Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Scream for Ice Cream

"I gained 4 pounds just over the weekend."

"I really need to get back to the gym. I feel so guilty."

"It's those carbs...they'll put the weight on you."

These are snippets of a conversation I overheard yesterday between two grown men. And neither of the men were overweight. What the fuck is wrong with our culture where that's normal conversational fodder for two men? Or anyone really? I used to obsess over shit like 4 pounds, too. And I had to get psychiatric help because I had a fucking eating disorder. See, whenever I comment negatively about the state of the world in regards to food and dieting obsession, people will say, "Well you obsess about stuff like that, too." Yes, yes I do. But I acknowledge that it's fucked up behavior because I have a brain dysfunction. I'm starting to think there is a national epidemic of EDNOS.

I guess what is so frustrating about the national obsession with dieting for weight loss or maintenance, is that diets have been scientifically proven time and time again to not work. I think that's pretty obvious by the fact that our society is obsessed with dieting and yet more people are overweight than ever. (Although the current definition of what constitues "overweight" based on BMI is highly suspect). How the fuck does that happen? I really, really want to know. I also want to know how bread became the enemy. Haven't people been eating bread (and maintaining healthy weights) for thousands upon thousands of years? And pasta? And beef? And butter? How did these staples of the human diet become demonized in our modern culture? How did they become the culprit in the so-called obesity epidemic?

Why is it called "cheating" if I eat an ice cream cone? We cheat on tests, cheat on our taxes, cheat on our spouses. The word "cheating" has a connotation of betrayal. Who are we cheating on when we eat ice cream? Ourselves? So let me get this straight: I'm betraying myself when I nurture my body with something that tastes good? Got it. Pleasure + Nurturance = Betrayal. Everywhere I go, I see people behaving all fucking guilty about "indulging" in their natural instinct to feed their bodies. I hear people lamenting their lack of willpower. As if the ability to deny ourselves food is some kind of moral victory. Isn't that sick?

I'm so fucking tired of this bullshit. I feel like I'm swimming upstream every day of my life. I tried to talk with my boss about his "diet" yesterday (He is one of the men having that conversation above). I asked him why he was on a diet when he didn't have a weight problem. He insisted that he did have a weight problem. He weighs 175 pounds and he's about 5'11". And he is convinced he is overweight. He's never even weighed more than 190 pounds in his whole life, so it's not like he's ever had a weight problem. He weighs himself twice a day and compulsively keeps track of the foods he eats. If his weight goes up by 1 pound, he cuts back on his food. I think to myself, "This man has an eating disorder." But everyone in his orbit thinks his behavior is completely normal. I think that 30 years ago, his behavior would have been considered quirky, if not worrisome.

I'm a fan of eating intuitively. I am in awe of people who eat when they're hungry, and eat what they want. Sometimes it's a big green salad; Sometimes it's a big bowl of ice cream (full fat). Sometimes it's an apple. Sometimes it's a filet mignon with mashed potatoes and asparagus. I just have a feeling that if we all stopped trying to control our weight and just listened to our own internal cues, we'd be okay*. I think our bodies would reach a natural set point and we wouldn't have to spend so much of our lives worrying about a number on a scale, or the calories in our food. We wouldn't have to spend our whole lives being suspicious of an act as natural as eating. Wouldn't that be lovely?

*I'm referring here to people who are within a normal weight range. I realize that there are people who have legitimate and serious problems with weight. Obviously, these people need medical and possibly psychological interventions. In my opinion, people suffering from obesity should be treated with the same care, concern and compassion that a person suffering from anorexia nervosa normally receives.


  1. You are so right. I do have a weight problem - not a huge one, but need to be healthier nonetheless, and I am working on it. But it is frustrating to hear a little skinny person talking about how fat they are. Or to feel peoples eyes on me if I am eating ice cream, as if because I am overweight, I shouldn't have it.

    Of course I should be used to it, since my own mother has been calling me fat since I was 104 pounds. Is it any wonder I have weight problems now?

