Diet Talk has become inescapable

I of course have a life outside of fitness. My kids have lots of activities, and I have interests that have nothing to do with food and exercise. I spend time doing things that should have nothing to do with food. I spend time with people who are not fitness and nutrition enthusiasts. There should be a respite from the constant diet talk.

But there isn’t.

At my daughter’s music rehearsal I overhear a conversation between two moms, one of whom is telling the other not to feed her kids soy because of it’s hormone disrupting qualities.

Two other moms are discussing ways to eliminate wheat from their daughters’ diets out of concern for their weight. A third chimes in with a comment about the ‘toxic’ effects of sugar and cautions the others to watch their kids’ fruit intake too, in addition to wheat.

The belief that grains cause everything from acne to Alzheimers is all the rage in my social circle, even among people who aren’t nutrition enthusiasts. Friends ask me daily for my take on the latest book/diet/movie/food villain. People who have always been healthy and active are suddenly telling me about their ‘sugar addiction’ and the extreme measures they are taking to combat it (usually involving extremely restrictive diets and expensive supplements). They tell me about the shame they feel for liking to eat sweet things. They believe it is pathological. They are anxious.

Others have eliminated all animal products from their diets, citing ‘evidence’ that dairy and meat cause cancer, heart disease and obesity. They pepper my facebook feed with animal rights propaganda thinly disguised as ‘healthy eating tips’ (no, I’m not saying animal welfare is bad. But lets call a spade a spade. Animal welfare is  an important topic, lets TALK about it! Lets not euphamize it as a health or nutrition issue. It muddies the waters and makes everyone look a little silly).

Almost everyone I know has mysteriously developed an allergy or intolerance to some food or another over the last few years.

Whenever I or a friend mentions something we eat, invariably at least one person chimes in with why that food is toxic and we should avoid it.

Everywhere I go, conversation revolves around food, the latest diet book, the latest study they heard about on the news (which in virtually every case has been mangled and misrepresented by the media), the latest food ‘documentary’ (I put documentary in quotes because every food documentary I’ve seen has a strong ideological subtext that has less to do with health than it does politics). My kids come home from school with ideas about food they’ve picked up from their friends – that being vegetarian makes you thin, that gluten gives them stomachaches, that girls aren’t supposed to eat very much food (but boys are), that milk is mucus, it goes on and on.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch on what I hear in the gym. Women discussing the juice ‘cleanse’ they are doing to ‘jumpstart their metabolism’, while they work out for hours in heavy vinyl suits that make them ‘sweat the fat out’. Bros in the weight room swapping tips on eliminating every source of carbs from their diets (including vegetables). Strangers on the internet telling other people to forego chemotherapy in favor of a raw vegan cleanse to treat their cancer. People everywhere eliminating entire food and macronutrient groups because they heard those things are the cause of obesity. People eating sticks of butter. People eating nothing but fruit. People eating nothing but milk. People eating nothing but potatoes. People eating nothing because they are afraid of everything.

And the few voices who still speak up for moderation, balance and sustainability (like the Healthy Hausfrau, James Fell, the Fat Nutritionist, the Angry Dieter, myself and others) are angrily accused of ‘promoting obesity’ and giving people ‘excuses to be lazy’. There is no room in the New Diet Order for balance, reason, moderation and sustainability. Extremism, sacrifice, and the anxious pursuit of perfection are the name of the game and it seems like EVERYONE is playing now. Even the kids.

I’ve discussed the disordered undertones of much of the Diet Industry’s rhetoric before (see links at the end of the post if you want to read more). Many of the behaviors that today’s diet books and food trends promote are straight out of the DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Eating Disorders. Preoccupation with food and eating, making excuses for not eating, elimination of large categories of food, rigid food rules and rituals, guilt and shame associated with food and eating (have you SEEN some of the ‘fitspo’ memes about food? *shudders*), avoidance of social activities because of anxiety about food, isolating oneself from friends and loved ones because of dietary ideology, the list goes on. These are not normal or healthy behaviors, they are hallmarks of disordered eating, and they are PROMOTED in diet books and blogs and between friends, with distressing and escalating regularity.

