Recognizing the Diet Mentality


My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy the ice cream while it’s on your plate – that’s my philosophy.
~ Thorton Wilder

Listening to National Public Radio yesterday, I heard an announcer introduce a comedic piece by an NPR staffer/aspiring actress on her struggles to stay thin.  I guess it was funny, although I had a hard time laughing because her story was painfully familiar – overarching concern over every calorie that entered her mouth and what she did to ‘make up’ for trespasses.

I swear – I do have a sense of humor, but this was so close to everyday attitudes for millions of American women (and increasing numbers outside the U.S.), I wondered if other listeners would hear the humor the author intended.  I think – not sure – that she was making fun of the situation while admittedly buying into it because she was trying to make it in Hollywood.

But what struck me even more was the short story the announcer used to intro the piece.  She related how she promised herself every July 4 that she would only have a hot dog (sans bun) and salad, but ended up giving into the temptations of the celebration.

A little potato salad would sneak on her plate; she’d find herself nibbling on a double fudge chocolate cake that Aunt Susie made.  The trouble is, I don’t think she saw any humor in this story beyond the fact that she didn’t have the ‘willpower’ to stay away from the goodies.  Whatever humor there is in that.

The diet mentality has become so much a part of our landscape, many of us don’t even recognize it.  What’s worse, it’s fueling a nation of disordered eaters – primarily women – who are wasting their lives worrying about food and weight.  Take it farther, and it becomes an eating disorder with results that clearly show the waste of life.  Terri Schiavo’s case, for instance.  News reports weren’t always clear that a potassium deficiency caused by bulimia was reportedly behind the cardiac arrest that damaged her brain.

Per Thornton Wilder’s quote above, enjoyment may just well be the critical factor in helping us eat well.  To be clear, it’s enjoyment without guilt (can there be true enjoyment if there’s guilt involved?).  This piece on holiday eating can help you delight in the summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as hamburgers, hot dogs and chocolate cake and feel great, too.

Happy rest of the summer!

One response to “Recognizing the Diet Mentality”

  1. Cindy says:

    I just loved your post. Your points still hit home for me. I can remember coming to Green Mountain almost 10 years ago (after having been on every diet and fast known to man), with a bit of paranoia around eating so much normal food! Lets just say I didn’t associate losing weight with french toast and tuna melts. When I weighed myself after one week I had lost nine pounds. Granted there was plenty of activity as well, which I hadn’t been participating in before I came, but it was still amazing to have lost as much weight as I ever had on some strict, tasteless unsatisfying diet. I’m not suggesting this is a normal result…and it isn’t even the result really that was the important change for me, it was the huge AHA! that changed my attitude. You can lose weight and eat well. What a mind blower! It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to see it work in that environment, b/c I don’t know if I’d have given it a fair chance had I not gone through it for myself. I’m still tempted time and again to ‘diet’, but can remember that day and realize how silly the notion is. There are usually so many other things I could change that would help me get to where I need to be and they DON’T include starving myself.

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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