Around this time last year I went to a yoga retreat in which the breakfast provided was cereal, fruit and yoghurt. As I was happily pouring out my bowl of granola a voice behind me started talking to (or at) me, telling me how they "would never eat cereal as it's full of refined sugar/ it will turn into fat and settle on your waist/ it's so unhealthy and bad for you", before talking about how she'd pretty much given up every single food group there is barr vegetables. This got to me for two reasons: firstly, I was recovering from an eating disorder and was trying to drum into my head that no food is good, bad or "naughty." Secondly, cereal had been one of my major fear foods and it had not been too long since I had started to allow myself to eat it again. Thankfully, I was far enough along in my recovery for it not to trigger me into a relapse. However, it did make me seethe inside. How dare someone comment on something as personal as the food I eat. She had no idea about my past, my body, my personal preferences. And even though at first I felt a lot of anger towards her, later on in the week when she sat on the beach watching my friends and I eat pizza and drink wine whilst she drunk her lettuce smoothie, I realised that I actually felt sorry for her.
Because that is exactly what I used to do - watch people around me eat pasta and cereal and sugar and make comments about what they should be doing, or making myself a salad whilst my family ate a takeaway together. My obsession with clean eating made me miserable and, to be honest, I wasn't a whole lot of fun to be around, as a lot of the words coming out of my mouth were diet related - whether that be the next big food trend, diet hacks, or healthy food swaps (c'mon lets face it - courgetti just cannot replace real spaghetti).
Unfortunately diet talk is a common conversation in todays society, particularly amongst fat-phobic, weight-loss-obsessed women. Why? Because it's what bonds us as women. Dieting seems to be a right of passage for girls entering womanhood, with two-thirds of us being on a diet most of the time . That's 66% of women spending their lives restricting, obsessing over food, trusting a calorie counting app more than their own body and putting all their energy into something that research has shown time and time again DOES. NOT. WORK.
(image is authors own)
Even though I scream about the pitfalls of dieting from the rooftops (well, social media - same thing), I have lost count of the amount of times people have engaged in diet focused conversations with me. In all honestly, for around 80% of these conversations I either completely zone out or find a way to get away. A few weeks ago I was talking to a lady who pointed to her non-existent love handles and taut stomach and said how she needed to clean up her diet to get rid of the fat (that was not there). She then went into excruciating detail about how she was going to go about doing this, with a kind of self-righteous attitude about her, as if she was superior to me because of the food choices she was making. In this day and age, it's not cool to listen to your hunger and fullness signals - it's cool to be paleo, or ketogenic or sugar free. Intuitive eating (y'know, the way we were actually born to eat) sadly seems to have taken a backseat.
Okay, so it's cool if it works for you. But my problem is when people start imposing it on others. When phrases come up in the conversation such as "you shouldn't eat sugar, it makes you gain weight" or "you really don't need that many carbs". There are a multitude of reasons why you should never push your diet on others; firstly, you don't know their past with food. They may be in, or have come out of, a restrictive eating disorder, and you talking about your diet/weight loss could trigger them into a relapse. Secondly, health does not look the same on everyone. What may be a healthy lifestyle and/or weight for you, might be the complete opposite to someone else. How you choose to live your life is so, so personal, and no other person has the right to comment. Thirdly, and this is the most important: talking about diets is downright boring. SURELY we have more important things to be discussing than ways to restrict our food intake and manipulate our bodies? World affairs? Politics? Feminism? Game of Thrones?
So the take away messages are as follows: shaming others for their dietary choices is not okay, talking about diets makes you flat (and I'm not talking about your stomach), just because you call it a "lifestyle" doesn't take away from the fact you're still restricting your food, and courgetti/cauliflower rice/butternut squaffles will never beat the real thing. Ever.
Facebook: Kirsty Baines