For 25 years or so, I was a fabulous dieter, losing about 350 pounds altogether. But I still reached my early 30s north of that number because any pounds I ever lost, I rediscovered, along with a bunch of their pals. Although not strictly because of this history, I then quit dieting, and I’m maintaining a 155-pound loss for almost a quarter century since.
It might seem, then, that I’d be No Diet Day’s biggest booster. “Stop dieting and your weight problems will disappear!” Right?
Not nearly, for at least two reasons. Personal to me is that when I quit dieting, I didn’t quit paying attention to what I put into my body. I quit focusing on my problem as “only” a food issue. Rarely is obesity just a nutrition or education issue — how many people really don’t know that pizza, ice cream, donuts, and potato chips aren’t staples of healthy eating?
Far more often, overeaters’ reasons to eat range from solace to celebration, from excitement to boredom. Rather than needing food to match an emotion, they seek an emotion to justify their eating. To change, I needed to see the whole of what I was doing, including the “why,” and address all of it instead of “being good” until the weight was gone.
The more general reason is the way so many people have taken the No Diet Day cue. One could expect it would be seized upon as a “reason” to splurge. That’s how TV personality and advice guru Marlo Thomas spun it last year in a HuffPo article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlo-thomas/international-no-diet-day_b_5269218.html
“Sure, the next day I’ll feel lousy about that second helping of pasta, or my what-the-hell surrender to a nice cannoli. But was it worth it? Was it ever.”
And this is from “That Girl” who’d just written, in the previous paragraph:
“I’m rigorous about monitoring what I eat and how I maintain my exercise schedule. Discipline is the key to any diet, and without it, you’re just going through the motions.”
No Diet Day’s founder, Mary Evans Young, was trying to make a statement about weight stigma, obsession, and body acceptance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_No_Diet_Day I think that was misguided, because especially as one’s obesity intensifies, you’ll still have a health problem even after you throw out all the what-other-people-think crap.
In its best incarnation, No Diet Day would raise awareness that diets are not a path to health. Most egregiously, diets are seen as the short-term solution that’s going to solve a long-term situation.
Anyone thinking of wellness, for themselves or for their charges, should consider this craziness before deploying anything with “diet” in the title. Insist on changes that stick, rather than stunts, whether they last one day or a few weeks.
Michael Prager is a wellness innovator and an authority on weight loss and long-term change. Follow him on Twitter @fatboythinman or visit his blog and website at MichaelPrager.com.