What Will it Look Like When We’ve Got it Right? Understanding the “World Without Dieting” Campaign

So a little over a year ago after finishing my Cosmopolitan Magazine I rushed to the nearest Shopper’s Drug Mart and shame-faced, asked the cosmetician for a retinol cream – because I…had crinkles in the corners of my eye… and Cosmo said I should get on retinol creams in my 20’s. I thank my stars this woman had the sense to tell me that at 21 I really did not need a retinol cream. Sensing my eau de desperation she gave me a much cheaper, much more general cream and sent me home.

Source.

I want these “crows feet” it means I lived a happy life. Or squinted at the computer too much. Let’s hope they’re from joy. Source.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I recently started wearing lipstick, determined to try and make red my signature shade. Problem was that despite the fact that this stuff smudges on just about everything, getting it off all together is about as easy as melting a glacier with a blow dryer. So I went back to Shopper’s, and again shame-faced, asked the cosmetician if there was a specific remover for lipstick or if I could use my eye make-up remover? While I didn’t get a clear answer on that, she did, however, feel it necessary to inform me how to properly remove eye make-up:

So you press it gently on your eye for ten seconds, and then wipe in, because… you know at our age we have to start worrying about wrinkles…

Well jeez. She was honestly younger looking than I am, but apparently at 23, this is now something that must be attended to.

Last week I wrote about the fight against beauty stereotypes, that turned out to not be what I thought it was, but there are a number of great programs out there. Albeit it is a little odd that the industries blamed for the creation of this problem are now the leaders of the fight back campaign. Stranger things have happened I suppose.

But seriously guys, check it out at worldwithoutdieting.com - there's actually some seriously heartwarming oaths there!

But seriously guys, check it out at worldwithoutdieting.com – there’s actually some seriously heartwarming oaths there!

Recently, Cheerios really has been pushing their “World Without Dieting” campaign. (The whole scheme in case you never watch actual television, is that you should take the “never say dieting oath,” hoping that by not talking dieting, the future generations won’t care about the numbers.) Great idea, except I see two problems with this:

  1. Not caring completely can be dangerous. You need to pay attention to numbers sometimes; and
  2. Diet doesn’t, or rather shouldn’t be, used to describe efforts at weight loss – diet is what we all do on a daily basis. It is what we eat, not the modern definition of a modification of eating to prompt body changes. We don’t go on a diet, we change our diet.

And I think right there is the more important thing – don’t eliminate diet, eliminate dieting. We are all on a diet, what that diet consists of and the motives behind it vary, but diet is not a temporary thing, it is an every day thing. We shouldn’t be focusing on eliminating the term diet, we should be focusing on returning it to it’s original meaning. Medically backed weight loss efforts still have a place, because beyond genetic factors, we as a culture have not figured out a) what healthy eating actually looks like beyond the current quarter, and b) how to make healthy eating affordable and accessible to everyone.
A head of lettuce costs $2, a bag of carrots, a cucumber, and a pint of cherry tomatoes all cost about the same. I can buy a upsized combo at almost any fast-food chain for cheaper than the cost of the ingredients for a salad. And odds are, unless you’re like me and you genuinely enjoy eating salads (probably the result of conditioning over the years), you would probably enjoy the hamburger and fries more than the salad. (Blame it on your brain. Science backs this one. Legit.)

More nutrients=more money. Source.

More nutrients=more money. Source.

So it really sounds like I am saying that we should just give up, and accept this world with fad diets and eating disorders and obesity, and all these cardiovascular diseases that are highly correlated with our diets and lifestyles.
I’m not.
I think we have to start somewhere, and we have indeed started, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Even if we never say dieting again, the pressures are still there, the economic difficulty associated with healthy eating is still there. Eliminating one word, won’t change an entire society’s view on the human body and nutrition. And let’s be honest, this will take generations to change. At least 5 generations have grown up with the notion of weight loss and dieting. You don’t eliminate that in a year or even a single generation. Even if I vow to never say dieting to my nephews (or my children should I choose to have them), I cannot guarantee that everyone else they come into contact has had the same exposure, and I can’t necessarily change my mindset. I still have healthy/unhealthy distinctions in my brain, and those are important. You can’t necessarily eliminate diet without eliminating these conceptions of what foods you should eat and should not eat on a routine basis to maintain a healthy body, mind, and soul.

Eek. I really do sound like I’m saying give up. I swear I think it’s a positive sign that we are trying to change. I’m just skeptical as to how that’s going to work. I sat back and thought about it, and really my questions are linked to – what does success look like? How will we know we fixed it?

When “ugly people” grace the covers of magazine? Not that we would call them ugly, because hey, we also rewired our brains to no longer find beautiful things attractive. We as a race are conditioned to be attracted to beautiful things. To things that glitter and catch our eye as extraordinary. We can’t change that we will find beautiful people beautiful. Would we stop buying face washes, toner, and $40 bottles of facial creams and wrinkle reduction creams, because it apparently no longer matters what we look like? Probably not.
Will we not really comment on people’s weights? Well that could get flat out dangerous – there a numerous risks associated with being overweight, so ignoring weight is not a responsible option. Especially since we humans are primed to eat hedonically – we eat sweets because they activate our brain like drugs.

What we can change is how we feel about ourselves, because a lot of the negativity comes from our evaluations of how we compare to others (in just about every area – money, friendships, love, success, weight, clothes, grades, you name it).

So I’m not saying give up. I’m not saying shame on these diet-associated industries for trying to garner sales off of the “pro-body-love” trend. I’m saying that change is possible, but you have to think about what exactly it is you are trying to achieve – what will success look like? It is only once you figure out concretely what the future will look like in your utopian world, that you can attempt to get there.

What solutions do I see?
We can change our understanding of what it is to diet, what the word originally meant, and what a healthy diet looks like. We can work towards making healthy living more affordable. We can teach children what healthy looks like from the people actually trained to know rather than the internet. We can regulate the claims a diet can make and how information is shared on the internet. There are a million and one small solutions that can be combined to make a big change. I just don’t think the #nomakeupselfie and never say dieting approach is the best possible combination. This will take time, it will take personal acceptance more than society’s, but eventually we can maybe make healthy living natural not a temporary, painful endeavor filled with frustration and deprivation.

P.S. Sorry for the delay on this. Ironically I was caught up writing a paper on – you guessed it – dieting. (The last paper other than my thesis of my undergraduate career guys! Serious stuff going on! Eep! I’m almost a big kid!)

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