Diet Talk: How Words Can Work Against Us


MSNBC ran an article last week titled “Blow your diet? Blame your brain.”  It raised my hackles for a number of reasons.

  1. If you aren’t on a diet, you can’t blow it.
  2. It once again blames the victim.  Or, in this case, her brain.
  3. The lead-up to the discussion of the studies it reviewed talked about how public service announcements “…exhorting the fat and flabby among us to get more exercise might have an unfortunate and unexpected side effect: They can inspire people to eat more….”

Hello?  Just look at the words used in that sentence: “…exhorting the fat and flabby among us….”  How in the world could that inspire folks to take care of themselves?  Okay, maybe public service announcements don’t use words like that.  But I wonder how many do use words about loving our bodies and taking care of them, as opposed to tired chatter about calories, pounds, fat, health risks, etc., etc., etc.
Two studies mentioned in this article intrigued me.

  • One examined how many raisins students ate after viewing posters encouraging exercise vs. those encouraging togetherness.  They ate more when contemplating exercise.
  • The other showed that just the idea of low-fat turns us off.  Brain reward centers actually respond less when people think a food is low fat, even if it really isn’t.  End result: Less satisfaction.

I posted a few weeks ago about how I thought the phenomenon of “control fatigue” might set us up for acting in ways that aren’t in our own best interest and wonder if the results of these studies aren’t telling us something similar.  Such reactions might be a signal that we’re overwhelmed with all the negativity — whether it’s perceived or real — that we see in common advice about eating and living well.

With these most recent studies, I’d say they just add more weight (pun intended) to our contention that Americans — and increasingly the rest of the world — need to seriously rethink the focus on calories, fat, pounds, the numbers and focus on how we can become intrinsically inspired to take care of ourselves.

Enough of all that guilt, worry, obsession stuff.  It doesn’t help.  In fact, it does just the opposite.  It kills inspiration.

Do “diet” words kill your inspiration?

7 responses to “Diet Talk: How Words Can Work Against Us”

  1. I soooooooooooo agree!

    I know from experience with just friend and family. The minute you start talking about “healthy”, “low fat”, “calories”, etc… It is an instant turn off.

    I have learned not to use those kinds of words if I really want them to listen!

    Tami Chandler

  2. SlimCo65 says:

    I absolutely agree with you 100%. Far to much focus on the negative instead of the positive. Just get on and do it and the weight will drop off naturally.

  3. […] check out a great, thought-provoking post on “A Weight Lifted”… Diet Talk: How words can work against us…great topic for discussion…DO “dieting” thoughts lower your […]

  4. Angie says:

    Great post!

    As a dietitian who really believes in “non-dieting” philosophies….and a woman, I totally agree that “diet words” kill inspiration….or at least lower it.

    I’ve observed fit, healthy, active people begin to gain weight when they begin to “try” to “diet” when weight loss wasn’t even needed.

    Great thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing!

    Angie’s last blog post..What to eat after a workout…

  5. OK, I’m weird. I actually respond positively to health claims about food and, if they don’t turn out to be bogus (which they so often are) I’ll actually find myself excited to try a new food or product that’s supposed to be really good for me. And if it’s low-cal too, well, bonus! I admit I’m more likely to buy it, because it buys me more treats down the road.

    And I also get more motivated to exercise when I see ads, posters, or whatever of people doing just that. Like those Kaiser ads or Nike or whatever…

    But then I’m lucky and haven’t had life-long issues with unwanted weight gain, and the few times I’ve gone on a “diet” I generally lost weight. I seemed to have found a lifestyle that incorporates some stuff back from the days of “dieting” and keeps me pretty much where I want to be. So my associations aren’t nearly as negative.

    So I’m always amazed at the way these advertising or public services approaches backfire, since they work pretty well on me. But I think it’s perhaps because my experience is atypical and I don’t yet suffer from “control fatigue.”

    Crabby McSlacker’s last blog post..Do You Get High?

  6. Marsha says:

    @Crabby – If you’re weird, we love it! You’re so funny! Seriously, tho, your reaction to these kind of things are what we’d expect. so maybe it’s the rest of us who are weird. Sounds like you find the positive in these messages. maybe that’s a good lesson for the rest of us, as it looks like such messages aren’t going away any time soon.

  7. Diet Talk: How Words Can Work Against Us | VitaminsHealth.Net says:

    […] the original here Diet Talk: How Words Can Work Against Us Related Topics : brain, control-fatigue, diet, health, health food, health plus, hormonal, […]

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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