I vaguely remember promising myself I’d never write about dieting. However, once I’d joined the Medicare faction I realized the popular caveat “Never break a promise to yourself,” has its limitations. So, as I cast off my reservations and throw on my most radiant purple garment, here I go.
A while ago, I was privileged to party with some great people. For the potluck, I prepared two gluten-free versions of a friend’s recipe for beef and macaroni. In addition to honoring another friend’s dietary need by replacing the real onions with a little onion salt, I was careful to use only a small amount of butter with olive oil. Gluten-free brown rice noodles fit the bill; moreover, I made two versions, one with chili-ground beef and one with ground turkey. The only other difference between them was the size of the tomato chunks: one dish had the petite diced and one had slightly seasoned regular diced. (For those interested, I also substituted tomato puree for the tomato soup the recipe’s originator uses because of her garlic issues. Both options are good, but I made the choice because the people at the potluck have a chili jones.) Then, I was hit with a loud averment that I’d made one healthy and one beef entree. It took a few days to realize probably reflected the displeasure of someone whose diet was different from everyone else’s. Clearly, his diet vilifies beef – a common occurrence among diet fundamentalists.
The ensuing discussion included statements of equal strength that no diet was right for every type of body. My only contribution to the conversation was a joke that there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” diet. However, I could have inserted the notion that not only one’s body, but one’s personality may require different approaches. It’s axiomatic: all diets you’re likely to have heard of will work if you’re willing to commit to it. And I ought to know. One therapist postulated that I have a metaphoric scalp belt adorned to capacity with souvenirs of doctors and other diet promoters. I’ve gone the way of Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, Jenny Craig, Behavior Modification, a nutritionist, a battery of psychotherapists, protein shakes only, protein shakes mostly, carbohydrates-only, no carbs at all, vegetarian, as few veggies as possible, red meat prohibited, red meat only, eating right for my blood type, and probably a few I’ve forgotten.
The first physician I remember labeled me “obese” when I was four. About four years later, another family practitioner bullied me and put me on diet pills that made my hands shake so badly they buzzed. When, on his advice, my mother cut each pill in half, I still shook. Of course, then, I ate twice as much as before the pills.
Despite medical evidence to the contrary, the myriad diet books, clinics, storefronts and kiosks still leave room for treating fat like a personality defect. Is loss of one’s thyroid a personality defect also? What about the fact that diet only drains fat cells of their content rather than dispatching the cells themselves? Then there’s the not-so-recently found fat gene. And the so often underscored unrealistically thin body types portrayed in the media, designed to demoralize dieters and destroy body images. All leading to the biggest question: should the same diet “rules” apply to the “morbidly obese” that apply to those struggling with two or ten pounds?
I’m not discounting lifestyle choices as a large factor in weight management, nor am I saying my only issue in failure to maintain a healthy weight is the so-called “low-dose” radiation (over 1000 rads) aimed at my unfledged tonsils when I was two-years-old. What I am saying is that all those engaged in losing weight are always fighting their own bodies and sometimes their own minds.
Right now, I’m participating in a program based on idea that a gluten-free diet is most conducive to weight loss. There’s more to the regimen that is being formed around my gallbladder and thyroid deprived body than changing my idea and use of wheat. I believe this is the process I’ll be able to follow long term. Still, while I would not hesitate to recommend the program to anyone or everyone, most of my friends with eating issues would likely balk at the notion of vitamin and mineral supplements; and, clearly, at least one person I know would resist anything to do with red meat and would be scandalized to know I’m allowed marbled red meat in limited quantities.
In this age of wide-spread corporate line blurring in news, politics and retail, many are trying to turn back the clock to a “kinder, gentler time.” We tend to forget that humans have never really experienced a golden age of anything, except perhaps in art or radio.
Whether its business, politics, journalism, medicine or a plethora of other traditions, every age had its flaws and peccadilloes. Fiction has been trying to tell us for generations that even time-travel would be a double-edged sword, more likely to make things worse than to bring on a true golden age. We need to accept we are where we are.
Let’s not kid ourselves: diet is big business. In its wrap-up of the 2013 U.S. weight loss market Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., a leading independent market research publisher, states “America’s estimated 75 million dieters—about 80% of whom try to lose weight by themselves, are fickle and shift from fad to fad.” The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market (11th edition) says the U.S. weight loss market is worth $60.9 billion and the value of the market actually declined by 1.8% to $60.5 billion [poor dears], largely as a result of slumping diet soft drink sales, and flat performance in most other market segments — including the large chains.”
With the smorgasbord of available diets in this big-business world, it would be difficult not to think a quick trip to the bookstore would be the answer to one’s prayers. Except, that the concept of one-size-fits-all is a lethal virus. Finding the right diet or program for your body with its unique history and issues takes research, honest thought, and maybe auditioning would-be mentors.
Especially in this day of social media, with the body role models in the minority and technology making it less and less necessary to leave our homes, it’s worth the time and effort to reach for the sky even if it seems impossible. It’s time we stopped letting them convince us we’re wrong when we’re just different.