Dieting; the not so friendly Ghost

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By Glenn Okayo

If dieting never existed, what would your relationship with food be like? Just think about it for a minute. In this minute, rid your mind of any other thoughts synonymous with dietless eating. How would you eat if you’d never learnt to diet? Would you wake up feeling confused and stressed about food? Or whine for every ounce of weight you pile on? Would you feel guilty and ashamed about eating something you “shouldn’t”? Would you still binge? Label food as “good” or “bad”? Hate your body?

Diets promise simple and easy weight loss programs, whether they are simple or even easy is relative. That they even work is more mystery than fact.. Pictures of happy, thin people accompany diet propaganda. “Lose weight and life will be perfect – just eat how we tell you” is the message. What if I am fine with how much I weigh and how I feel? I haven’t been able to tie my shoe laces and breathe at the same time since 2011 but who is counting? I am about as flexible as a steel rod but I get by, don’t I?
The reality is that dieting is a risk factor, if not the trigger for both obesity and eating disorders. In a large-scale study of 9 to 14 year-olds, dieting was associated with an increase in binge eating and weight gain in both girls and boys. I will help you break down that piece of information in a minute. Data from another study revealed that teenage girls aged 14-15 with no previous weight issue who dieted were more likely to be overweight by the age of 18 than girls who didn’t.

In another significant study of 14 and 15 year-olds, those who dieted moderately were 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder. For those who dieted severely, the risk increased to 18 times more likely. The study concluded that dieting is the most important predictor of developing an eating disorder. How many of us started dieting when we were teenagers? And where are you now with food and weight?

Rather than helping us to reduce in size, dieting is making us bigger and getting fat off the profits. It’s a sobering fact that the global weight loss industry this year will be worth $422.8 billion.

“Yeah, but…”, you might say.
“Yeah, but diets work while you’re on them”. The truth is, if you regain the weight you’ve lost, the diet hasn’t worked, whether that happens two minutes or two years after dieting. “Yeah, but we need to do something about obesity rates”. The truth is, dieting is contributing to the rates of obesity, not helping them. If you have never tried a diet, this may not be easy to believe.

“Yeah, but if we don’t diet, what else do we do?” The truth is, what we need to do is heal our relationship with food.

It’s time to cultivate a natural, normal relationship with food. The relationship we would be having, had diet culture not interfered. A relationship founded on a caring attitude towards our bodies, where we respect our natural instincts of hunger, preference and satiety. Where we eat without guilt. Where we inhabit our bodies without shame. Where we live our lives free from obsession and distress about food. Where we work with our metabolism to be the weight our bodies determine.
This isn’t just some flight of fancy. It’s serious. It needs to happen for the sake of generations to come. Kids need healthy self-esteem, a positive body image and a normal relationship with food. We all do. There is no ‘yeah, but…’

A world without dieting begins with individuals. Those of us prepared to reject dieting because it doesn’t work and is a danger to health. Those of us willing to say “I value and appreciate my body even though it doesn’t fit the diet culture ideal”. Those of us who commit to having a peaceful relationship with food and ourselves.

Diets fail at least 95% of the time. The misconception that comes with this is that being “fat” is unhealthy. First of all, fat is also relative. There is alot of math and chemical formulation that goes into determining whether or not someone is overweight, our eyes are yet to be equipped as such. To be really honest, perhaps we should start with positive body imagery and attitude. I do not refute that there are those that are blatantly and carelessly obese, just that some of the people we make feel obese are perfectly fine.

If you had a friend who lied to you, took your money and let you down 95% of the time, would you still be friends with them? Or if they told you that 95% of parachutes will fail, what is the chance that you’d sky dive from the plane wearing one?

Being healthy is a combination of factors, having the appropriate body weight is no different because it is not singled on diet. Start with drinking lots and lots of water.

Happy International No Diet Day, everyone.

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