body · mental wellness

Dieting: It’s A Woman’s World

How many of you have dieted?

How many of you have considered cutting out a whole food group?

How many of you have joined a diet ‘club’?

How many of you have thought at one point in your lives that you want to lose weight, ‘tone up’ or just change that ‘one bit’ of yourselves?

All of these things are in their own way, a form of disordered eating. They are not ‘normal’ things to do to our bodies. I’ve heard time and time again, people not having carbs or only having ‘X’ amount of calories a day, sin foods, boycotting fats or sugars. It’s endless. Our bodies need food. End of.

These disordered eating behaviours; dieting, diet talk, macro counting, carb cutting, fat cutting and all the rest are becoming so normalised, so silenced so we keep buying in to them, because no one is stating otherwise.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, this is not me diagnosing every living being with an eating disorder. No. They are two different things. An eating disorder becomes ‘necessary to treat’ (which in itself is problematic as they should always be treated), once your obsessive compulsions and behaviours around food become so severe, that they become life altering. Which was the case for me and, I’m sure, plenty of others.

However, lets think about everyone else that’s engaging in ‘disordered eating behaviours’ that aren’t an eating disorder. Women in particular.

Women bond over dieting, it’s just what happens. Just take a moment and think back. At work with colleagues, catching up with a friend, where does the conversation always lead back to? Body image, dieting, weight loss. It’s common ground. We are inundated with images, text, discussions, comparisons. Dieting is a right of passage for us, we are taught from such a young age that we should be making our bodies our soul purpose, our primary project. It is done out of fear, fear that if we don’t pour all this energy into making our bodies ‘perfect’ we will not be successful, we will not achieve as much respect, love or worth as those who do make their bodies their primary project. We are being taught that in order to be accepted, we must shrink.

Let’s pick ‘dieting’ (in whatever context) apart. In order to diet, in order to lose weight, you need to deprive yourself of something your body cannot go without: calories, food. As you do this, your body isn’t getting what it needs, it starts eating away at itself. You are not feeding it enough to maintain lively hood, to maintain life. That’s fundamentally what dieting is, it’s less energy, tiredness, loss of focus, ‘brain fog’, obsession around food.

You begin to crave the empty feeling in your stomach, you will be thinking non stop about what you can and can’t eat, it will creep into your social life, dinners out with friends, Sunday lunches with the family, you will spend your time constantly worried about what you’re consuming. How much time does that take out of your day? What could you of accomplished with all that time and energy if it wasn’t focused on dieting?

If we, as women, hadn’t spent years, decades, centuries, set on shrinking ourselves. What could we of achieved? What have we given up as women when we’ve been focused on keeping our bodies as our primary project? What have we lost?

Now at the risk of losing some of your attention, I present you with this quote from Naomi Wolf’s book ‘The Beauty Myth’

‘A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in a woman’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.’

-Naomi Wolf

Lastly I want to touch on the idea that dieting is an act of violence.

Dieting and exercise gives us a sense of control, control ultimately is a form of power, a power that we have over our bodies. Predominantly women are encouraged to inflict this act of violence (dieting) upon themselves.

‘Burn off the fat’

Win the war against obesity’ 

Shred the pounds’

Angry phrases. They connote violence and hatred. Are these feelings we want to associate with our bodies?

Not only are diets physically violent, filled with exhaustive cycles of weight loss and weight gain. Suppressing your hunger, eating less than your body wants, but the hunger you feel from these actions will just heighten your senses and bring all the attention to your body. They are also psychologically violent, bringing up mental obsession, stress and a general sense of failure when the weight inevitably returns, how do you think diet ‘clubs’ and programmes stay around? because majority of diets are destined for failure. Lastly, they are spiritually violent, they enable us to cut ties with the most sacred of bonds, the one we have with ourselves and the wisdom of our bodies. Telling us when we are hungry, when we are full, when we are in need.

Violence means destruction and that’s what diets do, they rip apart our built in knowledge that we have survived off for thousands of years.

The majority of us have been conditioned to believe that our bodies hold the key to our happiness. But maybe it’s time to start dipping our toes into the idea that happiness is something we manifest, happiness is something anyone can achieve, regardless of the body they have.

So, do you really want to diet?

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