I used to do some of these things. And then a couple years ago I began to see how it was negatively impacting my quality of life and my relationships. And then I started seeing how ubiquitous it was in the fitness and diet industries, and I started talking about it. And now, it’s everywhere. EVERYWHERE. PTA meetings. Music lessons. Makeup tutorials on youtube. Childrens’ shows. It’s inescapable.

We are, as a culture, developing a collective eating disorder. What started as a desire to improve the quality of our diets has turned into a national obsession. We are spiraling down a rabbit hole of fear, anxiety, and myopic fixation on every nuance and detail of our diets (and the diets of others).

Public health recommendations are good and solid. Get regular exercise and adequate sleep. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Pay some attention to calories – try not to eat too few or too many. Don’t eat excessive amounts of any one food, and limit (not eliminate) added salt and sugar. Eat a wide variety of foods. Eat in a way you enjoy and can sustain in the long term. Eat more whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Credible public health organizations do NOT promote extreme diets, macronutrient restriction, cleanses and detoxes, elimination of entire food groups, myopic fixation on one food or food group as good or evil, any specific body type or aesthetic, or absolute purity and perfection. *Got a medical condition? You may have nutritional needs not addressed by public health recommendations. Work with your medical professional to identify and address your specific medical nutritional needs. People with medical conditions should not rely on blogs, facebook memes or diet books for medical care, but rather work with a trusted medical professional who is familiar with their condition and medical history.

Balance and moderation are the opposite of what is happening in our food and diet culture right now. We are spiraling into extremism and obsession. If an individual exhibited some of the thinking and behavior processes that are becoming trendy, people who love them would become concerned for their health and well-being. They would probably qualify for eating disorder treatment.

Maybe we need to start giving some thought to where this trend is heading.

Read more:

The Appeal of Fad Diets
Sugar Addiction
Fad Diets: Normalizing Disordered Behavior
I’m Calling for a New Paradigm

Resources for Eating Disorder Information:
Your Eatopia
NEDA
NIH

65 thoughts on “Diet Talk has become inescapable

  1. I understand, for someone without food allergies or sensitivities, how it is easy to pass of these things as “mysterious”. Unfortunately, they are anything but. My son had severe asthma & hayfever; we cut out all grains & beans, and he was no longer wheezing in mere days. Over time, he was able to add in gluten-free grains & beans, except corn & soy, which still trigger sneezing, wheezing, itching, hives, etc – even when he doesn’t know they are there. One day, I nagged him to walk through a field of tall grasses to the library, and his entire face swelled up – I couldn’t see his eyes, his throat was twice it’s original size. He was ok, thanks to Grandma to the rescue with Benadryl, but it turns out that field was Virginia wildrye – he is allergic to wheat grass, rye grass, etc. Who knew?

    My mother is allergic to many raw fruits and veggies, some nuts; I am allergic to everything that isn’t animal products (except eggs, can’t have those), veggies & fruits, and my dad is allergic to nuts (except pistachios & peanuts). These allergies aren’t mysterious, yet more people are having them because of a multitude of reasons not fully understood yet… there is the hygiene hypothesis, for one, obviously genetic predisposition, and many, many other possible factors. The cause is unknown, for sure, but I urge you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    What is the harm of someone doing what I did, and eliminating a food group I saw causing issues – a tactic supported by my son’s allergist, who was very concerned at his decreased lung function? There are no nutrients in the eliminated foods which are not found elsewhere, so I would say any kid with allergies, asthma, severe eczema, or adult!, should try an elimination diet to see if they feel better. It’s a small, simple thing to try, and that person might get some relief. I did!

    I think it’s wonderful the message you are sending, however, I can’t help but feel alienated by posts like this. I am sure I sound like one of those people, if I dare bring up my allergies in public. I am aware of it, and tend to move away silently from the person with the steaming hot bowl of lentil soup that is making me wheeze, or the grilled shrimp giving me hives. When we visit family, it is always an issue. We have to go outside or are expected to take Benadryl and feel dopey while they steam allergenic foods they couldn’t give up for a day or two.

