Posts Tagged ‘ dieting


This is the time of year for new beginnings, resolutions to stay the course or chart a new one, growing into the best possible version of ourselves.

And, we often have a list (sometimes a very long list) of resolutions that involve changing our bodies. Lose 20 pounds.  Stick to a new exercise routine. Sleep more.

But, how new are your new year’s resolutions? Mine seem hauntingly familiar to last year. And, guess what? I weigh the same as last year, I’m exercising the same as last year, and I still have chronic insomnia.

I wonder if the problem isn’t our bodies, but rather our resolutions.

Perhaps instead of resolving to change our bodies in radical ways, we might resolve to radically change how we think about our bodies. Perhaps instead of making sweeping changes on January 1st, we might try to make small changes throughout the year. I’m trying to love (or at least appreciate) a different aspect of my body each month. I’m starting with the easy ones…my ability to run, breathing as a way to feel totally alive in the moment, using fashion to accentuate the body parts I love (or at least don’t hate).

Are you making some truly new, New Year’s resolutions when it comes to your body? If so, I’d love to hear what they are and how their going!

Cheers to a new year and new (year’s) resolutions!

re-picturing DIETING

Diet:    (1) What a person or animal usually eats and drinks; daily fair.

(2) A special or limited selection of food and drink, chosen or prescribed to promote health or a gain or loss of weight.

I am stunned that Merriam-Webster can offer such a neutral description of this very loaded concept.

Three separate readers have recently asked me whether I’m supportive or not of women who are focused on dieting and losing weight. Can dieting fit into the re-picturing women project?

My immediate, knee-jerk reaction to these questions is that dieting is bad, bad, bad. Re-picturing women is about accepting and representing real women of all shapes and sizes. Seeing ultra-slim models on the internet, on television, and in magazines certainly contributes to girls and women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. However, have I been on a diet? Yes. For most of my life, in fact. And, when I’m not dieting, I feel like I should be dieting.

Yet, dieting tends to be a big part of many women’s lives.

I recently polled some of my readers to get their perceptions on dieting. And, yes, several people came back with extremely adverse reactions, similar to mine.

Restriction, hunger, thinness, struggle, no food,” came to mind for Lindsey Moser.

Pam Gervais described it is “deprivation, torture.”

Meghan Davidson from Life Refocused said, “UGH. That’s my first thought. And then other very negative associations come to mind–restricting, withholding, deprivation, lack of abundance, punishing.”

“Two words that immediately come to mind are ‘deprivation’ and ‘temporary,’ reflected Elizabeth Thomas of Life in Pencil.

Emily Kayzak chose words including, “Control, judgment, sexism, perfection, waste of energy,” to describe dieting.

Others didn’t have quibbles about dieting, per se, but they had strong opinions about the best approach to dieting.

Maura Tanabe noted, “When I think of dieting, I think of something I always think about around January to lose weight. I find that extreme changes never work for me. The word usually has a negative connotation for me because I feel like it is a huge commitment for a short period of time. Dieting really should mean slowly changing your eating habits to include foods/drinks that serve a positive purpose for your body. I have heard numerous times lately that what you put into your body should serve a positive purpose.”

Similarly, “I think the whole concept of dieting is warped. I know a lot of people who go on extreme diets for weeks before a vacation, shed lots of weight and then put it right back on (and then some) when the diet is over.  I associate times in my life when I was dieting with over-depriving followed by over-indulging. It’s not sustainable. Instead of going on a diet, I prefer the idea of healthy eating as a lifestyle that involves an ongoing commitment to buying fresh, organic food without additives and eating reasonable portions. I like and enjoy eating fruit, vegetables, salads and drinking water. But I also indulge in french fries or chocolate sometimes, and I think that’s fine, too. I don’t count points and I never weigh myself, but I always know when my body is getting sluggish from too much junk food and not enough exercise. If I haven’t been eating healthily enough, I try to tip the balance back in favor of carrots over candy bars,” noted Melissa Dowler of the Long Haul Project.

Offering a similar approach, Elizabeth Thomas noted, “In my mind, ‘dieting’ needs to boil down to fundamental lifestyle changes that speak to our day-to-day choices and carries us through our lives.  So many diet plans seem to work in terms of meeting the goal of losing weight fast, but they rarely seem healthy and sustainable over the long haul.  I’m especially leery of diet plans that eliminate entire categories of food, often based on reductionist reasoning.”

Still others added important caveats or re-frames for dieting.

