When I posted about the compliments I received at the dentist’s office, I mentioned that I don’t like talking about my diet and the reasons probably justified their own entry. This actually translates to “Hey, why don’t I like talking about diets? I better stall by saying I’ll put it in another entry.” I’m a deceptive little minx, aren’t I? Oh, the tricks we writers play!
So I put on my thinking cap and sat in the corner and pondered this topic for awhile and here’s what I came up with. (Actually, I don’t have a thinking cap, though I did crochet a kitty cat hat once, and I’ve never sat in the corner. This is another one of those writer’s tricks a.k.a. lies.)
Usually when someone asks about my diet they are doing it as small talk. Within this context the reply is expected to be brief. However, to really explain everything I’ve done to change my diet would take hours (or hundreds of blog entries) and I really doubt the dental hygienist wanted to sign up for PastaQueen’s Intro to Dieting 101 lecture course. So I typically end up abbreviating the basic things I’ve been doing or just stress the most important things in an all too simplistic manner.
I hate this! This is exactly what the media usually does when they report on health stories. They simplify studies, dumb things down, or jump to broad conclusions based on data from a specific sample set. I always bitch about these types of articles and I hate it when I become a human speakerbox for the same sort of oversimplification. Losing weight wasn’t easy. I hate sounding like one of those jerks who says “Oh, just eat less and move more. It’s so simple!” Simple does not mean easy. If you want to become a millionaire, you should start a successful business. It’s simple. Why aren’t we all millionaires? Because running a successful business is also hard. Same goes for dieting.
In contrast to this, a friend of mine visited me last month who is overweight herself. She was genuinely interested in knowing what I had done to lose all my weight. We ended up talking for at least an hour about the principles I had been following. This was great! I got to go in-depth about what I’d been doing. She understood there was no quick fix or secret. I didn’t try to push the South Beach diet on her, though she did pick up a copy for $2.00 when we visited the half-price bookstore. I didn’t mind talking about my diet in this case because it was a full discussion about nutrition and health and not a quick interchange between mouth rinses. Now spit!
The other reason I dislike talking about diets is that if you’re talking about a diet there is the implication that you should be on one. Now, I used to weigh 372 pounds, so obviously I needed to be on a diet. However, there are lots of thin women out there who will harp incessantly about their diets, what they’re eating, and how guilty they feel about consuming something delicious. I suppose you could argue that they are thin because they are watching what they eat. I would counter-argue that just because you’re watching what you eat doesn’t mean you have to talk about it constantly. I don’t want food monitoring to become an obsession that dominates my life. I believe you should eat healthy so you can live longer. Eating healthy shouldn’t become your life.
When I hear people talking about their diets and how they shouldn’t have that last piece of cake, I also hear a subtext of “I’m not thin enough and if I’m not thin enough I’m not good enough.” In this context diet talk partly becomes self-bashing. I don’t want to play that game. If I talk about my diet, I want it to be as an honest discussion about nutrition, not as a backhanded way to whine about how fat I am.
Talking about dieting and fat actually seems to have lots of layers of complexity. I’ve been reading a book called Fat: An anthropology of an obsession, and by reading I mean looking at it on my end table and thinking “Oh, I really need to read the rest of that” and then setting my Diet A&W Root Beer on top of it. One of the essays I have read, “Talk” by Fanny Ambjörnsson, was about high school girls in Sweden. (Tangent: “Fanny” just sounds like a fat girl’s name, doesn’t it?) Fanny observed that they frequently talked about how fat they were, what diet they were on and how much they exercised. She noticed this was a bonding activity, a way to belong to the group. “Because the girls expect others to share similar concerns about their bodies, the experience of worrying about fat is normalized; it is something you face because you’re a girl. Expressing dissatisfaction with one’s body becomes, in this sense, an important way of performing one’s identity as a girl.”
There were some conceits though. A girl could refer to herself as fat, but if she called anyone else in the group fat she would be in danger of being excluded. Also, the thinner girls felt free to talk about how fat they felt, but if an actual fat girl chimed in it would usually be met with silence. This was because being fat was an “‘absent presence’…present as talk only to the extent that it doesn’t actually materialize on people’s bodies. Maintaining this balance – keeping fat both present in talk and absent on your body – makes all the difference between being seen as a successful girl or as a total social failure.”
Maybe as someone who’s been fat most of my life I’ve been socialized not to talk about my fat and diets. I suppose this might also explain why sometimes you can be out with a thin friend and they’ll whine about how fat they feel. Typically I just want to bitch slap someone who does that to me. You’re fat? Is your jean size bigger than your age? But maybe such friends are simply so used to complaining about their bodies to friends that by whining about it to you it’s a sign that they’re including you in their group.
By the way, I don’t mean this entry to discourage anyone who wants to ask me questions about dieting and exercise. Feel free to let your fingers tap dance across the keys and e-mail me if you have a hankering. But, if you’re just trying to make small talk in the grocery line about the latest diets, you’re probably going to get a glazed over look from me that matches any Krispy Kreme donut.
*The link for the word “diets” in this post is a sponsored link.