All the women at my internship are chronic dieters. “Take the cookies away! I’m on a diet!” I hear them cry as if the cookies are chanting, “Eat me! Eat me!”
Being a non-dieter, I can have a cookie or walk by being drawn by their chirping voices. What my colleagues don’t realize is by denying themselves the right to eat a cookie, they are tempted not only to consume one, but all of the cookies — because tomorrow they’ll be back on a diet again.
What my colleagues don’t know is that I visited this diet years ago, and I learned that carbohydrates supply our bodies with the bulk of its energy. Without it, we’d feel sluggish and tired.
I’ve also learned that when you deprived yourself of carbohydrates and then get your hands on them, your body will take in as much as it can get — because it fears that it will be deprived from carbohydrates once again. My colleagues will have to learn this one on their own.
If the researchers say it’s good for you, it’s as if the calories are non-existent. At my office it’s okay to eat chocolate that contains 85% or higher cacao but anything under that is questionable.
Once you enter the dieting world, it’s a slippery slope.
Non-dieter in a dieter’s world
Once you’re out, I find it extremely difficult to go back to dieting. I’m not saying that it’s not tempting — all my colleagues are on diets, several of my peers are on them, and it’s almost as if the media promotes them. So, do I conform? Do I talk back to their disordered dieting habits? Or, do I continue being a non-dieter in a dieter’s world?
I’ve never been on the Special K diet. From what I’ve heard, it’s a two-week challenge, consisting of Special K products (e.g. chips, cereal, shakes, etc.) and includes one meal of your choice a day. I learned about this one because one of my colleagues was going out of town for a special engagement and was determined to get in shape. I assume her idea of getting in shape consisted only of dieting. But if it also consisted of exercise, I’d find it extremely challenging to exert energy when there isn’t enough of it coming in.
It was Wednesday, with the date approaching, my colleague embarked on this journey. She showed up on the following Monday and said that she broke her diet over the weekend. But since it was a two-week deal, she was going to start again the next week.
By next week she gave up again. But since she had 17 days left before her trip, she decided she would try again in a few days. One day during the challenge she was struggling to stay focused. She was on the computer, eyeing the clock, and counting down the minutes until she could have her Special K shake.
What’s more, she was snappish and impatient. “You’re irritable because you are hungry,” I told her. She laughed.
From a non-dieter’s perspective, it makes me wonder why people like to inflict this type of suffering upon themselves. However, I was on the other side once. And know how easily one can be captivated by it all.
A diet-filled world
You can encounter dieter’s almost anywhere. One evening, I was at a meal outing with my nutritionist when the waitress asked if we wanted refried beans or black beans with our dinner. “Which one do you recommend?” We asked her before we made a decision. “The black beans. They’re healthier,” she said.
But unlike most people, we just wanted to know which one tasted better. Not which one was apparently “better” from a dieter’s perspective. So my nutritionist replied, “We’ll have the refried beans.” And I’ve adopted this attitude when I’m on my own as well.
When I find people talking about the healthier option, I go with the tastier selection. Because the yummier stuff not only provides my body with fuel, but I enjoyed eating it too.
When I used to pick what I thought was the “healthier” option, I’d then spend countless hours thinking about what I really wanted. When that happened, I usually found myself eating what I had originally wanted too in order to satisfy my first craving.
I’ve watched several people — including myself — diet and fail.
Why I don’t conform – and you shouldn’t either
When I observe people engaging in these behaviors, I wonder what’s going on in their life. What’s sending them off to the world of dieting? When I am stressed, challenged, or highly anxious I might feel inclined to gravitate towards dieting. But I’m able to stop myself from crossing that bridge because I know that it’s not about the food.
Also, I no longer engage in these behaviors because I know I can eat what I want, when I want, and that my body will forgive me if overindulge from time to time. On the flipside, I know if I eat less now my body is most likely to want more food later.
As for conforming, we live in a society where it seems that being different equals wrong. Am I being a nonconformist because I don’t want to walk down the same path of my colleagues? Simply because I don’t want to engage in diet talk?
Well, I’ve been there and have walked down similar roads before.
The “diet road” robbed me of some of the most important times of my life, sent me to multiple treatment programs, and made my life a living hell.
Not to mention, it took roughly eight years for me to climb out. Today, I live my life as a non-dieter in a world where beauty equals thinness and a new diet emerges everyday.