    When I ate more whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, I was incredibly sick – chronic bronchitis, elevated white blood cells (the doctor pegged me as an “allergic girl”), eczema everywhere, nasty liquid pouring out of places (ears, eyes, you name it, so gross)…. Do you ever think this reaction you are seeing as obsessive is actually people just trying to feel good? People who have suffered a lifetime of chronic illnesses just trying to find a way to heal & live a full life, with little to no help from doctors, left to find their own way?

    Sometimes, it’s not diet… my best friend has severe fibromyalgia, and she had a wheat allergy that disappeared when she started thyroid medicine; other dietary changes didn’t help much, though she feels marginally better without conventional junk foods. Diet wasn’t the answer for her, and she has felt the frustration when people from raw foods, or paleo, or whatever insisted to her that if she just change ______ she would miraculously get better. For her, it’s not the answer. For me, it was (plus exercise and thyroid meds for diabetes/hypothyroidism).

    I know you don’t write the blog for me, but I am not alone. People like me would love to be represented – where is the place for us in your healthy outlook on food? Because, in my house, we just relax and eat.

    • People with medical conditions (allergies and fibromyalgia qualify as medical conditions) should be working with medical professionals to address their nutrition needs and implement any dietary treatments that would be appropriate for their condition.

      • Please delete my blog response, it is obviously falling on deaf ears/blind eyes. I predicted the responses, but one can always hope! Best wishes to you all.

        • I’d like to leave it because it can be very helpful for people reading at home. It’s a dynamic that plays out pretty regularly here on my blog, and on the blogs of others who discuss health topics. A person demands that I dispense medical advice, and then becomes angry and unfollows my page/blog when I refer them to a medical professional. For medical advice. About their medical condition. It’s a dynamic that should be addressed. Seeking medical advice from strangers on the internet is really dangerous, and I think a lot of people do it without even realizing.

          I have edited out your name and email address for your privacy, however.

      • Medical professionals, unfortunately, do not have all the answers. People find ways to heal themselves all the time which mystify their doctors. Doctors often do not agree with each other regarding proper treatment protocol. If a person has been to a dozen doctors and is still sick, a little self-experimentation is in order, as long as it is done safely.

        • You asked “where is the place for us in your healthy outlook on food?” and I told you: in my outlook, people with medical conditions need to work with medical professionals to address their specific dietary needs.

    • Nowhere does it say people with allergies shouldn’t avoid their allergens. I don’t see how this blog post is alienating people who have legitimate medical need to avoid certain foods. It’s talking about the phenomenon of multitudes of people with no symptoms of food allergies or any kind of medical need to avoid common and perfectly nutritious foods deciding to adopt restrictive diets because of pop culture ideas that they’ve absorbed, ideas which have no basis in reality, and then talk about it all day long at every opportunity.

    • Write your own blog where YOU can say what you want to YOUR audience. Go Kaleo is writing for hers and complaining “What about MMmmmeeeeee!?!” and “why didn’t you write it the way *I* want you to write it” is annoying.

    • Michele, for every person like you with real allergies and legitimate health concerns, there are a half-dozen who claim allergies to gluten, dairy, and a million other things under the sun because it’s trendy. For me, after years of vegetarian/pescetarian eating, I discovered that I can’t eat poultry without getting sick. Weird, right? It’s not a common food allergen, and I’ve never heard of anyone else having trouble with it. But I don’t make a big deal about it. I certainly don’t blame this blog for addressing a larger societal problem.

    • I agree with you, medical personal often ignores the possibility of food intolerances (my experience at least). But on the other hand, have you ever been treated like you’ve gone completely insane, let’s say by a waiter, because before you he/she had to deal with a couple of super-hysterical diet-moms lecturing him/her about gluten, wheat and how dangerous the restaurant’s food is….? I think we need people to be a bit more realistic about this, for the sake of those who really need it (me included, being gluten-intolerant).

