January 3, 2012

Why I won't be dieting in 2012

New Year's diet resolutions are as normalized as midnight champagne toasts. Sorry: I no longer stay up drinking until midnight on New Year's Eve and I sure as heck am not resolving to lose weight this year or any year.

I'm a middle-aged woman with jiggles: isn't it my moral and health obligation to want to lose weight all the time? No. In fact, my New Year's Advice is, as usual, for everyone I know to STOP dieting. They won't listen to me, of course, but still.

For anyone out there still listening, please read Why Lost Pounds Come Back. The piece is notable not only for the content, but for who wrote it. Parker-Pope makes some startling personal observations and I appreciate them because I've cringed and groaned at many of her comments over the years about eating and weight and eating disorders. She sounds as if she is nearly into a new paradigm -- not quite, but the tipping point is near. She has a great deal of power in her position at the Times, so when she DOES get there it will have an impact.

It is brave, in our society and in the healthcare science field, to suggest that weight loss is not the Holy Grail. Many of us in the eating disorder world have accepted that already and we are familiar with the science behind this seemingly endlessly shocking idea.

"Giving up" on weight loss isn't as hard as it may seem. Once I accepted that weight "loss" is really unhealthy "weight cycling" I was able to enjoy eating, exercise, and my amazing body a great deal more. I got healthier, and happier. Once I stopped reflexively and boringly dissing my body size it opened up an enormous warmth for other people as well. I wasn't giving up on anything, it turns out, because it was an unhealthy and and self-defeating illusion. Do I fleetingly, secretly wish I could slip into my 1980s jeans or still use that cute belt I loved as a young professional in Manhattan? Yes, I do. But would doing that for a few months be worth the health damage - mental health included - that would linger for years and probably the rest of my life? Obviously NOT. What a silly, meaningless, irrelevant goal. It's like holding your breath: not sustainable and what for, exactly?

I am quite sure that in 5-10 years few people will still be drinking the Kool-Aid on weight loss -- doctors will be cautioning us against weight cycling, and at New Year's the resolutions will be to enjoy our bodies with good food, good activity, good sleep, good relationships FOR THEIR OWN SAKE. Resolving to do healthy things in pursuit of and measured by appearance is not healthy and not sustainable: and generally lasts until February 15 or so when the self-reproach season begins anew. Thank goodness New Year's Resolutions only come once a year!


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