I am hungry.

    • Yeah, mood affects a lot of our eating habits. I know people who tend to be slim when everything is going well and to gain weight win it’s not. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  13. Why is it that women are always the ones going on diets? And they’re the ones being labeled with food disorders. Dieting is extremely hard on women who take care of their children and their homes and still hold jobs. This is a great way to put things in perspective. Stop dieting, avoid looking at yourself in the mirror and enjoy healthy foods. If only we can easily cross over that bridge and start eating healthy, and be able to find happiness in them, we will be able to change the world of dieting. Adopting a healthy eating habit is the best way to go. It is easy and promotes good health and long life. Of course, we should still allow ourselves to have an occasional treat, that’s fair. But keeping up with the healthy eating habits, embracing it, and making it a lifestyle will pave the way to a happy, hale and hearty you.

  14. I also do not believe in diets. I feel like diets are more or less temporary (just until you reach your goal weight), and they usually do not work out in the long term. In my personal experience, diets cause me to feel starved, deprived, and unhappy. More often than not, I end up failing the diet and then going on a binge. Over the years, I have discovered that the best way to maintain a healthy weight (and a healthy mind) is to have a healthy relationship with food. It is important to get the vital nutrients, but it is not crazy to have some ice cream occasionally. I think it is better to incorporate healthy eating habits into your lifestyle, which will have a long term effect. Similarly to what you mentioned, it is more important to focus on appreciating healthy foods rather than “shunning bad foods”. I believe it is all about moderation and variety. The “starvation beauty ideal” seems rather scary and destructive to me. Some people (mainly girls) become too obsessed with their physical appearance that they neglect to consider how they feel on the inside. It is not worth it.

  15. I think dieting is good for you, it’s just the label that messes with everyone. People think that dieting means starving yourself and being forced eating only celery for a week , but I think that it all about cutting off the excess that you do eat. There are a lot of us that just eat out of boredom, etc. I feel as if labels dictate a lot of a person’s life when it doesn’t need too. You can diet if your a feminist, you shouldn’t let a label control your life when it comes to anything. People are very different and it’s unnecessary to try and fit under one certain category.

    • Thanks. But I don’t call that dieting. I call that healthy eating. The way a person should just eat, normally. (As opposed to being on a special diet). Diets tend to get people obsessed with food and backfire.

  16. Haomeijie Liang

    I think diet is a commercial stuff for me, which equals calculating calories of every meal. My opinion about eating is to eat what you want and not to eat too many similar foods. When you want to eat something, you just receive the signal for that kind of nutrition. For instance, when you want to eat meat, just find food made by meat and eat it. In my mind, diet isn’t really useful to control weight for most people. Thus, stop wasting your time of calculating calories. But why does someone find it is helpful when he/she is on a diet? I think it must be the regular eating when he/she is on a diet, which helps him/her very much to control weight. And it is also helpful when people on a diet don’t obsess with some particular kind of food. Instead, just relying on the calculating calories would not be helpful.

  17. The article describes that people still suffer from eating disorders and the article says that it might help to stop dieting. If you stop dieting, you will not crave all the things you have on your “no list” and balance the amount you eat of unhealthy food in a better way. My personal opinion is that it’s important to not focusing on all the things you can’t do. If you are in a bad mood, feel sorry for yourself- take a chocolate! If you want soda- drink soda and if you want some fries and a burger when you are hangover – go and get that!
    It’s unhealthy to limit yourselves. Still, try to: 1. Eat a big breakfast, 2. healthy diner, 3. drink a lot of water and 4. work out. I don’t do this to lose pounds, but because if I do these 4 things every day or almost every day you sleep better, you feel better, you are more concentrated and happier. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but for me the difference by doing these things and not is huge.

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