      • Agreed, especially with the waiter part. When I have to ask about foods and ingredients, I never know when the server is taking me seriously. When they go in back, are they actually asking the chef, or are they just coming back out and telling me what I want to hear? 2 doctors have tested and confirmed my food allergies (eggs and corn), and it’s awkward to have to “prove” that my allergies aren’t self diagnosed.

        • Exactly. I have friends with severe allergies and/or celiac. The trendy self-diagnosis fad really undermines the ability of these people to stay safe out in the world. Because of exactly this dynamic.

    • The harm in “just trying some elimination” can be a descent into fairly serious eating disorder. Keep in mind that eating disorder has the highest mortality rate of any mental condition.

      Working with an allergist on an elimination process, as you did for your son, is a different matter. Sometimes elimination is the right answer. But too many people are just trying it out because “it couldn’t hurt,” and it can hurt. A terrifying number of people are becoming literally phobic of food without any medical reason.

      • Exactly. Elimination diets can be very helpful – when they are implemented under the supervision of a knowledgable medical professional.

  2. As someone who works in public health and the fitness industry, thank you. You are so right and it is frightening to witness. That being said, folks like you are helping to balance things out.

  3. The scene from Zoolander comes to mind “I feel like I am taking crazy pills”

    Now I don’t feel so alone. I have seen the pervasiveness of the New Diet Order saturating everything and everyone around me and I keep trying to gently nudge people back to a more sane and normal path of moderation and balance.

  4. I’ve visited 2 specialist this week for my health issues and both of them told me I had to lose weight. And both of them told me to do with moderation not restriction. Also to add exercise and to lose not more then 1 lb a week. I think more people need to listen to actual health care professionals instead of what google tells them.

    • Awesome! Most medical professionals I know really see the value in moderation. It’s such a shame so many people out there in the alternative health industry vilify medical professionals – my doctor encouraged me for years to exercise and lose weight but I chased fad diets and extreme workouts instead, and ended up fatter and sicker every time.

      • Amen. Doctor bashing seems to go hand-in-hand with the diet obsession. It’s exhausting listening to people sometimes.

      • I am one of those medical professionals (nurse midwife/ nurse practitioner) who advocates for moderation and exercise. I shun every fad diet, and in fact, when patients or colleagues are on them, I get upset. I understand restrictions for emotional, cultural or true medical reason. I have been vegetarian (felt bad for animals) and have a severely nut and egg allergic child ( had anaphylaxis at age 2). I also have seen people improve after eliminating a food. Perhaps my experience makes me all the more irritated with the starry eyed gluten dairy soy corn avoiding people -who do it with unfounded reasons.

        Just eat normally, not too much, and move your ass!!

        Your post is passionate yet sensible. Thanks.

    • I went for my annual physical to a new doctor (actually, a women’s healthcare nurse practitioner), and during the conversation she recommended that I lose some weight, which I totally agreed with (probably 20-30 lbs overweight right now, which I would be happy if I could lose some and swap some with some lbs of muscle). But then she recommended that I go read her blog and participate in some “group cleanses,” like gluten-free, etc. I just smiled and nodded, and then went home and upped my exercise time, ate more veggies and fruits, and have been feeling much better and lost some weight. I have a friend with celiac disease, and I’m familiar with what gluten intolerance looks like (you’re very physically ill every time you eat gluten!). Everything else short of that seems like psychosomatic stuff to me, but then I’m no expert.

  5. Thank you for this, Amber! The Bay Area is particularly bad, and, unfortunately in this case, California is often a trend-setter.

