What we talk about when we talk about “dieting”

A friend sent me this link yesterday. It is an article written by a woman named Jen Larson, who has written a book entitled Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head. In the article, she talks about the experience of losing 180 lbs following bariatric surgery, and the effect (or, to be more specific, the amazing-to-her lack thereof) that the weight loss has had on her life and her mind.

Here is Jen Larson’s article in Shine from Yahoo

Within a year and a half of the surgery, Jen had gone from 300 lbs to 120 lbs — a dramatic change in her appearance that is clearly visible in the photos that accompany the article. It wasn’t until she was moving past overweight through normal and toward being underweight that she realized she had fallen for what she refers to as “the fairytale of weight loss.” Like so many of us (almost all of us?) she had assumed that if only she could get her body to the size she wanted it to be, all her other problems would disappear: she would live happily ever after.

It wasn’t true for her, of course, and it isn’t true for anyone that I’ve ever heard of. It is never the weight that is the problem – that is the symptom. It is our unhappiness, or depression, or lack of fulfillment, or sadness, or whatever it is, or whatever we want to call it. Those mind-based issues are very difficult to address, but our shapes and sizes are almost impossible to change unless we do. The roots of our personal demons and our weight issues are intertwined in ways that are very hard to see, although most of us catch glimpses from time to time.

Jen Larson’s story is an interesting case in point because due to surgery, she lost the weight in a manner that did not require her to change anything else about herself. Most of us have to change other things as well before we can be successful at gaining a grip on our eating patterns, but Jen was able to become thinner while remaining emotionally unchanged. Her experience combined with her awareness demonstrate a very important point: successful long-term weight loss is not usually brought about by making a resolution, any more than gaining the weight in the first place results from lack of willpower.

I find it interesting that people use terms like “food addiction” and “eating disorders” when they say they identify with Rita or raise other issues from The Whole Clove Diet, rather than talking about over-eating, being overweight or being obese. The words “addiction” and “disorder” go to the root of what Jen Larson is talking about: those words focus on the emotional and psychological issues that make us eat too much or too little, rather than on the shape that is the outcome of our misery.



Filed under Addiction, Dieting, Eating Disorders, Habits, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss

4 responses to “What we talk about when we talk about “dieting”

  1. I understand the point that is being made. However, I also know that when I lost a significant amount of weight in my 30s I also “lost” the strong dislike I had for my physical appearance, a dislike that colored every part of my life. I did not lose the weight through dieting. It just happened because I was going through a rough time in my life. In spite of that, for the first time in 20 years, I liked the way I looked. I enjoyed life more because of it. Now, you may say that is a psychological flaw (letting my feelings about my physical appearance influence my enjoyment of life), but the fact is, weighing less made a world of difference to me. So in a very real sense, the weight was the problem.

    • I don’t think that’s a psychological flaw at all, Scotti! But under those circumstances for some people (losing weight due to going through a rough time), keeping it off might have been a problem when life settled down again? Learning how to do that can be difficult. But for me, rough times usually mean eating too much.

      • You’re right. I did not keep the weight off for very long. I usually do eat too much if things are moderately distressing (or boring). But when something is VERY WRONG, I lose weight without trying.

      • I wish you no more VERY WRONG things, no matter what the weight-loss fallout. 🙂 I too used to lose weight when things got really bad, but then I was smoking at that time too. 😦

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