In theory, I know that to be true. What I find hard to come to terms with is that lifestyle change still feels like a diet, it's just a diet that is intended to be long term. You change your habits, but that just makes you an habitual dieter. Lifestyle change means that you're not following someone else's specific rules, you're following your own, and occasionally you can break them, but there are still rules. There are still restrictions, on amounts (portion control), on when you eat certain things (nutrient timing), on what you eliminate from your options on a regular basis (bread, pasta, icing; sugar, dairy, alcohol, gluten) - regardless of your reasoning why. Whether you tell yourself "no" because you are trying to lose weight, or because you are trying to be healthy, if you deny yourself something that you really really want, it's still a diet. If you force yourself to eat things you don't enjoy "because it's good for you" then it's still a diet.
A lifestyle should be something you not only want, but that you enjoy. Which is ultimately exactly what he says: "live the healthiest life you can honestly enjoy." My problem? I want both. I literally want to have my cake and eat it, too. I want the skinny. I want the strong. I want the icing.
So, I struggle back and forth in my head, between the better option. Is it better to keep trying for weight loss, including food denial (whether you call it "dieting" or "lifestyle change" it emotionally amounts to the same thing for me), in the hopes that the end result of some fat loss will be worth the mental anguish? Or do I focus more on body acceptance, to find a way to be okay with how I look and just appreciate how I feel and what I can do? I believe it's one or the other, frankly. And because I flip flop between which path to take, I end up going in circles, starting and stopping dieting, which is the definition of yo-yo'ing.
I don't love the term "post-traumatic dieting disorder" because I think it undermines and belittles the severity of the real thing, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But there's no denying that for those of us who have lifelong struggles with weight fluctuations, obesity, and maintenance, some kind of acknowledgement of the toll it takes - mentally and physically - is needed. As he outlines below, it's no small thing, either.
And some of the most poignant, impactful quotes:
- Dieting is predicated on suffering and humans aren’t built to suffer in perpetuity.
- Why, despite knowing better, do we blame ourselves when the nonsense fails? Could it be a case of suffering from post-traumatic dieting disorder (PTDD)? Because, really, what are modern-day diets, if not traumas? They’re generally some combination of undereating, overexercising or blind restriction. People on diets are trying to live the healthiest lives they can tolerate, rather than the healthiest lives they can enjoy.
- PTDD is not a formal diagnosis, but rather a shared constellation of symptoms: recurrent dieting has led to feelings of failure, shame, hopelessness, insecurity and sometimes even deep and abiding depression. Their body images are often worse than when they started dieting in the first place and their relationships with food are anything but healthy – in many cases they feel threatened by the very foods they love most. They can also become socially withdrawn and their personalities can change, which in turn can negatively impact their closest relationships and lead some to believe themselves unworthy of love, marriage, intimacy, health or a normal lifestyle.
- The triggers of PTDD lie not just with a person’s chosen diets, but with society as a whole and the hateful weight bias that permeates it. Whether it’s shows such as NBC’s The Biggest Loser, which teaches that scales measure not just pounds, but also success and self-worth, or whether it’s well-intentioned health professionals suggesting that unless a person reaches a particular weight their health is doomed. Celebrities’ weights are endlessly critiqued, with popular magazines shaming women, mostly, when they “pack on the pounds.”
- Society’s overarching message is that thinness is attainable if a person wants it badly enough; failure is simply a reflection of personal weakness and laziness.
- Rather than deny imperfections, we need to embrace them, and in turn dieters, instead of trying to live the healthiest lives they can tolerate, need to start cultivating the healthiest lives they can enjoy.