    Sometimes I wonder if this preoccupation with “inner purity” and the controlling impulse that accompanies it, are reactions to underlying anxieties about society-wide problems like fears about our environment and climate change, and the frightening economic inequality and insecurity that has occurred in the last few decades. I.e., people feel unable or unwilling to look at or work on these huge problems that require collective action, and so retreat to individual (maybe even narcissistic) preoccupations with their own bodies, retreating to “clean eating” and elitist food fixations. In short, “if we can’t have a clean environment, then every morsel that passes my lips should be clean,” and “if I can’t afford to retire, I better try to never get old by micromanaging my health … “

    • Definitely. There was certainly an element of that in my own dieting history. Getting old and sick is scary. If I just eat ‘right’ I can keep myself healthy. And the other side of that coin: people who are sick brought it on themselves by eating ‘wrong’.

  6. Thank you! As always you nailed it, I have often said that we are driving each other crazy with the diet frenzy!

  7. Thought I’d lighten it up a little. I keep wondering why all these food fears right alongside a (U.S.) nationwide obsession with all things bacon? LOL!!

  8. LOVE THIS!!!! I am right where you said at the end – I don’t eliminate any food group & I don’t have to because I am not gluten sensitive or any of those other things that people with actual reasons to go GF or other specific diets go..

    I agree – so many just do the in thing or the newest trend…. I think it may hurt them in the long run.

    Thx for this!

  9. Love the post, and by the looks of local/national news feeds, I believe that balance and moderation are quickly becoming “endangered species” in our society in general…..

  10. Hi Amber:

    This was a great post. Thank you for sharing it. I am in the fitness field like you are and find that people always want to talk about diets, celebrities bodies, and how much they hate their own. It’s hard to listen to. I dream of a day when we can share our hopes and dreams with our sisters instead of railing against the inch we can pinch.

    • There are so many far more interesting things we could be focusing on and talking about than what we think is wrong with our bodies.

      (Note for readers, if you believe you are ill, go to the doctor. Blogs, diet books, facebook memes and advice from well-meaning friends are not suitable substitutes for medical care.))

  11. Thank you thank you! I’ve been going so crazy listening to the extremes that I’m getting a health coach certification to start battling it. The insanity is all around: a trainer I really respected put a bunch of people on a shake diet, an overweight sedentary couple I know well were put on a 1200 calorie a day no-added-sugar diet (that lasted three weeks. I was really impressed ’cause I wouldn’t have lasted one) by their overweight doctor, a 60ish woman in my family asked her doctor about weight loss and metabolism and was told there wasn’t much she could do about it (and the doc never brought up bone loss and weight bearing exercise!)…
    We need to make it stop!

  12. Many people nowadays seem to view food either as poison or medicine. It’s neither. It’s just food, meant for us to enjoy and to nourish us.

    • It’s true. We’ve lost touch with the social, cultural and pleasure aspects of food. Many of us have fond memories of family dinners and special occasions celebrated with special and significant dishes – cultural or family tradition. Food is no longer a source of pleasure and social bonding, but of guilt, shame, fear and anxiety.

  13. I love eating sticks of butter. Not a health fad I’m into. I just love butter. 😉

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  17. I just want to thank you for articles like this. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for nearly a decade, and have cycled through many ups and downs. My interest in fitness (weightlifting in particular) and cooking means I’m constantly exposed to this warped “collective eating disorder” cultural mindset that you mention in your article. In the past, searching for information on these topics has sent me on the path to relapse, because the world of online fitness is brimming with the same disturbing rigidness and guilt that has defined the depths of my eating disorder. I have to tread carefully at all times, even when doing things as simple as looking for new ways to get more protein.

    I’m not sure how familiar anyone is with the “pro ana” corner of the Internet, but something I have noticed is that most “fitspo” or sites dedicated to “clean eating” are just repackaged thinspo. Different body types are glorified, and the rigid meal plans are around 1500 calories instead of 400, but there is no denying that the underlying message is the same: “You are not good enough, and you will only be good enough if you follow these rules and look like this.” The guilt trips are there. The dogmatic rules about food and behavior are there. The obsessiveness is there. The pictures of women, with their faces cropped out and their bodies objectified, are there. Maybe the physical ideal that fitspo promotes is medically safer than thinspo, but the mental aspect is exactly the same.