  2. Amen, sister. As a former anorexic and bulimic, I also struggle with these issues every day. I no longer punish myself for feeding myself yummy, nutritious (and not-so-nutritious) food, but I do stare at my 5'4", 136 lb self and wish I was thinner. I think my body is at my natural "set point", but my head has some catching up to do.
    : - /

  3. Gina - I look at pictures of you and think you look lovely. I think we all have this beauty ideal beat into our heads and it's often unrealistic and possibly unhealthy to attain. We need to get away from the idea that thin=healthy or thin=happy. It's simply not true. I don't think it's possible to healthy and happy, not fully anyway, if we're always on a diet or always beating ourselves up about food and eating and the way our bodies look.

    Ruth - It's hard living in this world and also living recovery from an eating disorder, isn't it? Everything I learned in recovery about what was wrong with my thoughts about food, eating, and body image - well I see all those types of thoughts and feelings and behaviors in the people around me. It's very frustrating. I'm in the same boat as you are. I'm 5'3" and I weigh about 125 (I think. I try not to get on the scale very much. It doesn't lead anywhere good). I wish I were thinner all the time. But I know my body is at a healthy weight and that I can maintain this weight without dieting or worrying about what I eat (too much).

  4. Weight is such a touchy subject.

    I refuse to complain about mine, ever. What's the point of complaining if I don't do anything about it?

    The only sure way to stay in shape is to get the fuck off of your ass.

  5. I used to be the skinny one in the family (I'm adopted) and then everyone started getting gastric bypass. (Is there nothing left for me to gloat over?) I've always been a BIG BIG eater (my husband says I should enter competitions). Now my metablolism is slowing down in my 30's. Fuck.
    My son is already chubby, but I REFUSE to give him a complex about it. I tell him he's healthy and then make sure we do fun stuff outdoors. Which means I have to exercise too. Again, fuck.

  6. I say everyone just comes over to my house, spends every day working on the ranch, and then eats whatever the fuck they want. That's my way of saying I get sick of all the physical labor around here, but never sick of being able to eat what I want because I'm so physically active.
    Oh, and I guess I care about other people's weight too? Not so much. Maybe I'm just wanting people to scoop horse shit for no pay.

  7. I agree with you that we live in a diet-obsessed world! It seems just about everyone is on a diet and there is so much about what we should or shouldn't eat. It's crazy and fanatical, and so hard for any people trying to recover from EDs.

    All I can say is to keep doing your own thing, what is best for you even if it is against the grain. Maybe, eventually, people will catch up and smell the roses and realize obsession is not pretty, a requirement, or simply needed period.

  8. You know, I "suffer" from obesity, but I don't think I need care or compassion or concern. That may be my delusions at play, though. What I think I need is to eat less and exercise more.

    But I'm so with you on dieting. I don't do it. I'll make better choices, and cut back on portion sizes, but I really don't deny myself. I like food, all kinds of food, and I'm not going to starve or cut something out of my diet entirely because it's "bad."

  9. The thing about listening to your body is SO CORRECT. For gods sakes! Humans have built in chemicals in their stomach that say "I'm hungry!" and then, while eating they will say "I'm full!"
    People criticize fast food for being the cause of obesity because it is fatty and greasy and carby, which is true. But the real reason it is the cause of obesity - and I think the reason people in America are obese - is because it is FAST. Everyone eats so quickly we don't have time to listen to our body. The chemicals take time to work and so if you eat slower than you will notice when you are full. The country is obsessed with time saving and convenience!

    conversely, today I was at a presentation of a classmates project on meditation - trying to be in a state of mindfulness during all things - and one of the things he had us do was try to eat a cookie mindfully. To meditate whilst eating the cookie. It makes you eat slower and fully sort of appreciate and enjoy the cookie and have compassion for it's journey through space and time to your mouth. I know that sounds weird, like some sort of hippie dippie shit, but it was pretty interesting and it WORKED.

  10. I want to enjoy my food, not feel like shit for eating it. It's one of life's great pleasures, along with getting groovy in the sack.

  11. I have to admit, I think about it more than I should. I wish I looked different. Maybe it's because I gained over 20 lbs in six months and it won't budge.

    I don't know why I think about it so much. I mean, I haven't made myself throw up in years but I still think about it.