In 7th grade, a girl on my school bus asked me how she could lose weight. I was taken aback. I think I said something to the effect of, “Uuuhmmm I dunno… Sorry.” This is not a post about how to lose weight, but it’s what I wish I would have said to that 7th grade girl on the school bus. Since then, I hope she heard a message like this one.
I don’t “diet.”
This is because I believe that dieting tells us to stop listening to our body, to give it less than it is asking for, to label foods as ‘okay to eat’ and ‘not okay to eat,’ all with the goal of addressing “problem areas” of our appearance. Dieting assumes that the way my body looks right now is not enough: not enough to be beautiful, to be successful, to be healthy, and to be happy.
I want confidence, happiness, and health as much as the next person. What I don’t want is for those things to be dependent on whether I ate pizza or salad for dinner.
To be clear, I see dieting as a specific phenomenon that is separate from other attempts to eat healthy foods. Personally, I try to think about what I’m putting in my body to promote my own wellness and energy levels. I start to become concerned when the primary goal for changing eating habits comes from a desire to look a certain way. This can be a slippery and dangerous slope which, for some, can lead to disordered eating.
I could write a 20 page essay on the multitude of ways that our culture promotes insecurities and unhealthy relationships with our bodies, but there are many other writers who can do so better than me.
So, I’ll just say this: it is never helpful, never healthy, for us to engage in behaviors out of hatred for our bodies. Our pursuits of health will be so much more effective when we act out of a desire to care for (rather than simply shrink) the vessels we live in.