    It’s disheartening, but it’s very refreshing to see someone write about fitness and diet that sees this mindset for what it is. Thank you again. I frequently share your articles on my pro-recovery blog, and I know my followers appreciate it.

    • The parallels between the pro-ana community and the fitness and diet communities are chilling. I’ve pointed them out in the past. We’re seeing straight up pro-ana rhetoric in women’s ‘health’ magazines.

  18. This blog made me think of a documentary I watched that was supposed to show the health benefits of going vegan. They started out by finding four or five people who’d be wiling to try vegan for 30 days. About half way through they had them watch a long (and horrifying) video on the abuse that animals go through, and then they took them to see some of the inhumane treatment in person. All of the people either decided to be vegan, or at least vegetarian, when the 30 days ended. Why? IMHO, they were quilted into it. Videos about animal abuse have no place in a documentary that is supposed to be talking about how healthy a diet is.

  19. I hear you. As a previous poster said, here in the Bay Area, we see a lot of this. It seems predominant among a certain ethnicity and wealth level, and being lucky to be a chemist, and working with many immigrants, I don’t see a whole lot of it, normally.
    That doesn’t mean I’m immune. I apologize to people because I feel bad that they have to give up sugar, gluten, wheat, etc., and that really confuses them. I also demand the science behind what they’re saying, which doesn’t change their view, but at least gets them to shut up.

    I’m glad the Irish guy I work with has run through it in his mind, and decided that he will continue eating potatoes, every day. My Chinese friend has decided to start taking the occasional walk, rather than cutting out rice. I won’t give up anything, and I used to be quite fat, so unless a person has lost (and kept off for a few years) > 50 lbs, or has science to back up their neurosis, I don’t want to hear it. I do have friends allergic to gluten, nuts, chocolate (oh the horror), shellfish, and manage to both avoid those items, and not preach about it.

    Thanks for being sane, and calling it like it is.

  20. Since I really got into fitness a couple years ago, I’ve noticed so much talk about diet and exercise that is frustratingly negative. The comments my sister makes about her own body are so hard to hear. Next time she says something about the 20 pounds she’s gained in the last year, I’m going to ask her if she would tolerate someone else talking to her like that. It’s okay to want to change, but being mean to yourself doesn’t help you.

    I recently was going to try Intermittent Fasting, mostly for the convenience of not having to pack a ginormous lunch for work each day. The day after I tried it, I was writing in my journal and slowly came to the conclusion that I was being stupid. I’d maintained my weight for almost two months without counting calories, and packing a lunch really isn’t that big a deal to me. And I like making a good breakfast and hanging out with my dog in the morning. Why cut all that out just to make life more convenient? Now I just bring a bag of greens and dump leftover stir-fry or whatnot on top of it and eat that for lunch. Simple, veggie-filled, and okay tasting. Over the last few months of eating a non restrictive diet (trying hard to make good choices, though!), I find the intense chocolate and ice cream cravings have gone, and I’m in a good groove of eating well and saying no to treats when I don’t want them. I feel like people don’t let themselves go for long enough for their appetite and cravings to even out. They get scared when they gain three pounds after eating whatever they want for a month. Eventually, you’ll start wanting food that’s good for you if you let it happen.

  21. Amber. .enjoying a glass of wine, and reading your article. I love that you are so honest and real. Thank you.

  22. Thank you!
    Thank you so so much for talking about this.
    I am so sick of people telling me what I should or should not eat and how I could not POSSIBLY loose weight if I ate carbs (for dinner or at all) and then look at me funny when I tell them that I did and moderation ist the key…
    It is so insane that people choose a processed protein shakes over a healthy meal and stop eating not just fruist, but also carrots or peas because they have to much sugar!
    So thank you, thank you so much! Mabye I am not the crazy one for wanting to eating “normal” in this crazy world!

