Thursday, December 27, 2007

Promise Land?

There's a post on Chewing The Fatz today titled Diets Don't Work - Or Do They? It illustrates an interesting point about the blogosphere that I'm discovering as I take this journey - it's fairly polarized along the "diet" and "nondiet" lines. There are those who insist that "Diets Don't Work!" - those are in the Fat Acceptance crowd. And then there are those who are trying the diet thing, whether it's Weight Watchers (who lately claim they aren't a diet) or South Beach or Dr. Phil or even getting weight loss surgery, and blogging about their success (or failure.) And some are succeeding (or have succeeded.)

The latter pretty much proves the point, doesn't it? Diets work. Eat less, exercise more, and you lose weight. Maybe not as much as you want to, as fast as you want to, but it does eventually work. Create a calorie deficit, and your body mass goes down. Which seems to imply that the problem doesn't lie in the question "Do diets work or not?" - it goes much deeper than that.

At the risk of alienating one side or the other (and that there are lines drawn between them at all seems silly to me to begin with) I'm going to speak up about this. It seems to me that the root of dieting and the root of giving up on diets altogether is actually the same. There's really no difference between actively dieting or actively "not dieting." Seems strange, but stay with me... it's true. The root of both of these is fear.

Dieting is the fear of being fat, getting fatter, not being accepted - ultimately, it's the fear of dying. Actively NOT dieting on the other hand is simply a denial, and it's the fear of failure and rejection (accept me as I am!) Ultimately it's the fear of the self, of finding who is underneath it all, of discovering what's hidden. (Which is ironic, since the fat acceptance movement is all about loving "what is." Really, it's nothing but loving the denial...)

Okay, I know that sounds harsh. It probably is. But both camps seem to be missing something, don't they? They're at extremes. Which is a famous marker of those who are addicts. Addicts love extremes. Are you a dieter? Then you're going to diet, you may lose weight, but ultimately, you're going to fail. Because diets don't deal with the root cause of your addiction (your fear). It will return once you've stopped "dieting." Are you a non-dieter? Someone who insists diets don't work, I'll never be thin, I'm genetically pre-disposed to be like this, and you should accept me as I am? Then you've simply stuck dug heels in, turned your head, and are denying what's coming. It doesn't make you any less afraid, underneath. It doesn't make death any less imminent.

Nothing does.

And that's the truth that both extremes seem to miss. Neither path leads anywhere different. They're both going to the same place. Different paths, same destination. Which makes them both look sort of silly. Restricting your calories to the point of pain, spending hours on an exercise bike, becoming obsessive about the numbers on the scale... What sense does it make? Or the opposite, living in denial acceptance... how different is that than a heroin addict saying, "I can't change who I am, I can't stop what I'm doing, so you're going to just have to make heroin legal and accept my addiction... until I'm dead."

What kind of life do either of those make? The pain and suffering remain. Maybe those who follow the fat acceptance belief are a little happier than the constant dieters, if they can come to some sort of self-acceptance. Maybe. But on the surface, it's still a denial, and underneath, the pain and the addiction still exist. It doesn't go away simply because you say you don't want to see it anymore.

There has to be a way to live life in between these two extremes, where weight loss and a healthy body image is possible, where activity doesn't have to mean mindless hours on some machine, where food doesn't have to be a constant battleground or a complete denial. That's what I long for. A life that isn't about "diet," but that doesn't exist in denial either. Not the Weight Watchers version of a lifestyle change, where you count food points and exercise points, and not the fat acceptance journey which seems simply deny the pain of addiction.

I want a life that's about living... not one that's a denial or fear of death. I want a life that is joyous, moment to moment. I don't expect pain to disappear, but I'm tired of covering it up, stuffing it, hiding it, swallowing it. I'm tired of swallowing all of my emotion or drowning it in food instead of feeling it, painful or not. And yes, I'm still afraid of what's under there, too. It's big, it's lurking, and it's been buried under carbs for the past thirty-something years. And I think it's mad.

But there comes a point... there has to come a point. As Anais Nin once said, "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." I'm praying to come to that point. I'm not there yet, I know, and it's frustrating and painful to feel it, to want it, and not be able to access or reach it. But it is good to know that place exists... that there is a solution that doesn't involve surgery or diets or denial.

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