No New or Perfect Me

New and ImprovedWe’ve been receiving lots of diet books for the Size Diversity Task Force’s project to create a Guinness World Record paper mache sculpture.  As we’ve been sorting books and counting pages I realized that I haven’t read a diet book in quite a while and in that time I forgot about the endless promises of “A New Me” and “A Perfect Me.”

I remember when I used to buy into that.  My pursuit of thin was, at many times, based on these promises – every new weight loss attempt was the start of a “new me” on the way to being the “perfect me.”

Now that I’m removed from this it’s hard to believe that I bought into it. But then it seemed so natural to allow someone to sell me a product based on the idea that who I was needed to be changed – that I needed a new me.  As my friend CJ Legare says, I let them take my self-esteem, cheapen it, and sell it back to me at a profit. Except their destined-for-failure product meant that I would have a hard time holding on even to my newly cheapened self-esteem.

Then there was the idea that being thinner would make me perfect – there was a time when I believed that this was true.  That being skinny would mean that all my problems would go away, I wouldn’t have any more bad hair days, and I’d stop leaving cupboard doors open.  So I wasn’t just waiting for another body to come along, I was waiting for the solution to everything to come along with my new body.

The diet industry has been very clever about its marketing – it’s pretty difficult to make more and more money with a product that almost never works without some very good marketing.  The diet industry is happy to tell us anything we want to hear no matter how completely far-fetched.  They say that being thin will make us new, perfect, practically immortally healthy.  And then they tell us that their product will make us thin.  Each claim is more ridiculous with less of an evidence basis than the last.

When I think of what we could do with the $60,000,000,000 that we give this industry every year in exchange for lying to us about anything and everything it makes me frustrated, but it also makes me hopeful.  Sooner or later the world is going to call the diet industry on the fraud that they’ve committed and then we can start having actual evidence-based conversations about health, happiness, and how awesome the current, non-perfect us actually is.

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Published in: on February 4, 2013 at 11:20 am  Comments (11)  

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If this were a speech at a convention…


    I almost wish I had a diet book to send in, but I only ever bought one when I was in my early teens and got rid of it looong ago… I was one of the lucky ones.

  2. This reminds me of The Fantasy of Being Thin, in which Kate Harding talks about discovering that fat acceptance also led to personality acceptance. She had a fantasy that being thin meant she’d turn into an extrovert who liked travel, and it took giving up dieting and years of fat acceptance to even realize that was what she was thinking.

  3. If you haven’t already read it, The Religion of Thinness by Michelle Lelwica posits that the pursuit of being thin is much like the pursuit of “religious piety,” replete with rituals and moral judgements. It’s a really fascinating read on our society’s absolute obsession with “improving ourselves” through weight-loss. Highly recommend.

  4. I like the me I am, thank you very much. And if I find I don’t like something about me… yeah, losing weight – even successfully for many years – isn’t going to change those things. It won’t make me better with money, more tasteful, or less likely to daydream my way through important instructions so that I might know what the hell I’m doing.

    It does, however, give me more money to waste in ways I find more pleasurable, allow me to enjoy the taste of what I make to eat since I choose based on my tastes rather than the caloric content of every morsel, and better able to concentrate when I think it might be important.

    Hmmm… maybe the key to being the me I want to be is NOT dieting!

  5. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. While my mother did her best to make me feel I was worthless unless I became thin, I managed to push that aside at a pretty early age. I suffered a lot with depression after having my kids (twin boys, now aged 12) and I gained a lot of weight in that time, and lost a lot of the stamina and flexibility I had too. I was miserable generally, and blamed this feeling on my weight.

    A few things happened, I lost my house in a fire, moved away from my mother and blocked her from my life for a couple of years, and remembered who I was. I slowly but surely managed to pull myself back together and realise that it was not me that needed to change. I moved, demanded more respect from people and went back to study.

    Now I am in my early 30s about the largest I have ever been and completely content with who and how I am. I found a wonderful man who loves me for the nerdy, computer addicted, codemonkey that I am. I have happy, healthy kids who are completely bemused by any form of discrimination (they find it very difficult to understand why people would pick an arbitrary fact about someone and use that to discriminate).

    It was a long road but I feel I am getting towards being… fantastic!

    Also as an aside… I found a pair of knee high boots that FIT over my calves! And I really wanted to share this with people who would understand my excitement!

  6. That was one of the biggest revelations for me, getting into Size Acceptance and (to an extent) HAES. It started with Kate Harding’s “Fantasy of Being Thin”, but every time I read something like this I remember. It’s this JOLT of clarity: being thin won’t make my hair flowy like princess locks. It won’t get rid of my acne. I won’t suddenly be a sophisticated yet mysterious world traveler. I won’t be an incredible athlete. I will still be me. But thinner.