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Amber! I came to your site today to find some info for someone, and saw this piece and am so glad I did. As someone who formerly had an eating disorder but now has a healthy relationship with food, all this extremism and destructive talk absolutely kills me. I keep telling people around me when they talk about diets, just eat 3 balanced meals a day and maybe a snack, eaten to hunger. Organic if you can afford it. As unprocessed as is reasonable. Enjoy treats in small amounts. I do this and am healthy. But the culture right now is pushing people to extremes. I hope there will be a backlash soon and that people come around to some common sense and moderation.

  24. I’ve been a vegetarian for years, and then about seven years ago decided to become vegan. First few months were great- I am slightly lactose-intolerant, so not experiencing painful gas was awesome. However, after that I started becoming progressively more sensitive to wheat, soy, corn and eventually even oats. I went to an allergist and I wasn’t showing up as allergic, but they believed I was reacting (I was!) and said to avoid things that I knew were triggering me.

    Not surprisingly, I got very thin- unhealthily so, in my opinion, but people thought I looked great :/. It made me crazy, and I wished that I could eat like a normal person.

    To make a long story short, I realized I had IBS (and yes, my doctor agreed). I started adding back some foods (including eggs and dairy), and while I still react sometimes, I react to *everything*, not just some groups. It’s a measure of how miserable I was that this feels like a step up- I can eat what I want…most of the time.

    Allergies *are* real things and people who suffer from them need to eliminate the things they’re allergic to. But if you’re not allergic, please don’t eliminate anything.

  25. I am SO thankful to stumble across this blog. As someone who has been aware of eating disorders in other people most of her life (major thanks to my mother for never instilling one in me!) it’s extremely frustrating to encounter this behavior in real life and online. In some ways, it has made me more isolated, because many of the nearby moms that I know that are otherwise friendly talk about such things to an infuriating degree. And because I know people with real, deadly food allergies, I have to choose keeping my own blood pressure down over encountering diet talk everywhere.

    Right now I’m in the midst of the glory of gestational diabetes. That’s a medical condition which *does* require a strict, nutritionist-inspired diet, plus observations drawn from what affects your own personal blood sugar levels. It’s HARD. It’s exhausting. It’s taking up an unreasonable amount of the low amounts of energy I already have. And… it’s the first time I’ve ever had to pay this level of attention to food in my life. (I grew up in an area with strong agriculture and a marvelous backyard garden, so I naturally gravitate towards a lot of fruits and vegetables.) It’s been quite a revelation to me, because I only have to follow this diet for a very short time, but some people have been doing this to themselves for their entire lives.

    Imagine what could happen if all of that energy, all of that attention, were directed elsewhere. It boggles my mind.

  26. Hallelujah! I started taping a certain Dr show every day and watching the 5 minutes of info on it that seemed worthwhile. I wish I had kept notes. The juice cleanse, the smoothie cleanse (I vomited), the no sugar, the Paleo, the famous actress, the no thigh touching crazy girl, so so many opinions, and all so unhealthy. I work out 6 days a week, feel pretty darn good, but seriously want to lose a good 30 lbs. My collegiate athlete daughter also wants to drop a few before preseason so I told her we would do WW together. No elimination, no magic powder or pills. Real food (important for a dorm eater), normal portions, and a glass of wine when the need arises. I can’t wait to share your blog with her.

  27. You are SO right!! I am so sick and tired of people saying they will “never” eat this or that again! And do I KNOW how awful it is?! I am doing Weight Watchers and exercising regularly and have lost 33 lbs. I look and feel great! But I refuse to eliminate entire food groups from my diet. Your body NEEDS vitamins and nutrients from ALL the food groups and while you may lose weight or “feel better” after eliminating foods, eventually, it WILL catch up with you. If you have to take supplements because you’ve eliminated an entire food group, then you are NOT eating a balanced diet, period! Kudos to you for pointing out something I’ve been saying for a long time. If you eat a balanced diet and get adequate activity daily, then you are pretty likely to be healthy!

