Here are some chicken nuggets of goodness:
Thirty-five percent of those who diet go on to yo-yo diet, dragging their bodies through a cycle of weight gains and losses; 25 percent of those who diet develop partial- or full-syndrome eating disorders. As the mindfulness expert Susan Albers writes: “The dieting mind-set is akin to taking a knife and cutting the connection that is your body’s only line of communication with your head.” There is little hope for long-term improvement in health when this vital line is severed.
A starving person can ache just as deeply inside a thin body. Our dissatisfaction is never, at its deepest, about our bodies. This is why fat women and thin women often experience the world in similar ways. If a thin woman feels inadequate and “thinks fat,” she may endure less hate coming from the outside in than a fat woman does, but just as much criticism and sadness from the inside out. Likewise, if a woman of any size is able to stop her negative self-talk and accept herself, she may experience the world with a little peace of mind.
In fact, studies show that prolonged weight loss is more often the result of psychological work. In a two-year study conducted by nutrition researchers at the University of California, Davis, behavior change and self-acceptance were far more effective in achieving long-term health improvements in obese women than America’s most lucrative scam: dieting.
Gareth’s monologue provokes a storm of self-reflection. I would never say anything rude to a fat man or woman about his or her weight, but would I think it? I preach tolerance, but would I consider dating someone who is overweight? When I compliment Gareth on her new haircut, is there a part of me that feels relieved that she is undeniably beautiful despite being fat? Do I identify her anger more quickly than I would a thinner friend’s? Do I patronize her by complimenting her eyes, her sense of humor, her determination—as if the rest of her doesn’t exist?
Just as racism is not primarily about frightened white women clutching their purses but about the seemingly mundane, unconscious voices in our heads—Why do black girls have to be so loud? That Latina woman is probably a great nanny. This new Asian guy is probably really smart—sizeism is not about the drunken man who screams “fat bitch” at Gareth on the subway as much as it is about the march of hateful inner monologues: That girl would be so pretty if she would just lose some weight. I wonder what’s wrong with her, must be lazy. This fat bitch is taking up more than her share of the bus seat.