    And had someone mentioned that to me even when I was on the Diet Train (it’s a circle, like one of those kiddie trains), EVEN THEN I would have been like “Duh! Of course it won’t! It just…oh.” Because in the back of my brain, that’s exactly what I thought it would do. And once you’ve got that…it seems like an awful lot of WORK (that doesn’t even work) to do just to get skinny and not change ANYTHING ELSE IN YOUR LIFE. (Not that lives NEED to be changed, but if that’s what you were going for)

    Put into practice, getting things done vs. thinking weight loss will get things done: The last year I had a weight loss resolution was 2009. Before that, I’d get maybe 2 resolutions accomplished (well, 1 1/2; I’d work out more, but not meet my weight loss goal because diets don’t work.). 2010? 7 resolutions accomplished. Amazing how much time/energy I wasted thinking “thin” was my most important goal.

  7. Reading this just sparked a realisation for me: when I first learned about body positivity and fat acceptance about 18 months ago, I remember reading about letting go of the fantasy that you’ll be thin and things would be better. At the time, I didn’t think that part really applied to me, that I’d always been pretty ok with my size. But just now, reading your post, I realised I did believe this and don’t anymore. That I don’t have to wait to be a certain size or weight to live my life, do the things I want to, and be happy. Thank you x

  8. So true! Didn’t we all make plans?

    I’ll go to highschool so I have to lose weight, move to another, nicer house but have to lose weight.

    Basically any important event/good thing that happened to me was less important because I did not have the perfect body to go with it.

    I found a picture of me at 13, when everyone was bullying me constantly. The truth is that I was shocked how thin I was actually. Yeah, I was put on a Herbalife diet and my whole family was on it. Gosh, how fucking stupid. Good thing is that after that no money was invested on stupid diet plans and instead I went to the gym. Or even better jogged and for free 🙂

  9. You just reminded me Ragen, that I did get sucked into a “lose weight for your health scenario” at my Doctors Surgery about 6/7 years ago and I’m glad to say that’s the last time! It was a particular thing that that surgery at the time were over the top about, but I remember thinking it was strange that it was a nurse or health care person(female)that was doing this and she was even larger than I was! The upshot of it was I cut out burgers and pies,(that I only had once or twice a week anyway) tried to walk more and lost about 7 pounds and that was it!! That was so beneficial, wasn’t it?

    Found it strange that on a trip to meet with a Women’s Travel/Friendship organisation in London on Sunday, one of the women commented that I looked well, “had I lost weight”! What is that about and she didn’t come across as that sort of person. I haven’t lost weight, always about the same size/shape.

    I also went to have my hair cut in a small, funny little town that I used to live in near the coast(about 20 miles from my home)and most of the women working there were older than me(51)quite ordinary. They had a TV on and trashy magazine lying around and were waxing lyrical about some woman celebrity here who has lost weight and one said “she’s gone from dress size 22, to size 12” and I thought , that size 22 is my size and I don’t feel like a monster! They spoke about her as if she had done something so special and heroic, it was very depressing!!

    Marion, UK

  10. A few years back I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I was very angry about this… there was no diabetes in my family. In fact, the issues in my family did not plague me at all (cholesterol issues). Anyhow, in my efforts to control blood sugar and try to keep my feet healthy and healing, some of the efforts lead to weight loss. Frustrating weight loss….. like dropping 35 pounds in a month due to chronic gastric distress…. but the doc did not want to take me off the meds… ‘your blood sugar is coming down and you are loosing weight’… I told her I wasn’t in it to loose weight, just control the blood sugar. I was looked at like I was crazy. This continued for months and at the point when I was 100 pounds down (in less than 8 months) and still getting the ‘congrats!’ on the weight loss from everyone, I finally got angry enough to speak out. I told my dr. that I felt like I was dying, that the weight loss was a warning.. she didn’t really listen. The dietician I worked with did…she even went to bat for me and demanded a different medication. I had to explain to my doctor that I was feeling really ugly and unattractive. I think she didn’t expect that I might have any sexual life anyhow. I explained that if I looked in the mirror and was repulsed by the sack of hanging skin I had become, then how could I expect more of my husband…. she had no answer.
    Thankfully my body normalized some over time and I no longer allow that person to treat my diabetes. My current doc doesn’t quite get that I’m not interested in weight loss, but he’s good about not making it a focus of the office discussions… we talk more about my physical activity levels and emotional eating issues… which tend to impact my blood sugars more than anything.

    It is just SO tough to get people to understand…it isn’t about the numbers on the scale or in the tags on my clothing

  11. Another terrific Blog article!! It is so easy to get sucked into that world of needing to change, or become perfect. I really like the motivational speaker/Life coach- Louise Hay’s affirmations- they are always affirming and creating the idea of gratitude for who and what you are. We need more of that kind of acceptance from ourselves and others.

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