I’m so sick of dieting. And thinking about dieting. Seriously, I have spent the last 32 years worrying about my weight. I’m only 38 so that gives you an idea of how long this obsession has lasted. I was a fat child, a chubby adolescent, a rapidly fluctuating 20-something and a periodically obese 30 something who is currently sitting right where I left off half a year ago when I said sayonara to Weight Watchers for the 8th? time in my life. At the age of 38 it is highly unlikely that I will ever be thin, and almost as unlikely that I will ever fall into the BMI sweet spot. Several studies have shown that being overweight / obese as a child is strongly predictive of being overweight / obese as an adult (1,2,3). Those same studies also show some other horrible co-morbidities that I desperately try not to think about as I’m falling asleep.
Because I’ve spent my entire life ruled by my weight, my relationship with food is haywire. I’m either desperately trying to avoid carbs, or I’m eating enough bread to fuel the oven it was baked in. I’m completely abstaining from alcohol, or I’m guzzling two bottles of wine in one night. I’m not eating sugar, or I’m eating a pint of ice cream by myself (and no it’s not vanilla, it’s Triple Fudge Cookie Dough with Brownie Batter Swirl or some other horrendous all-sugar concoction). A friend of mine once referred to this vicious cycle as having Moderation Issues. I’ve always had issues moderating almost everything I do, it doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol and cigarettes or yoga and kale smoothies, I’ll go hard and fast until I’m almost dead (or just bored senseless) and then I’ll give it up entirely. Obviously the ‘good’ usually follows the ‘bad’ and then cycles back once my virtue is exhausted. Food is the worst though.
I think about food all the time at the best of times, but as soon as I start to try to diet it becomes obsessive. First I’ll become incredibly hung up on all of the foods that I’m quite obviously detoxing off of, I’ll think endlessly about chocolate and bread and ice-cream and bowls of creamy pasta. After a little while though, my obsessions will shift to counting and planning, measuring and weighing and tracking every fucking piece of unseasoned quinoa that passes my lips until one day I just can’t be bothered and eat a hamburger and when I try to regain interest in the diet it is completely impossible. I think the whole system is engineered in exactly that way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘diet industrial complex’ recently. How these industries have held me hostage for so long by offering solutions to the problems created by them in the first place. How my moderation issues with food are fostered by self-competing businesses selling everything from ice-cream to frozen diet meals, tempting you with sugar and then chastising you for being fat. It’s nothing new in terms of feminist intellectual discourse, but in many ways I suppose it’s new to me. Or new again. Because even though I read The Beauty Myth in my early twenties and felt it to be full of profound ideas, the sway of mass media and corporate interests and their very real influence on the culture I have spent my life living in meant that I was inspired to ditch critical thought in favour of searching for the newest path to perfection (or at least adherence to societal expectations). What no one tells you is that the path is a loop, you keep ending up where you started from, only slightly older and increasingly exhausted. Therefore you keep missing the fact that it’s the same old path with a fancy new sign. I consider myself to be relatively savvy and intelligent, but the amount of times I’ve fallen for this trick suggests otherwise. All of the points I’ve counted, the Frankenfood I’ve swallowed, the steps I’ve tallied, it all adds up to a minus sum and I’m probably no better off than if I’d done none of it. In fact I’m pretty sure I’m much much worse.
Not that I could possibly count all of the money I’ve spent on these goods and services over the last 30 years (I’ve been far too busy tracking calories to track expenditures) but I’m sure I could be driving my fat ass around in a solid German built car right now with the capital alone, never mind the compound interest. The money isn’t what really gets me down though, I’ve spent plenty of money on useless crap in my life. Instead it’s all of the time, potential, and finite brain space I’ve wasted on these efforts. There have been more days than not over the past 30 years where my diet (or more likely my self loathing at not being capable of sticking to a diet) has taken up the majority of my thoughts, planning and intellectual energy. I can’t help but pondering what I could have accomplished in my life if I wasn’t so consumed with my own consumption, or trying to avoid it. And when I get to pondering this I often feel depressed, and then I inevitably start thinking about food…