Friday, April 29, 2011

Health, Body Image, Dieting, and Intentions: A Rant

So, this is what I was thinking about to myself when I thought I should probably start a blog. I have a very big pet peeve about how people react when I say, "I want to be healthy." 98.2% of the time (scientifically proven!), this phrase will be interpreted as: I want to lose weight and, therefore, become skinny. Implied in this interpretation is my intention to diet. I really, really hate the D word. It is a wrong and evil thought process that is all tangled up with distorted body image, starvation, and fake healthiness. It is the opposite of my goals.

Let's start by discussing how being "healthy" is wrongly perceived as an intention to lose weight. Yes, if I ate better and exercised regularly, I would lose weight. I realise I am not at a healthy weight for my size currently, and there are certainly changes I can make to fix that. But the error is in making that the GOAL. It is a side benefit. My GOAL is to make changes to my life and my habits that will have a positive impact on my health. I am a very sedentary person. I have very sedentary hobbies. Getting up every day and going for a walk would show marked improvement on my energy levels, strength, endurance, heart function, etc. It would make me a healthier person. It may also make me lose a few kilos. Well, that's cool! I'm totally okay with that. Burning off fat and building up muscles through exercise is a very healthy thing to do for yourself, and it will improve my quality of life. If losing weight were my GOAL, the fact I only lost 5 kilos instead of 10 would make the effort feel pointless. It wouldn't be good enough and I'd be failing my goal. It puts me into a negative headspace rather than enjoying the effects of implementing a healthier lifestyle for myself. Speaking from experience about negative headspaces, I really don't want that. I want to be happier, healthier, and living my life in a way that still pleases me.

This leads into the reason why I HATE DIETING. It is evil evil evil evil. Dieting is temporary. Dieting is about deprivation and making yourself miserable to achieve an unhealthy goal. Dieting is about treating your body terribly to achieve the semblance of good health through weight loss. It doesn't promote healthy habits, actual lifestyle changes, or permanent improvements for the better. It certainly does not encourage healthy thinking, which is just as important in the battle for good health as exercise and eating your veggies. When I say I want to be healthy, I mean that I want to create good habits for myself, thus altering my lifestyle for the better. Most of all, when I talk about altering my lifestyle, I sure as hell mean that it will still be something I enjoy. I like food. I like eating delicious food A LOT. Sometimes this means fast food and takeaway, but just as often it means a tasty bowl of veggies or a really well-cooked bit of meat and something on the side. I love healthy foods just as much as I love unhealthy ones. As long as I'm avoiding fast food, really, my eating habits aren't that terrible. And I certainly don't have it in me to deprive myself of something to the extent I am sad, miserable, and a tiny bit thinner. I definitely can change the balance of what I eat. A little less fatty meat. More fruits and veggies. Go a bit lighter on the cheese. Save desserts and fast food for sometimes meals. These are all habits I can implement in my life without drastically affecting my mental wellbeing. It is not a DIET. It is not temporary, so that I can go back to being my old piggy self later. It is not starving myself of delicious things for quick results. It is about changing my eating habits for good, and more importantly, for the better. I still will get the tasty things in life, cause god knows life is too short to go without chocolate. Do I need it often? More than once a week? Certainly not. And here is the bottom line of this entire rant: any changes I make will be ones I can stick with. Because if I can't, then they aren't real changes, are they? They aren't going to have any positive, long-term effects. I know this is a lot of common sense, but it's important to me that "getting healthy" be associated with how you actually live your life, not flash-in-the-pan evil evil evil diets that get you nowhere. I could eat 1200 calories a day for months and lose quite a few kilos, but would I learn anything necessarily? No, I'd probably go back to my old eating habits and put all the weight back on the minute I decided enough was enough. Much better to fill your house with fruits, so when you want a snack, you grab an apple instead of the potato chips. Better to put a heaping scoop of veggies on your plate and a little less buttery mash, so you fill up with something a bit healthier. These are real life changes. I may never weigh only 50 kilos, but if I live a bit longer and happier, then that's okay by me.

And this brings us to our last topic: body image. There is much to be said on the subject, and many good things already have been said by people far smarter and more opinionated than me. But it ties everything together, because at the root of all the assumptions that I want to "lose weight" and that I'm "going on a diet" is that I am unhappy with my body image and aspire to the, frankly, unhealthy proportions that society deems acceptable. I have been a short, curvy, chubbier-than-most sort of girl my entire life. Even at my skinniest, I've had wider hips than a lot of girls my height. I am heavier than I'd like to be right now, and I'm only human. I certainly think back on when I could fit into my tinier pieces of clothing with fondness. But that doesn't mean I want to be "skinny" or even significantly thinner than I am now. I wear clothes I am comfortable in and, other than being a bit inbetween "normal" and "plus" sizes, thus making shopping somewhat difficult, I have come to terms with my shape and size. Pants are often too long if they are anywhere near big enough to fit my hips. Shirts that accommodate my chest are loose on my arms and waist. Even 10 kilos lighter, I will have those same problems. I've lived with them all my life. I probably will like how I look better if I were healthier with thinner thighs and a smaller gut. That doesn't mean I need a flat stomach to be happy. If I am healthier, eating well but in a way I want and exercising regularly to combat my sedentary lifestyle, then I will feel better. If I'm doing it right, I get the extra benefit of losing a bit of chub. But I'm luckier than most in that I'm ok with my shape and, honestly, if I didn't lose much extra chub but I felt healthier anyway, I'd be TOTALLY OK with that. You, out there in society, may look at me and see a short fat chick. You might not find me attractive. That's ok, not everyone will. By society's terms, I'm not conventionally attractive! But everyone has different tastes and opinions, and yes, I'm lucky I married a man who loves me whatever size I come in. Most importantly, I'm ok with me. Please stop implying that I'm not.


  1. Sooo.. . I take it you don't like diets?

    I'm glad you're trying to be more healthy. I've been trying to make changes in that direction myself. Feeling good and being able to do the things you want are the most important. Don't ever let someone make you feel bad about the way you look. Being healthy is mental just as much as physical. People who are negative or critical are like fast, greasy food for the soul. Maybe you should go on a social diet? Hehe.. . oh wait, not diet, lifestyle changes! Love you!

  2. Y'know, it's called a rant cause one has strong opinions. :P At least I know I wasn't being vague or subtle! I mean, shut up! Hehe.