Diets are damaging, no matter which way you cut it. In the “olden days”(way back when I was a kid), it seemed like there was an elite stature equated with thinness, and it was fashionable to be thin. If someone said they were on a diet, everyone applauded. Maybe it’s because I have been so ingrained in a non-diet paradigm for the entirety of my career, that I sometimes mistakenly believe that people are recognizing the damage diets are doing, and their popularity are on the decline. They are not, and it distresses me a lot.
A diet by any other name is still a diet. And the names that they are being given these days are things like…WELLNESS, FOR YOUR HEALTH, GLUTEN-FREE, DETOX, JUICING, SMOOTHIE FAST…
You get the picture.
It is NOT healthy to:
Cut calories dramatically
To lose weight quickly
To cut out entire food groups…
Even if the end result is weight loss. This is a HUGE topic, one that I have been writing a book on for the past couple years. And there is so much that I want to say right now, however, I am going to try to keep this brief.
Our obsession with thinness has not gone away, and with the insurgence of social media the messages out there are far reaching, complicated, and so very dangerous to the minds and bodies of our children. Dangerous to us too, yet so much of what I see in adults, and the issues that they are ardently struggling with daily, would not exist, had the push for thinness and encouragement of diets in their youth never happened.
I know that is a bold statement, and I stand by it.
How do we take a stand against the false beliefs that allow our society to justify pushing diets on our children? And using health and wellness as an excuse to do it?
I guess I am going to start here.
This is what I said to my fourteen year old daughter on our way to school this morning:
People are all made very differently. We are super unique, and have so many different body types. When we look at different kids, they are different sizes because of how they were made. Our genetics play a very big part in our size and shape (some research says 70%), and we can be extremely healthy at all those different sizes and shapes. When we (specifically talking about kids) try to manipulate our size by restricting food and being hungry a lot of the time, we are doing damage that can create an actual weight problem. Not only do we damage our metabolism, but we also embark on a psychologically dangerous path towards varying types of eating disorders.
My daughter immediately said, “Mom, I think you need to tell that to Jane (not her name), she is always talking about being on a diet and saying that she needs to lose weight.” My heart sunk.
I don’t even know where to begin. The scope of issues for which that sentence requires covering is immense and overwhelming.
1. It is a mute point that this girl is strong, athletic, smart, and thin. Because even if she was the opposite of those things, a diet would NOT be the answer.
2. How does one address this issue with the involved parties when one’s advice has not been asked for?
3. Many of the messages floating around the homes of smart, kind, and loving families, are based on faulty information that is prolific on the internet as well as coming from trusted health professionals.
4. The images of people that our children idolize on TV and the internet are false representations of reality that do not create success nor are they the road to happiness.
How do we turn this tide? I’m not sure, but I do know that we have to keep talking about it, learning, listening, and being loving and accepting of OURSELVES. Our children are watching, and other people’s children are watching. When we criticize ourselves or others, the children in our lives internalize those messages.
Even if we don’t believe in our own head yet that we are good enough…let’s fake it until we do.