Last month I attended to a fun get-together with a group of women from around the city. While we chatted and waited for the main event the conversation turned to food, specifically diets. I listened to stories of upcoming cleanses, Whole30 plans, flushing toxins and eschewing gluten while sitting around a table filled with cheese, cookies, crackers and some barely touched crudité.
It was a perfect analogy for the disordered way we approach food consumption in modern life. In the face of extreme abundance and unchecked systems designed to encourage overeating (and sitting), we turn to ingredient culprits. It must be the [insert] dairy, caffeine, gluten, sugar and so on.
No one mentioned losing weight, just wanting to ‘feel better’. I have a running theory that gluten-free is code for dieting, bloated means feeling fat, and gaining energy is another way to say I’ve lost weight.
'Thin’ is passé, where 'healthy’ feels more virtuous.
Who doesn’t strive to be healthy? Well, me. I don’t find that bar particularly difficult, eat real food and walk most days. Done. Thin (or slim in my case) means rigorous workouts, portion control at every meal, and weighing myself on the regular. If only it was the gluten.
When I speak openly about wanting to reduce or watching my weight I can feel the unease around me. As if I were some cultural relic reminiscing about the good, old days when women knew their place, and men were men. Losing weight is out of fashion, or at least talking about it is.
It’s an off-shoot of the body-positivity trend which has some excellent elements to it. I hold out hope that future generations will see beauty in variety, but it’s also turned into a straight-jacket of sorts. Now we can’t talk about the issue of weight, which many people privately still want to tackle and not simply accept.
Listening to the women at the party made me feel so old-school, like I should be yelling to my kid to bring me a TAB and a cigarette while I sunbathe in the backyard.
I work on my weight, and say so.
I lost fifty pounds seven years ago and kept off forty-five of them. Those last five pounds are my personal battle ground. The line has to be drawn somewhere. There wasn’t any category of food I eliminated (maybe bread), but the truth is I don’t eat a lot of anything. I figured out how much food I needed to sustain myself at the weight I wanted. It was much less than I was eating before, even with heavy workouts.
Once I accepted this, I set about reshaping the entirety of my life to reduce my access to food and move a lot more. I don’t believe in will-power, instead I rely on the systems I create to help me keep my weight in check. This new way of living changed every aspect of my life including where and how I live, who I date, hobbies, and how I socialize.
I want to be clear though, I don’t think everyone should endeavor to lose weight. If you are happy with your life as it is, then accepting the body it produces is a reasonable thing to do.
Every year January rolls around with the promise of a clean slate. In one fell swoop, we will do everything differently. I see it at the suddenly crowded gym or watch friends embark on strange diets (at least, strange to me). I cringe a little about all this because I too, have tried to fix everything in one go. It never worked.
It’s a question of the grand gesture versus incremental progress.
January, and its attendant resolutions, is about the grand gesture. The grand gesture is deliciously satisfying at the start, but incremental progress is feeling the payoff for many years to come.