Diet talk is boooooring!
Yet it’s everywhere: all over the more privileged parts of the world, women (and some men too, I’d venture) gather and actively discuss the respective promises and miseries of the way they eat.
I find it absurd.
There’s usually two ways I see this play out:
- Straight up diet talk, i.e. all the things that you’re not eating or not supposed to eat, usually backed up by extremely doubtful reasoning and very poor science.
- Apologetic diet talk, i.e. I know we’re not supposed to diet but…, still backed up by the same shoddy claims as above, but wrapped in a guilty layer of this is the last time, I promise; once I reach my goal weight I’ll…
How did we get to the point where talking about food deprivation is exciting? I mean, seriously, how damaged is our collective self-image that diet talk is now our idea of fun?
Seeking connection with others is a fundamentally human trait, and a beautiful one at that, but when the way we choose to bond with each other is over hating our own bodies and discussing others’ bodies, it sends up a big red flag.
Something’s just not right with this picture.
ON THE SOCIAL ACCEPTABILITY OF SELF-LOATHING
Loving oneself as we are has become a radical act: something so uncommon that when we see people claim it, we usually either think they’re faking it. Or, that they have a secret that they’re not sharing with the rest of us.
While I do believe that many are actually faking it—and using self-love claims as a means for outside validation—I’m more concerned with the belief that there’s a “special magic formula” out there. It feeds the idea that if we can only discover the “trick”, then we’ll be worthy—in this instance we’ll be thin—and we’ll be forever good.
So that quest for the Holy Grail of diets somehow becomes an end in itself: we can’t possibly love ourselves as is, so we have to at least be seen trying to fix ourselves!
We discuss it endlessly, even if it means one-upping each other, in a desperate attempt to keep digging at the subject. And when, ultimately, we no longer have stories of our own to relate, we don’t hesitate to use those of other people, not blinking at the idea of giving second-hand accounts of others’ intimate relationship with their own body.
All the while, younger generations are listening, whether we like it or not. Do we truly want them to replicate those dreadful patterns?
Dieting is one of the most potent political sedatives
in women’s history; a quietly mad population
is a highly tractable one.
WHY ARE WE USING SELF-LOATHING AS AN ARMOR?
Diet talk detracts from the harder, realer conversations. Like Naomi Wolf postulates in the quote above, it keeps us all a little crazy.
When we’re so focused about shrinking, about taking less space, how can we possibly devote headspace to all of those pursuits which require us to do just the opposite—to be bolder, louder, more expansive?
I sometimes feel like we fixate on the outside—the surface, even—just so we can avoid talking about what’s going on inside. What if we forwent all the vapid diet talk? What could we possibly discuss instead?
There’s a lot of unknown there now, isn’t there?
Couldn’t we discuss what inspires us? Books that have enthralled us? Dreams that we have? Aspirations, crazy ideas? Or is that too vulnerable overall?
I know that, as a grown woman with a busy life, the time I have available for leisurely discussions with other adults, and especially women, tends to be pretty limited. To think that, by some kind of social norm, some of that time has to be devoted to diet talk depresses me to no end.
Can we not discuss other, richer subjects? Create a conversation outside of our purely subjective physical appearance? Isn’t there so much more to life?
I know I want more for my life.
So from now on, I commit to this: while I haven’t, initiated any diet talk in forever—I’m very much elsewhere in my mindset—I also will not stand idle when I see it happening in front of me. I don’t mean to shame anyone for having those discussions, but my standpoint is firm:
Let’s talk about all the ways we can be MORE, instead of all the ways we must contrive ourselves to be LESS.
Who’s with me?