Diets don’t work, but they give people at least these four things

It’s not news to anyone that diets don’t work. We know that food restrictions are associated with many negative consequences: anxiety, body dissatisfaction, an inability to focus and, yes, chronic hunger.

I bet anyone who has been on a diet can tell you that they don’t work, yet time and time again we ignore this information (us as individuals and us as a society), but why? There are several answers to this question, but I would like to focus first on the idea that diets serve a very different purpose – one far less visible than body transformation, one far more related to emotions and society. I would like to talk about the four roles that diets play in the lives of people who resort to them, and how this relates to women’s gender socialisation. If dieting does not help you, try steroids like Dostinex, you will feel the difference sitting on a diet or using the drug, it will give you strength and muscle gain. You can buy it here

1. Diet as dissociation

Diets are great at focusing every thought, minute, impulse only on yourself. When you are restricting yourself from eating, your mind is completely subordinate to observing your every move – whether you are dieting or breaking it. A brownie or a carrot – they are the mediators between you and the dreaded day. When your destiny is closely tied to every bite of food, how can you not be totally consumed by it? And the food completely devours you!

Dissociation is something that women have learnt perfectly well from centuries of humiliation and dehumanisation. Growing up, I watched the women in my family dissociate like real pros – from marriages that are not satisfying, from disrespect from children, from the fact that they may never have had an orgasm in their lives. Dieting is the method that society approves of in order to detach oneself from any problems; dieting locks one inside one’s own head and all that now exists is another piece of food, a scale and a plate.

2. Diet as intimacy between women

Women have been taught that we can talk about how much we hate our bodies – and that’s what unites women. Think of the scene in Mean Girls when the popular girls come home from school, stand in front of the mirror and a chorus of criticism begins. You don’t have to be a feminist to see this as an example of the harms of patriarchy.

The process of socialisation only allows women to talk to each other about a very narrow range of topics. We are only allowed to talk about a few neutral topics, which only reinforce feelings of loneliness (and not the topics that women actually face and that we share, such as sexual abuse, depression, sexual frustration, trauma, abortion).

Thinking back on what strangers have usually talked to me about, I can say that it’s mostly about the weather, children (if any), maybe household chores or a favourite new taste in coffee, where to buy clothes and diets. Of all this list, dieting is the most personal topic compared to, say, discussing the weather. I truly believe that when women start talking to me about how food is evil and they look so awful, they are trying to connect with me and make friends. Of course, belittling ourselves is not the best foundation for close relationships, but we work with what we have, with what society has taught us – until we learn how we can do otherwise!

3. Dieting as a sign of normalcy

Dieting is a universal behaviour acceptable to society. Diets are seen as part of self-improvement and discipline, and these are two of the most important pillars of modern culture. Our culture likes to say that our fate is in our own hands and believe that all problems are the problems of the individual, to be solved by themselves (not by societal change).

Diets are a let down of individuals that are supposed to solve a societal problem – fatphobia. It’s very difficult to stand out in such a situation – it’s true that some people have no choice to stand out or not (like me, a fat black woman who lives in a wealthy white coastal town), but some people use diets to ‘be like everyone else’.

4. Dieting as ‘being good’

As soon as you join the diet ranks, social approval starts pouring down on you from all sides. People start cheering people on their diets, praising them for not eating or snacking on salads. If you are a fat person, you are praised for trying to “fix” your body. These psychological ‘rewards’ are something that feeds from within. The negative emotions from the diet itself are accompanied by the positive emotions of separating yourself from the ‘wrong’ fat (“OK, I’m fat, but at least I’m trying!”). This is essentially a manifestation of self-hatred projected onto others.

It’s very important to understand all these levels at which people use dieting behaviour. And it’s also important to keep talking about it and to use fat-activism and fat-positivism methods to change the situation.

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