all this said, yesterday i read this post on feministing and its varied comment thread, and something about it has been needling me ever since. not needling in the sense that i necessarily disagree, but needling in the sense that i find the whole thing complicated and kinda exhausting.
the article, in sum, cites a study proving that most people who "diet" eventually gain the weight back. the intro paragraph:
The world's largest study of weight loss by a group of researchers at the University of California has proven, once and for all, that two-thirds of those who diet gain the weight back and put themselves at risk for a host of scary side effects—like heart attack, stroke, and diabetes—in the process. Diets also commonly lead to eating disorders, afflictions which affect 10 million Americans and rising.
not surprising, right? of course. and i even agree with the post's assertion that we, as a society, are continually and blatantly duped by a diet industry that has zero interest in helping us lose weight and every interest in separating us from our paychecks.
but wait - that's not exactly the post's point. it concludes, in bold lettering, "It is your emotions about those numbers [on the scale], not the numbers themselves, that have the power to make or break you." and here's where the rubber hits the road in the comment thread.
there have been many a feminist blog post about weight and body issues, and many have resulted in the same sniping arguments about fatness, thinness, health, and acceptance. i don't mean to rehash it all in detail here. but i'm troubled by assertions like these, made after a few commenters chimed in to say of course yo-you dieting is insane and beauty standards are wack, but there are more holistic, lifestyle-based ways to lose weight if you need to:
"I'm sorry, but any conscious restriction of food intake with the goal of losing weight counts as 'dieting' under any reasonable definition."
"So when researchers say that dieting doesn't work, they literally mean that any effort to restrict food intake is likely to be unsuccessful, or even harmful."
and this is where i start saying, out loud, to myself, wait, what?? you're trying to tell me that "any effort to restrict food intake" is probably a bad idea? newsflash: we do that every day. does this commenter actually know a living person who eats whatever they want, whenever they want all the time? because that's absurd. there are things called biology, and physiology, and nutrition - they are important! they matter! i "restrict" my food intake at a baseline level because it's proven as the healthy thing to do.
maybe you can say i'm stretching the meaning of these arguments past what they were supposed to mean. in parsing them within their context, i could cop to that. but i think the argument you see play out in the rest of the thread is that same old binary of "fuck beauty standards, total fat acceptance!" versus "fat is not healthy!"
of course, the "fat is not healthy" crowd does themselves no favors by often vastly overgeneralizing and thus donning the strawman suit. (hey, i'm all for health as a realistic and worthy goal as far as one's weight, but there are women who've got 30 pounds on me and could slaughter me in a 5K. so, your premise sucks.) and i dunno, the whole thing is so tiring, and you start to feel like whatever you think and however you feel must be wrong somehow. wanting to eat healthier? well, you're obviously "restricting your food intake" and thus a failure to the feminist movement. want to tell the world to kiss your fat ass and bring you another slice of cheesecake? well, society knows full well how to shame you for that one.
and for most equality-minded women, we just ping-pong in between the two arenas of guilt. different scenery, but essentially the same place. and this is feminist discourse, feminist thinking! how is there ever any hope for rehabilitating mainstream media? i dunno. i just came away from the whole thing a little sad about this state of affairs.
sigh. pass the ben & jerry's.