Maybe a tv diet is in order



“We’ve dieted ourselves into obesity.”


I was watching the Agenda with Steve Paikin last night on TVO and they were discussing the “obesity epidemic.” Now, I have a lot of respect and admiration for the show, its producers and host, and not only because I interned on the show’s predecessor, Studio 2, in university ;).

But last night…I don’t know.

They held a panel discussion (as well as a live chat online with the segment’s producers) with a couple of scholars, a fitness and lifestyle writer and a funny fat chick (just to round it out, ya know). The discussion had my mind racing about a lot of things, but it was Valerie Taylor, an assistant professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at McMaster University, and her comments that had my mind spinning. She’s responsible for the lead quote.

The reason I don’t believe it to be true is because I had never dieted a day in my life before I stepped on a scale for the first time in YEARS and realized I was well over 200lbs. It was only THEN that I decided to try a diet (with moderate success). And it wasn’t the diet that was responsible for the backslide that occurred after. It was all me, unlike the next gem from her that bothered me where she felt that when people say, “it’s not the diet’s fault, you just don’t have the willpower,” that they were placing blame in the wrong place.

I fail to see how it’s a diet’s fault. Yes, some can be restrictive, leading people into the yo-yo dieting cycle, but is it the diet’s fault? Really? I’m the one shovelling crap in my mouth. I’m the one making the decisions. How is it Weight Watchers’, Jenny Craig’s or Dr. Atkin’s fault?

If anything, I think it’s more about wants and needs, behaviour modification and overall goals of the individuals. Do I want to be a size 6, run a marathon or wear a bikini, or do I want to enjoy a piece of cake, a fancy dinner at a French restaurant or a bucket of wings while watching hockey? It was the latter list that had me back over 200lbs by 2005 and back up to 160 now.

I think, if anything, social pressures (whether real or the ones you conjure up in your head) lead us both to diet and to stray from those diets. We assume we have to look a certain way so we diet, but are afraid to be left out so we stray from them as well. We claim it is their restrictive nature that really causes us to binge and balloon up again, but I don’t buy it. We’re not meant to consume so many calories in our more sedentary lifestyles, so being “restrictive” should be the norm. In fact, we shouldn’t be saying “restrictive” but rather “conscious” of what we’re ingesting, how we’re burning off calories and the choices we make related to our health.

Chelsey Lichtman, the co-founder of the fat activist and performance duo the fat femme mafia and the only panel member with any real meat on her bones, summed up her feelings on why we go from small to big and back again. She feels that we’re constantly searching for “perfection” when there is no one true and concrete example for us to aspire to.

I wondered if that held true for me. In the 130s I still felt like I was the biggest in the room but looking at pictures now, I was anything but. In my warped mind I needed to look like health and fitness magazine cover girls, with flat stomachs and toned arms/legs. With all of my POINTS counting and working out, I never got that flat stomach and I never will have it short of plastic surgery.

But is that what’s stopping me now? That I still don’t know perfect? No. It’s that I make poor choices, from not running today because of rain to that extra cookie after dinner.

I never dieted myself fat, but the cookies sure did help.

Just food for thought, I guess.

What’s your take on it?


Anonymous said...

"we have dieted ourselves into Obesity"

Is partly true, dieting does affect your metabolism. I have, over the past 40 years tried every diet known to man. Yes I lost weight, but in the meantime destroyed my metabolism. Even in doing weight watchers, I had to eat more points than were alloted for my weight. This was to kick start my metabolism, if I do not eat every 2 hours, I gain, that is a fact. The struggle for me is to eat, the old tapes tell me, if I eat I will gain weight, but my body needs food in order for the metabolism to work. So hence, I have dieted myself into obesity. Vicious circle. Mojo

Shirls said...

I just have to say the words "you just don't have the willpower" drive me f'ing nuts! Its like telling me to calm down, you want to see hyped up? tell me to calm down.. same thing with telling me I have no willpower, my thought goes to "oh yeah, wanna bet?" LOL I guess I just need a push

Tamara said...

I think Mojo's interpretation on that statement is a valid one. I know that this third go round in ten years is way harder for me. I probably have done some damage to my metabolism but honestly, it was never great before either so who knows. I don't necessarily think it's the diet's fault either but the LURE of losing a lot of weight by eating meat and butter is somewhat problematic (just to use one well known example of the unreasonable expectations the diet industry can set up in people).

I think a lot of diets can't be sustained. And I think the elephant on the table in the diet industry is that the gurus all know it. And they like it that way. How much money has Weight Watchers gotten out of me in the last ten years because for whatever reason, I couldn't keep the weight off.

Big question. Hard answers. I'm big on taking personal responsibility. I will wear the blame for re-gaining weight. But there is a heck of a lot going on out there, in the diet industry and elsewhere that makes it pretty easy to do.

Sonya said...

I hear ya....

It's not the diets that made me fat, it's the fact I couldn't stay on them!!!! Each time I fell off the wagon I gained the weight and then more...you know how it goes...
I've totally screwed up my body/metabolism from lack of exercise and crap eating throughout the years. Here's hoping I can fix all that in time.

wanderlily said...

I think you really hit on something when you talked about behaviour modification. The habits that lead to our weight gain are often so deeply engrained that we don't know they are there, let alone understand them. Personally, I think that is where the key is. I lost over 80 lbs by eating right and exercising. I gained 20 of them back, and while I feel frustrated about it, I believe that it is because I still have some of those behaviours to change that I may have missed the first time.

When I was down to 125 I also still felt fat. When I was moving about at work or home, and there was a choice about whether to go between things or go around I would always go around because I didn't think I could fit between. Then I started to test it and see if I could fit, and visually gauge the distance to try to reshape my mental image. I read an article about the psychology of weight loss which said that your perception of yourself and your size is the last thing to change. I think it is normal, and not entirely the fault of magazine imagery.

Just my 3.5 cents!

anna said...

i'm not sure how i feel about this discussion. i can see how dieting can make people a little obsessed with food in a way that is unhealthy. and that gaining and losing can become a never-ending cycle. but...when will people just start taking responsibility FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS???? that's such a problem in so many aspects of life!

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