  28. What a great post! I think it’s pretty timely I stumbled across this tonight. I’ve lost 30kg (60-ish pounds) and started my own blog because I REALLY want to be able to give back in some ways and inspire other people who might feel like they’re ‘stuck’ with their bodies the way they are that there is another reality within their grasp. But what I’m struggling with is how to do that responsibly while keeping a firm grip on reality myself. You’re dead on about the collective eating disorder and it creates So. Much. Pressure. Not only do we have to contend with society’s warped view of how women’s bodies should look, but in the pursuit of good health we’re facing a similar barrage of unrealistic expectations.

    My diet is pretty good these days but I will always struggle with the desire to eat large amounts of sugar, and sometimes I just have to go with that. I recently visited a Naturopath for advice about why I seem to have a cold every 5 weeks and she suggested I completely cut out the wheat, dairy and whey protein from my diet as it was too ‘acidic’ and ‘stressing my liver’ and ‘clearly’ impacting negatively on my immune system. I can tell you that those few weeks of trying to do as she’d suggested were hell – I felt like such a miserable failure, and spent all day wanting to stab people. My already food-obsessed brain was turned even more into a crazed mess. So, thank you Amber for talking some sense into me tonight. This last week since I decided that the way I was eating was already ‘good enough’ has been a much better one, and I’m reflecting on that in my own blog posts in the hope that I’m not just further compounding the misery by joining the chorus of craziness.

  29. Thank you Amber! I know we have argued about this in the past on another board. My background, degree and work experience is in nutrition field, mostly elderly and WIC recipients. To lose weight and maintain it, you have to eat a diet you can live with. Many of the fads are not sustainable long term. The best advice I can give someone, is to watch Caloric intake, vs expenditure, pay attention to portion size, exercise daily, and don’t deny yourself anything, eat in moderation. The healthiest diets are well rounded diets. Now with that all being said, in my 20s before kids, I was super heavy into exercise, swam masters, at a national level, 8000 yards a day, ran 3 miles a day and workout with weight daily. I also took various aerobic classes, played with a woman’s soccer team and had a trainer. I am 5’7″ and my weight fluxuated between 140 and 150, 17% body fat! size 4-6. Fast forward, 4 kids later and my life drastically changing from essentially from self centers to family focused. My life was spent raising children, focusing on their activities, and such, my weight ballooned to 240 lbs, size 18-20. My oldest started running cross country 5 years ago, which consisted of trail running, I wasn’t comfortable with my 11 yr old running alone on wooded trails so I dedicate myself to trail running. It took me a full year to be able to run 3 miles non stop, but I was able to drop 40 lbs. but over the next few years, I got up to about 20 miles a week. I kind of held it there until this past November. I have 3 kids, super active in sports, running track and XC. I am not needed anymore taking care of my children’s basic needs, I can leave them home with 15 yr old brother, I am kind of not needed. It left me feeling a little empty, so this past November, I decided, it was time to work on me. I did my job with them. I was able to build my mileage to 50-60 miles a week. All trail running, it is best for my hips and knees. I jumped back in the pool for the first time in like 5 years, but I am keeping in very laid back. A good week, I might swim 8000-10000 yards total. I am back doing weights 2-3 times a week. But my attitude is so different, if I don’t make it one day, I don’t, I am not obsessed. I ran my first 5K ever in June, and registered for my first sprint tri in September. Running is very emotionally therapeutic for me. When I run, That is MY time! But most important, I started following my own nutritional advice I have been giving out for years. I have and continue to struggle with emotional eating, that hasn’t stopped, but I am living with it better. I have learned to eat when I am hungry now and stop when I am full. I no longer have to need to finish off one of my kids meals, or order a full meal at a restaurant. I also don’t deny myself anything, just eat in moderation. If I am hungry for nachos, or pizza, I get them. If I need to eat fast food, I may order a burger. I am finally down to my prekids weight, I was 149 this morning and back in a size 4-6-8. My body has changed, my belly is flabby from stretched out skin, my boobs droopy, I breast fed, my ribs have even been pushed out for the 4 pregnancies, but you know what, I am so happy with myself, with what my body has gone through in the last 20 years, being able to regain control and my so called “battle wounds” from bringing 4 beautiful kids I to this world. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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