The First Rule of Dieting

Plus a fabulous analogy about elephants that is not some mean fat joke

The first rule of dieting is that you should not talk about dieting, because it is boring AF to everyone around you and makes you sound like a calorie-obsessed fun-loathing monster. Or, even worse, it prompts people to tilt their heads and say, “Oh but you don’t need to go on a diet, you look great!” and then you have to think of a response other than “Bitch my muffin top would beg to differ but thanks I guess.”

But the second rule of dieting, the terrible one that I hate to admit, is that you really should talk about it a little bit, strategically, sometimes.

For example, it’s great to talk about dieting with your sister when you’re both trying to look fly at her upcoming wedding and can encourage each other to stay the course and resist the siren song of pasta. Or with your mother, a notorious pusher of homemade candy and the woman who coined the phrase “it’s not like I’m not going to eat chips,” in advance of a visit with her so she can push carrots over candy in your presence. Or with supportive friends, who will leave cute pens instead of chocolate in your office Valentine’s Day bag or agree to a happy hour spot that serves non-deep-fried appetizers.

And yet, it’s a slippery slope, my friends. Before you know it you’re spouting off a list of what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and a sensible snack when your husband asks how your day was, or answering an acquaintance’s not-actually-interested “how are you?” with a litany of recent workouts. Dieting is hard, and it’s consuming, but it’s a mistake to think that it’s interesting to anyone but you.

The delightful exception is conversations with complete strangers. You know what’s a better universal topic than the weather? Food.

The other night I hopped into the front seat of an Uber, and ended up chatting with the driver, a sweet Lithuanian woman with blonde hair and a friendly smile. I mentioned that I had come from a spin class, and she said she used to be a personal trainer, and so we started talking about food — how much we love it, how hard it is to resist it, what we eat when we’re trying to stave off bad cravings (her, apples; me, salad), the perfect recipe for preparing pierogies (make a pan sauce with the sour cream MELTED INTO IT, a game-changer I can’t wait to try), how total deprivation never works. She told me that her family has a pizza rule: they order pizza once a month, and everyone stuffs their faces. No thin-crust, light-on-the-cheese, vegetable-heavy bullshit, either. But it’s only once a month, and that’s it. Brilliant!

We talked about how women with perfect bodies are usually kind of mean because they’re hungry all the time, and how not everyone is cut out to have flat abs and a Kardashian ass.

“Let me tell you,” she said. “If I starve myself to a size 4 — never gonna happen, but if I did — I could be a skinny elephant, but I’ll never be a mouse.”

I mean, is that not the greatest analogy you’ve ever heard??

You still have to pick your audience. That’s not actually the first convo about dieting I’ve had with an Uber driver, but in general, it’s possible to bore even strangers with talk about low-cal alternatives to ice cream.

And more importantly, it’s possible to bore yourself. We all need support, and resources to help us stay on our A games, because we live in a fucked up society that sells us impossible beauty standards with a side of fries, in which entire industries exist to teach grown-ass adults HOW TO EAT properly because they were never actually taught that by a public school system that allows pizza to count as a vegetable. So read mildly entertaining Medium stories about dieting in an oppressive world (please, and also maybe share them with your friends) but don’t forget to read the news and stay informed and have non-diet-related conversation topics at the ready.

Just remember this: resisting pasta is so much easier than resisting the patriarchy, and together we can do both.