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Diet Is A 4-Letter Word

by Jean McGuire in Society
     

It’s 2022 and we just celebrated another New Year’s Eve. As New Year’s Day inevitably showed up the next day, many people are swinging their thoughts to what resolutions they want to tackle in the new year. I imagine the word “diet” is on many people’s lists. The intention to eat healthier is always good, but I’m not sure a “diet” is what everyone needs.

It has always amazed me that Americans have managed to turn such an innocent word into something so filled with negativity. The word was originally meant to simply describe the nutrition we eat or drink. However, through decades of being told it’s better to be thinner and the media inundating us with new, magical solutions to achieve this goal, we’ve distorted what the word means. We’ve turned it into something hard to do to in order to reach a goal that’s difficult to achieve.

For me, the real question is “When did being overweight become a sin?” I have people in my family who truly believe that people who fulfill their definition of “fat” are less valuable than a “skinny” person. For too many people, curves equate to “less than.” On the television show Drop Dead Diva, Margaret Cho’s character, Teri Lee talks to Jane, played by Brooke Elliott, about her shopping experiences when she was overweight as a teenager: “They told me anything other than skinny was wrong.”

I have personally been both overweight and underweight. You know what? I was no better a person when I was thin than I was when I was heavy. The only difference in my experience was in how people perceived me. I was that woman who walked into a fashionable clothing store only to be told by a sneering saleswoman that there were no clothes there that would fit me. On the other side of the issue, when I lost weight I was aghast at how free people felt to comment on my “skinniness.” I heard a lot of opinions on how I’d lost enough weight and that I was too skinny. Obviously, neither extreme made other people happy. I am just now realizing that it never occurred to me until a few years ago to ask what made me happy.

After a lifetime of my size expanding and collapsing, I still work to make peace with my size. I am fortunate to still turn heads but sometimes I cannot understand why. Instead of accepting the compliments I hear, I try to break it down and figure out why I generate these positive comments. In my experience, it’s the rare American woman who sees the same reflection every time she looks in the mirror. Too often I’ve looked in the mirror one day to say “damn, you look good,” only to look in the same mirror, in the same jeans, the next day to say “you fat cow.”

So, what diet do I follow? It varies from day to day. Some days I’m on the double-cheeseburger and fries diet. Other days, I’m on the protein, fruit and vegetable diet. I have a minor sweet tooth that is, thankfully, satisfied with a bite or two of a sweet. The majority of the time I try to avoid processed food. I’ve found that if I eat what feels right in any given moment, and if I recognize that the double-cheeseburger and fries diet can’t be my full-time diet, my weight does all right and my happiness isn’t based on what I eat.

Which diet should you follow? That’s a matter of personal preference. The only requirement in my opinion is to eat a diet that includes protein, fat and carbohydrates. The body needs all three. The body also needs a minimum number of calories a day to perform at its optimum level. Despite the best marketing efforts of most of America’s media, there is no pill or diet that will magically make you thinner. It takes work…and a healthy level of common sense. In the meantime, love the body you have and promise yourself that no matter what size your body is you will feed it healthy foods that you enjoy. Life’s for living and there are no prizes for being the skinniest.

(This piece was originally written in 2014 on the blog “Jasmine Petals Thoughts,” which I owned. It has been updated for 2022.)

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