What "lifestyle change" really is

Do you think that never eating your favorite food again is going to "change your life?" 

I did. 

I'll never forget study abroad in Argentina. It was a glorious time where I enjoyed dancing, late-night dinners, and eating lots of steak and dulce de leche, the Nutella of South America. I also spent a good amount of time worrying about my weight and "engordar," or getting fat as they say in español. So I restricted food at lunch, ate "too many" snacks and then I ate dinner, too.  All of my sins I confessed guiltily in my food diary each night.  I did, however, live in blissful ignorance of any weight gain because there were no scales in my life at the time.

 And then, I returned to 'Murrica (USA) and I went to the gym and stepped on a scale (scales are stupid). Unfortunately, my first thought was, "Oh no. I have engordandoed!"

And so, I sought to "change my life" or find a "sustainable solution." I wanted to "start healthy habits." 

This meant that I vowed to never really eat pizza or french fries. I would try to eat "lite dinners" that left me feeling hungry for lots of dessert afterward.  And, I would plan lengthy runs that I was never in the mood for. Of course, it didn't work the way I thought it would. I ate pizza and skipped my workouts sometimes and ate "too much." And my primary motivation was weight loss. It was not about whether or not I was healthy. I wanted to maintain a lower weight. 

 Lifestyle change or "being healthy" is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's code for diet. 

I was recently listening to Katie Daleabout on Summer Innanen's podcast, Fearless Rebelle Radio. She was discussing her eating disorder and the process of recovery. She brings up how her eating disorder was couched in "being healthy" so much that she even convinced herself. She states: 

"The interesting thing is that you know in like the 90s and the 80s, dieting was just as prevalent as it is now but now we call it "being healthy." Back then, dieting wasn't like really necessarily cool. It was just, they called a spade a spade, right? They called it dieting. It was clear that that was for vanity.Whereas now, we a lot of times are dieting but people call it, "oh I'm just trying to be healthy"... It's not necessarily healthy, first of all. And, if you're doing it for weight loss, if you're doing it to manipulate the size and shape of your body, not just to feel really good, then it's dieting. Whether you're doing that through green juice or you're doing that through low-calorie low-fat whatever whatever 90s type of dieting, doesn't really matter, it's still dieting."

Back in the 90s and 80s, working girls were wearing sneakers and shoulders pads and switching to high heels and diets when they got to work.

But in those times, people called diets, "diets" and it was clear that they were doing it to look like Melanie Griffith or Molly Ringwald. It was absolutely about weight loss. It was a time where the fitness industry was really starting to take off. People were trying to get "physical, physical." 

Diet culture often frames diets as "lifestyle changes" when in reality they are diets.

Now diets are far more insidious because we can't even clearly see that a diet is for weight loss or body shaping. It may not necessarily be healthy for you, especially if it's causing you to drop down to a weight that is not within your normal healthy body range. If you're changing what you're eating in order to change your body shape or size, it is a diet. Juice cleanses, no pizza ever, the cookie diet, no-carb, low-carb, no oil, Whole30, paleo, vegan shananahammocks, these are all example of diets if you're doing them to CHANGE YOUR BODY SHAPE OR SIZE.  

My impression is that most people think that if we want "lasting weight loss," we need to make a "lifestyle change." AKA if you just eat enough fruits and vegetables, regularly attend your hot yoga class, and never eat [insert your favorite food here] again, you'll finally be able to lose the 30 pounds and keep it off for the rest of your life. 

 Many believe we're just not "changing our lifestyle" enough to lose the weight.

#Sorrynotsorry to be the angry feminist in the room once again but fat people aren't fat because they haven't "changed their lifestyle" or don't care about health. Most people know they need to exercise and need to eat fruits and vegetables. And most people are trying to do that. Some are even successfully doing that. And guess what?! They might not lose the weight. 

I'm glad that people are stoked about making sustainable changes, especially if they're monitoring their health in ways that don't involve standing on a scale and frowning at their body in the mirror.

After all, I really believe that we need to make moves that we can actually stick to in order to make our lives truly better. My hope is that we can change what we're eating not for vanity if health is our main concern. Because vanity doesn't necessarily make you healthier. 


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