Opinion

For this new year, follow my example and say ‘no’ to diet culture

January 26, 2022 3:33 am

Weight-loss plans are a profitable industry, writes Linda Ditch, but they almost never work out for dieters. (Getty Images)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Linda Ditch has been a freelance writer for two decades.

It’s late January. The time where, traditionally, most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions. How about you? More specifically, did you resolve to lose weight? Again? How’s it working for you?

Believe me; I know the struggle! I started to diet when I was 11 years old. In middle school, I signed up for WW (then known as Weight Watchers) for the first time. In high school, I went through a time of only eating 600 to 800 calories a day, and in college, I gave a liquid diet a try.

As you may have guessed, none of those plans worked. Actually, that’s not true. They worked for a time, but I always gained the weight right back, usually with extra pounds for good measure.

My last diet began in March 2019, when I signed up again for WW and dove right into what the program called my “wellness journey” for the next two years. The plan became my entire focus. I couldn’t eat anything without first calculating how many WW points it would cost from my daily allotment. As a food writer, I went from choosing menu items and recipes to enjoy because they sounded tasty to wondering about the point totals and how I could change them to fit my new “lifestyle.” My self-worth became dependent on the scale’s numbers going down.

Then my body started fighting back. It got tired of being told it wasn’t hungry when it was, eating non-fat yogurt when it wanted ice cream, and walking 10,000 steps when it wanted to rest. But, most of all, I was tired of basing my feelings on what the scale reported.

I finally realized that when diets don’t work, I’m not a failure. The diets are.

Weight loss companies are in the business of making money. A story just this month on NPR pointed out approximately 45 million Americans diet every year, spending more than $30 billion on diet products and plans. Diets count on you to keep failing, and trying again and again.

– Linda Ditch

An article published in Scientific American in 2020 notes that researchers discovered approximately 80% of people who succeeded at significant weight loss could not maintain it for 12 months. Within two years, most regain more than half of what they lost, with many weighing more than when they started.

Weight loss companies are in the business of making money. A story just this month on NPR pointed out approximately 45 million Americans diet every year, spending more than $30 billion on diet products and plans. Diets count on you to keep failing, and trying again and again.

“Diet culture is that collective set of social expectations telling us that there’s one way to be and one way to look and one way to eat and that we are a better person, we’re a more worthy person, if our bodies are a certain way,” explained UK-based body image researcher Nadia Craddock in the NPR report.

Then I discovered the book “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach,” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. This approach focuses on rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, making peace with food, challenging society’s food police, and respecting your body where it is now.

I have practiced intuitive eating for almost a year. At first, it felt like starting another diet, until I realized I was learning how to let my body behave in the way it was meant to all along.

Yes, I regained about half the weight I lost. But I’m OK with that because I’m happier.

The numbers on the scale no longer dictate my feelings because I rarely weigh myself. Best of all, my entire focus is no longer on losing weight. Being satisfied with life is now my goal, including spiritual growth, intriguing work and fulfilling relationships.

Will I ever lose weight again? I don’t know. That’s up to my body. Healthy foods, sweet treats, and exercise are now a minor part of my life’s bigger picture. I will never again do anything on purpose to lose weight. Let me say, the freedom feeling that way brings is lovely!

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Linda Ditch
Linda Ditch

Linda Ditch has been a freelance writer for two decades. The focus of her work is primarily food, travel, education, home improvement, natural health, and pet care topics. Her articles have appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Concord Monitor (New Hampshire), Boston Globe and Dallas Morning News, as well as KANSAS!, Topeka Lifestyle, Topeka, Shawnee, and CatFancy Magazines. She also created The Iconic Dishes of Kansas and Topeka City Guide for the Food Network’s website. Before entering the freelance world, she was senior editor at Taste for Life magazine.

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