Lifestyle vs. Dieting

Saturday, October 05, 2019

I grew up surrounded by people doing diets. Everyone I knew always talked about diets. It was like living in a world where everyone preferred to eat half a broccoli head for lunch than be overweight.

Most people I know don’t usually go on diets for health reasons – although, that’s a common excuse people use to disguise internalized fatphobia. In reality, most people begin dieting because they do not want to look overweight.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that (With being overweight, or with dieting because you don't feel good about looking overweight).

It’s no secret society fat-shames big bodies. Generally speaking, people associate being fat with being lazy, dirty, and unattractive. Fat is frequently perceived as a personal failure. Or a parent’s failure. Either: “How did you let yourself get so big?” or, “how did you let your kids get so big?”

I mean, OF COURSE the marketing of donut burgers and one dollar “McValue” menu items, combined with questionable accessibility of affordable healthy food for low income communities, mental health, lack of information, sneaky marketing tactics by brands at grocery stores, eating disorders, ads, supersizing, and genetics have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with obesity in this country. Right?

No way. Only one possible reason for obesity: You ate too many burgers. But wait- if you are too skinny, eat a burger. Right?

Huh. This might be more complex than I thought it was. A topic for another blog.

Anyway, through aggressive marketing and advertising, society has conditioned us to believe that being overweight isn’t attractive. In other words, they’ve made us believe that fat isn’t where it’s at! From media and pop culture, we are told that people – especially women – must be thin to be considered pretty. This has become so ingrained in our brains that we instinctively dehumanize big bodies on a daily basis. Like, Bill Maher saying we should bring fat shaming back to make people lose weight. Because psychologically and emotionally bullying someone into losing weight is way better than belly fat! What a dumb statement to make on national television. It made me dislike him more than I dislike a guy I was dating last year who one day said he wouldn’t “allow his children to be gay because homosexuality was a sin and a choice” right before I never spoke to him again. Oh, or that guy I went on a date with who said he uses homophobic slurs because ThiS a fREE coUntrY And FrEEdOm Of SpeEch anD I'm in LaW sChOoL AnD TOoK a SpeEch clASs buT i sTiLl lOvE tHE GaYs. Or that other guy who said he didn't believe in feminism because he didn't believe in ideologies. All those men combined, and I still dislike Bill Maher more over his fat shaming statement. Which, honestly, it's quite impressive considering my strong progressive views on sexuality, women's rights and race.

I've always rebelled against the idea that fat is bad. I understood the concept of fat phobia and fat shaming from a really early age. That’s not to say I NEVER went on a diet or felt self-conscious, but it wasn’t my general attitude. I thought that giving in to losing weight would be giving in to society’s view that being big meant being ugly. So, I did the opposite. I consistently told myself I was beautiful until I truly believed it. I ate what I wanted to eat. I wore the clothes I wanted to wear. I tried to be as outgoing as I could and never let insecurity stop me from doing what I wanted. Plus, I began doing all of this before high school, so when ninth grade came around, I didn’t need to force my attitude. It was a case of “fake it ‘til you make it.” And made it, I did.

Though overweight, I felt really healthy for a long time. (Until I didn't). I felt good about myself. Unfortunately, my body positivity and confidence didn’t stop those around me from feeling self-conscious about their own weight so everyone would diet all the time. Eventually, I associated fat shaming with dieting, and I began to reject the idea of dieting, too.

Naturally, when I decided I wanted to be fit and healthy, I knew I didn’t want to follow a restrictive diet. While I wanted to be able to eat whatever I desired, I also wanted to improve my relationship with food and continue loving my body the way I had always loved it. Eating what I wanted to eat wasn’t what led me to obesity, it was the amount of food I was consuming. Not one bread, but three. Not two pancakes, but four. That, combined with 0 exercise, walked my bum straight into becoming morbid obese.

Getting healthy this year finally came down to becoming mindful of my food choices, stopping overeating and routinely using portion control. It’s not about restricting any particular type of food, but rather restricting the amount of food I do consume.

Lifestyle 

Creating habits, like brushing your teeth, makes it easy for us to adopt certain behaviors without needing motivation to do them. You create a habit by doing something consistently … so then it feels like it’s part of your normal everyday life. Does that make sense? Once it’s a habit, you no longer need motivation. I don’t need motivation to brush my teeth!

Changing my lifestyle meant creating new habits, like eating only when hungry, portion controlling, exercising, choosing healthy options, balancing meals, and never associating feelings of anxiety or discomfort with eating. I knew that if I made a healthy lifestyle a habit, I would always choose to be healthy no matter where I was, even on vacation. This method would also allow me to eat whatever I wanted to eat.

A healthy lifestyle follows you everywhere you go. You don’t need “cheat meals” because you can eat whatever you want – it’s all part of the lifestyle. It teaches you to make healthier choices willingly most of the time, and to feed your body food that your body will appreciate. It also teaches you to balance the unhealthy choices with healthy ones, and not punishing yourself for eating poorly. It’s okay to have a cheeseburger or chocolate shake. As long as you do it in moderation. Don’t do it all the time. Once I understood that, it was a smooth ride.

I changed my lifestyle because I felt it was the only way I could learn to live healthier and do it forever and ever, and ever, and ever. I figured that learning achievable healthy habits would have long-term benefits, preventing me from going back to eating poorly and excessively. I wanted to make working out and eating healthy a normal part of my life so I wouldn’t even think about it. I wanted to lose weight naturally. So I did. I chose fitness and health enough times that they became part of my life. (Still a work in progress, though!)

Dieting

Diets come in all forms. Even calorie-counting is a diet, but the dieting I’m referring to is the type where you eat only specific groups of foods. I think diets are a good way to lose weight and eat healthy, despite the feelings I associate with diets. Diets can help you create healthy habits, too. In fact, many people start dieting and transition it into a lifestyle of their choice once their diets are over. Take Keto, for example. A lot of people choose Keto as a lifestyle, just like choosing to be vegetarian or vegan. Some people choose Keto as a temporal diet. Diets can provide organization and a schedule for your meals. Many of us need these things to get healthy and lose weight. Like I said, despite the negative feelings I associate with diets, they are not necessarily bad. You gotta do what you gotta do. Do whatever works best for you, your personality, and your mental health. We are all different and what may help one person lose weight and get healthy may not always help another. People often times say “(this) diet is so unhealthy for you!” but you also have to ask yourself, is this diet unhealthier than my obesity is? Do I feel like this diet is the only way for me to lose weight? Only you can answer that question. Sometimes, diets save lives.

In conclusion...

Tailor your journey and your diet to you. Mold it so it fits your wants and needs. If you choose to do a diet, do it, and do it well. Be healthy. Be committed. Be consistent. If it’s a temporary diet, take into consideration your life afterwards. Give yourself cheat meals, but be smart about them. Diet with a plan of not regaining the weight and the unhealthy habits. Picture how you’d like to continue living your life. Envision what you want to do and stick with it.

Do what works best for you. Whether it’s following a restrictive diet for a period of time, or changing your lifestyle. Choose what will make you healthier than you are now. I know I always say this, but I choose healthier, not healthy. Healthier is doable and attainable for me. For example: Sweet potato fries are healthier than regular French fries. Halo Top ice cream is healthier than Coldstone ice cream. Wheat bread is healthier than white bread. But none of those things are “healthy” by definition of what everyone thinks being healthy means: Broccoli and water! But not too much water because too much water is unhealthy too. See what I mean? Follow your gut.

Youtube: Why I Started Losing Weight/ Choosing Lifestyle Change

Choose what works best for you.

And be kind to peeps.

-Cabi

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