I Don’t Do Diets
Cultural beauty standards are inescapable. We are bombarded with messages that we need to have the expected body shape and size in order to be acceptable. This fuels diet culture, with a slew of diets purported to give you maximum weight loss in the minimum amount of time.
I feel very lucky that I received the message from my parents starting at an early age that food was something pleasurable, and anything could be enjoyed in moderation. My group of friends throughout elementary and high school were not particularly weight-focused, so I emerged from high school having never even contemplated a date.
As I entered adulthood, I began to travel around the world, sampling all kinds of local cuisines. I would chow down freely, without any twinges of guilt. Food was one of the great pleasures of travelling, and it was fascinating to see the important role that food and rituals surrounding it played in a wide array of cultures. This helped to reinforce the messages about food I’d received when I was younger.
Mental illness hit in my late 20’s and significantly impacted my appetite and body size/shape. There have been times when I’ve lost significant amounts of weight because my depression caused my appetite to dwindle down to nil. Several medications from my current cocktail tend to cause weight gain, and I’m substantially heavier than my previous baseline weight.
Despite the weight gain, I had no desire to go on a diet. I have negative associations with people complimenting me on weight loss, because in my experience weight loss = sick. I’ve continued to hold onto the idea that food is a good thing, and an important part of life for reasons far beyond basic sustenance.
Restrictive diets seem to shift the meanings people attach to food, and people become increasingly preoccupied with maintaining the willpower to adhere closely to the diets. I don’t want to have that kind of relationship with food. I want to eat nutritious food that tastes good and gives me pleasure.
At one point my doctor suggested, that I try out a ketogenic diet as an experiment to see if it had any effect on my depression. The highly restrictive diet held no appeal for me, but I agreed to give it a try. By day 2 the very thought of food revolted me and I felt extremely ill. My brain felt like it was starving. I really didn’t care if this was the so-called “keto flu” and I would supposedly feel better in a few days; my body was screaming at the top of its lungs that this wasn’t right to me.
Food is one of life’s great pleasures, and I have no desire to turn away from that. So no diets for me, thank you very much.