Taking a “playful” approach to dieting, Lesa Hoffman suggested, “My approach to ‘dieting’ this year has been to think of it as a game – how full can I get and still stay under the number of calories I should have in order to create a deficit? This has meant thinking outside the box in terms of food choices in order to find more ways to get protein, so from that perspective, it’s actually somewhat enjoyable because I end up eating new things… but then on occasions when I do eat my preferred carb-laden food I invariably feel guilty about it, like normal, which is not so fun.”

Offering a man’s perspective, my brother, Ben Gervais stated, “The thought that I am trying to cognitively reposition in my head on the subject is: It is not about weight loss or body image, or anything external for that matter.  Instead, dieting means simply eating foods in a manner that will support my greater goal.  That greater goal is to shape my body in a way that will allow me to do things I desire to do, such as to run faster miles, perform household chores like heavy lifting with more ease, and be more creative in the bedroom ;).  I can’t get to this point without a healthy lifestyle that incorporates proper food intake.  This philosophy is something a close friend of mine at school, a former Army Ranger, is a big proponent of.”

Importantly, one of the goals of re-picturing women is to help women live more fully in their bodies. Although I want women to love their bodies how they are right now, I don’t want to encourage women to just act as if they love their bodies or to just sit still if the universe is prodding them to do something with their bodies. It is a very touchy issue, though. Every woman’s experience is different. My hope is that the re-picturing women project can honor the unique narratives of all women and help people realize that each story is to be respected because it represents a real experience from a real woman. One of my readers recently realized that she was carrying around layers of extra weight to protect herself from the hurt of serious losses she had experienced. Another reader wanted to stop using food to stuff what she was really feeling. And a last reader simply wasn’t happy that she wasn’t fitting into her clothes anymore. Do I support these women making life changes that are helping them to live more fully, be more alive, feel like their bodies belong to them? Hell yes!

Is dieting good or bad? Well, the answer is probably…it depends. It depends on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It depends on whether it helps you feel more in touch or alienated from your body.

What has dieting revealed to you? Please weigh in on this weighty issue!

re-picturing FAT TALK

Do you engage in fat talk?

A classic example:

One person says: “I’m so fat”

Another person says: “No you’re not.”

There is a lot of scientific evidence that women and especially adolescent girls frequently engage in fat talk with other women and girls.

I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it can promote closeness and connection with others. Women need to be able to talk about appearance and weight-related issues, especially with other women.  Society places an enormous weight on girls and women when it comes to their appearance. Being able to vocalize and share that experience with others can be freeing. It is also somewhat positive and complimentary. Given the importance we place on women’s bodies, hearing someone else say that we look OK or good enough can be reassuring.

On the other hand, however, implicit in “fat talk” is the idea that it is not OK for women to be heavier or bigger. In fact, when people hear fat talk, they tend to think being skinny is even more important than before they heard it. When I was 17, I lost 20 pounds very quickly. I never fancied myself as fat, but after I lost the weight, you would not believe how many people asked “Have you lost weight? You look great.” Gosh, how bad did I look before? It is for this reason that I rarely ask people if they’ve lost weight. Again, it seems complimentary, but carries along heavy baggage.

Do you engage in fat talk? Do you think it helps, hurts, or both?

I wish I could offer a simple answer here, but I think it is a difficult and weighty issue.


What is the waiting game?

Waiting (or should I say weighting) to lose a few pounds is a crafty form of procrastination that our society teaches many women to use.

It may be small delays.

I’ll replace my ratty swimsuit (you know the one I’m talking about) once I’m able to drop a size or two.

I’ll join that new gym after I lose a few pounds (why are there so damned many skinny people on those treadmills).

I’ll renew my vows once I can fit into my wedding dress (from 20 years ago).

But minor delays can meander into major detours.

If I apply for that job and get an interview, I’ll have to buy a new suit at this bigger size and I just can’t handle that right now.

The thought of wearing a swimsuit in front of others horrifies me. I’ll wait on that beach vacation until next year.

A first date might turn into a first kiss, which might turn into something else and I just can’t stand the thought of someone seeing me naked right now. Maybe we can go to the movies another time.

One solution for the weighting game is to take one small step toward accepting our bodies just the way they are.

Perhaps we buy a swimsuit (or a pair of jeans, or a dress, or whatever) that flatters our current body, rather than the one we wished we had. We buy a treadmill for our home, rather than joining the gym.

Ironically, doing something out of self-love for our bodies can take the focus from our bodies to the real things in our lives that are weighing us down. And it can help to lighten the load as we take small steps in the directions of our dreams.

What is weighing you down? It might have less to do with the number on the scale than you might think.