Opinion | It’s time to cancel diet culture — if not for ourselves, for our kids – The Washington Post

Opinion | It’s time to cancel diet culture — if not for ourselves, for our kids – The Washington Post

Meal Plans for Weight Loss

Research suggests that people who plan their meals have a better chance of losing weight and maintaining it. Meal planning also helps a person avoid making unhealthy choices when they’re hungry.
This diet plan focuses on nutrient-dense whole foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. It also includes plenty of plant-based protein and healthy fats, like nuts and seeds.

American diet culture teaches us at an early age that fat is bad and thin is good. Fat is ugly and thin is pretty. Fat is unhealthy and thin is healthy. Fat is irresponsible and thin is virtuous. This cultural bias is so pervasive and insidious that it turns almost everyone into either victim or collaborator. Or, if you’re like me, into both.

Fortunately, some activists and writers are fighting back, including Virginia Sole-Smith, author of the Burnt Toast newsletter and the forthcoming book “Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.”

“Fat Talk” details the toll that weight stigma takes on children and offers parents the tools to fight back. It describes the near-constant barrage of abuse and discrimination fat people face — in addition to the physical challenges of navigating a world designed for smaller bodies.

Along with moving stories of the families she has interviewed, Sole-Smith offers data: studies showing, for instance, that fat children are bullied by their peers and underestimated by their teachers, and that Black adolescents in bigger bodies are disproportionately punished for dress code violations. She describes how doctors often have trouble seeing beyond a patient’s weight and reflexively prescribe dieting, regardless of the well-documented odds against permanent weight loss.

“Fat Talk” also questions the received narrative of the “obesity epidemic” and traces a far more complicated relationship between health, weight, diet, disease and mortality. It argues that whatever health risks might come from living in a fat body are compounded, not lessened, by anti-fat messaging.

Patients to doctors: ‘Please Don’t Weigh Me Unless It’s (Really) Medically Necessary.’

The picture Sole-Smith paints is ghastly and infuriating, even if you already have a painful relationship with dieting. I hit puberty in the 1980s, a.k.a. the aerobics era, and battled my growing hips with Jane Fonda workouts and hunger. I remember being thrilled one day when my father looked at me and asked whether I was eating enough. Too thin? Triumph! What followed was a time-sucking, energy-draining, confidence-erasing absurdity: 40 years of losing and regaining 20 pounds.

Did you read that and think, “Is that all?” You’re right. I am a “straight-size” White woman who can fit into airplane seats and buy clothes at most stores. Although even thin people in our culture “experience some level of fatphobia,” as Sole-Smith writes, compared with serious victims of weight stigma, I’m like a bystander shoved to the ground during a terrorist attack. My suffering is not the point.

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But my complicity is. Sole-Smith shows how easily everyone, especially parents, can go from being victims of diet culture to being its enforcers. “Precious few of us show up to parenthood with a glowing relationship with our bodies,” she writes. And then we “pass on our own internalized body ideas and weight biases to kids as early as preschool.”

I know I did. When my own child’s body changed from “slim” to “husky,” I didn’t tell him to diet, but I know I radiated concern and an eagerness to help him lose weight.

At the time, I would have said I simply wanted him to flourish in a fatphobic world where people get more goodies if they’re thin. But even if that were true, even if my own anti-fat bias had nothing to do with it, I should have behaved differently.

“Fat Talk” argues that instead of urging children to conform to anti-fat expectations, parents could help them identify, critique and resist them. I should have told my son to trust his body, not suggest casually that he might enjoy yoga. I should have told him that, as Sole-Smith writes: “Hotness is optional … You can just show up — online, offline, at work, at school, to vote — in the body you have, with the skin you have, and still have every right to be there.”

I agree with that — how could a reasonable person not agree with it? — but I don’t think I’ll ever really believe it for myself, or ever stop being tempted by, say, an injectable eating disorder posing as a miracle drug.

What I decided when I read “Fat Talk,” though, is that I don’t have to believe it for myself. I have to believe it for children whose teachers assume they are dumber because they are heavier. For Black girls who are punished because their bodies don’t conform to White body standards. For the women who avoid the doctor because they failed to obey the one impossible doctor’s order: lose weight.

Black girls say D.C. school dress codes unfairly target them. Now they’re speaking up.

I can’t stop being a victim of diet culture. But I can stop being a collaborator.

I can, first of all, shut up — about diets, about “guilty pleasures,” about resolutions to eat “healthier,” about any body’s weight. Whatever toxic notions I hold about food and weight I can at least keep from spilling out.

But Sole-Smith insists on more. “Saying nothing isn’t enough,” she writes, “because the rest of the world talks about bodies so loudly, all the time.”

A few years ago, at my physical, I ventured to say, “I think this is just what I weigh, and it’s okay.” I was trying so hard to believe that. My doctor replied, “You could stand to lose 10 pounds.” And I didn’t argue.

One day, though — not for my sake but for the sake of some future patient — I might just muster the courage to ask: “What for?”

Source: washingtonpost.com

Kerri Waldron

My name is Kerri Waldron and I am an avid healthy lifestyle participant who lives by proper nutrition and keeping active. One of the things I love best is to get to where I am going by walking every chance I get. If you want to feel great with renewed energy, you have to practice good nutrition and stay active.

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