A Diet is a Diet is a Diet

by Anne Bennett on June 23, 2010

In my last entry I wrote that I’ve been dieting for the last 39 years. This requires further explanation. It would be inaccurate to suggest that the only way to be thin is to starve. I’d be coming close, though.

I went on my first official diet in the 7th grade after Timothy Hurley called me fat at school one day. My mother took me to a “diet doctor” who gave me a shot every four days and pills to take daily. I have no idea what was in the shots or the pills, but I remember feeling very peppy.

Since my mother was paying good money for this diet, on days when I knew I had overindulged I took my chihuahua Katie for long walks on the street behind our house in an attempt to melt away the extra calories. It was winter. I wore a heavy wool coat and a knit cap and gloves; hardly appropriate work-out wear but then, these were pre-Jane Fonda video days. What did we know?

Katie wore a little coat as well. She panted furiously as I dragged her up and down Maryal Drive, and her pink tongue hung out the side of her mouth as she desperately tried to keep up. (Who invented Chihuahuas anyway?)

Thus it is not without abundant experience and deep sentiment that I state that I’ve dieted almost my entire life. I understand that the word “diet” is emotionally charged and that many weight loss experts, including Weight Watchers, proclaim that diets don’t work.

The diets they’re referring to are like the one Oprah went on in 1988, when she got thin by not eating at all (she drank liquid shakes). Remember her pulling a wagon filled with 67 pounds of fat on stage while wearing her beloved Calvin Klein jeans, the jeans she was unable to wear the very next day because she had eaten her way out of them? She looked really good for about 24 hours.

That’s what the experts mean by “diet”.

In a nutshell, the problem is tasty food. It’s available everywhere, plastic-wrapped, shelf-stable and ready-to-eat the moment you pay for it. For me, dieting represents my day-to-day attempt to eat somewhat healthfully while avoiding all these tempting onslaughts.

Yes, you can also call it a healthy lifestyle, but truth be known, it feels a whole lot like every diet I’ve ever been on because, bottom line, I have to say “no” a lot. Almost constantly, in fact. You get a gold star if you can call this anything other than a diet.

When I was a kid, Kathy McCullough and I had to trek a half-mile across two fields behind my house to get to the Woolworth’s lunch counter in order to celebrate going on a diet with a banana split. We did this every summer, walking and sweating in the hot California sun just to get to that ice cream. (See “The Woolworth Diet” in the archives.) It wasn’t nearly as easy back then to overindulge; we actually had to burn some calories in the process.

Ah, for the good old days.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret June 24, 2010 at 7:48 am

Wow! I surely can relate Anne. I started my journey back in sixth grade when I began developing curves that my friends didn’t have. I thought I was fat but didn’t realize until many years and diets later that I was just going through puberty. But from then on I struggled with my weight and my body image. At 54 I am finally learning to accept my imperfections and eat in a healthy way that keeps me at a healthy weight and keeps me healthy. I on a healthy diet.

Clara June 24, 2010 at 10:31 am

I like how you said it boils down to having to say no a lot. It really does. I recently lost 38 pounds in a weight loss competition. I did this by being on a very strict diet and exercise regimen designed for rapid weight loss to try to win a contest — not sustainable, but I knew that going into it and wasn’t expecting anything else. I’ve picked up some good habits that have stuck. I keep going back to how we need to be supported in our healthy habits. If I didn’t have a husband who also is focused on eating healthy, I’m confident I would be well on my way to gaining all 38 pounds back. When I’m not strong enough to say no, he reminds me. Eventhough I feel reluctant in not eating whatever I was going to eat, I always end up being glad I didn’t eat it. But you are right, Anne. It does feel like you have to say no all the time. I try to think of what I’m saying yes to by saying no to food. I can wear really cute clothes now that I’ve always wanted to. For now, the trill of that has not worn off.

Lin June 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm

okay, I see your point. As long as I have a plan I don’t think it matters if I call it a diet or lifestyle but know that it is the rest of my life, not a short term fix. Could this be what you are trying to get across to me? ­čÖé

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