I like when I have to think

Big Liberty, in her response to my latest post in Intuitive Eating said (in part):

Of course, it’s a slippery slope from saying it’s okay to restrict and unrestrict based on personal health, and then it’s okay to restrict to lose weight, which some would argue is also for personal health. The difference is that weight loss is temporary, its effects are temporary, and as one’s system gets to that “low-flame” state, one will cease to lose weight on the same diet, and even start gaining it back. Losing weight is basically just an exercise in self-harm.  

That part I bolded there just blew me away when I read it.  I’ve never actively thought about it in that way.

Yes, I’ve agreed with writers (too numerous to link to) who’ve talked about how losing weight to fit in with society’s standards is not being true to the self.  I’ve even agreed when I’ve read different blogger’s feelings about fat trolls, that it’s fear (that they’ll end up fat and sick) and jealousy (that the fatties are — presumably — eating everything they deny themselves) that keep them attacking us. 

I’ve posted in a few different places about the Minnesota Experiment.  I’ve equated dieting to lose weight with starvation a few times.

And yet, I’ve never seen the relationship to dieting and self-harming.

Sometimes, I miss the obvious (and sometimes I make understatements too).

I’ve struggled for a good part of my life with self-harm.  The past couple of days, since I read that comment, I’ve been looking back on my life, and seeing the correlation in my own life between self-harm and dieting to lose weight.  Every time I was in the worst episodes of self-harm (until a few years ago), I either started a new extremely strict diet, or modified the diet I was already on to be even stricter.   I never made the connection until this week.

A very long time ago, when I was with my first counselor, and very trapped in the diet mentality, one day I told her that to work on my self-confidence, I was going to lose weight.  During the session we talked about how I was planning on doing it.  I told her I was going to be “gentle with myself” and only lose 5 pounds a week.  She challenged me on how 5 pounds a week might not be a realistic goal, and that it wasn’t “being gentle with myself”, especially after she heard how I intended to do it (reduce calories to 800 per day and exercise at least two hours per day). 

I went home and thought about it all week, and came back the next week and told her that she was right, I was being too hard on myself.  Instead of having my goal be 5 pounds lost per week, I was going to have my goal be 20 pounds lost per month.

The thing is, I really didn’t see how it was the same goal.  My counselor tried to help me understand, and understand that I wasn’t being “gentle with myself” in the way I was wanting to lose weight.  I never understood while I was seeing her.  It took years before I realized what I had said and believed.  And when I did, the effect was like this statement is having on me now.

If dieting to lose weight is supposed to be about loving yourself, and loving yourself enough to “let the thin person come out”, then why does it create such body hate?  How can that be about self-love?  I mean, if I love myself, I’m not going to do anything to harm myself, and starvation or semi-starvation is harm.  I know it when I see the TV commercials pleading for money to send to the starving children in (fill in country here).  So why don’t I know it when I am doing it to myself?

Am I the only one who had that disconnect?  Who didn’t see how dieting can be equated to self-harming behavior, even when equating it to semi-starvation and starvation? 

This one statement has given me a lot to think about.  Thank you, Big Liberty, for giving me so much food for thought.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve never been one for dieting, thank goodness, never got trapped in that mentality, though I did try dieting once or twice. It never stuck. I always thought I was just too weak willed to keep it up, that I wasn’t strong enough to make myself healthier.

    Since finding the Fatosphere just over a year ago and all it’s lovely, intelligent, witty and mind-opening blogs and writers, I’ve become aware of how bad dieting is for you and have become educated as to how and why. With all the talk lately about torture in the news, and the restricted calorie diets, that really hit it home for me; dieting IS torture, you’re just doing it to yourself. That’s the ultimate self-harm. Self harm and torture are the same thing.

  2. […] we have Welshwmn3 at A Day in the Fat Life talks about how fellow blogger Big Liberty helped her to better understand dieting as self-harm.  (And, I […]

  3. I’m glad my comment meant so much to you. I have to preface, of course, that it comes from my experience — during my most intense periods of self-harm, I, too, used dieting as yet another tool to “punish” my body for needing to nourish itself, for wanting to be a size larger than was socially acceptable, for being genetically programmed such that I didn’t become invisible, like I really wanted to be.

    Dieting was a way I could “control” my wicked, wicked self, and become less of a horrible, horrible person so that others would want to be around me, would want to accept me.

    Of course, at the time I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I was repeating the media mantra of “calories in = calories out,” “no pain, no gain!”, “some people just have to work harder at staying fit,” and all that rubbish.

    it was all a smoke-screen.

    The scary thing about dieting is that it is a form of self-harm in which one can engage in public, and instead of shamed and worried over (like when one cuts oneself), one is *praised* for dieting.

    I certainly was.

  4. Wow… This seriously made me sit up and take notice. I’m relatively new to the whole Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size concept. After having two heart attacks and being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I bought into the whole “if I lose weight I’ll be healthy again” deal and have spent the last few years filled with self disgust while trying to get thin again. I just finished reading the Health at Every Size book and that got me to focus more on being healthy than being thin, but until this moment I never made the connection between dieting and self harm the way you’ve expressed it. Thanks for making me think.

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