Monday, 22 December 2008

Oprah's diet fatigue

Oprah is bemoaning another round of weight gain, a-gain. She feels ashamed that she is fat, again and is now tired of it, again and has decided she has given up on being slim (dare I say, again) and has decided that she just wants to be healthy and is no longer gunning for slim.

This is diet fatigue, or feeling 'dieted out' as someone once put it. This is like when you have a kind of mini nervous breakdown in the parts of you that are concerned with dieting. You innocently go to diet, one day and the whole system screams;


It will happen to just about everyone if they try dieting for long enough, at some point. It happened to me and it's what unexpectedly and somewhat chaotically led me away from dieting for good (I hope).

When you experience this stage, no matter how successful you are at dieting,(that is, no matter how many times you are able to keep losing weight; the fact that I'm referring to times tells you a lot of what you need to know about 'succesful' dieting), you simply have to stop for a while so that your body can recover from this exhaustion caused by both the process and the extent of the defences the body puts up against it.

The fatosphere says basically that, Oprah should stop dieting. This is correct, but is easier said than done and to overlook that could actually be unfair not so much to Oprah, but to a lot of people who cannot understand why they cannot just stop.

Giving them something else to be ashamed of.

Lately, people leaving FA has been on my mind, not so much in sorrow, more in curiosity. You can almost guarantee, that when something undesirable happens, there's some information in there that you have been overlooking in some way.

These people join FA and like it and feel positive and liberated by it, then, they seem to reach the limit of the stretch it takes to grasp it, from where they are. Then they snap back, or withdraw more slowly backward, and say, they admire FA and people in it, but it's not for them.

The explanations given by others for this process range from they are annoying, to the heavy weight of societal strictures has crushed them. That's fine, whilst you aren't listening too carefully to what they say, or the more articulate and reasoned of them. I think we owe them and ourselves more than that, especially as we are asking others to rethink what they've been told about us.

It is thinking about them along with people who say they desperately want to join, but just can't do it; mentally. Plus thinking about the experiences of people within FA and the challenges they have, that has made me consider more fully the reality of how difficult it can be to just stop dieting.

Even post diet fatigue, which is possibly the most pressing reason to stop. There is an aftermath to years of learning how to be a dieter, there's additional emotional baggage corollary that means that without realising it dieting has become part of your mind.


At first a body of knowledge is a disparate collection of facts often with little meaning or connection. Learning is a self-conscious process that requires a certain amount of commitment, or innate talent, to master.

Eventually things are memorised and stored, connections are made. These separate units of information not only becomes part of your brain structure, but also a unified whole, operating as if it has a life of it's own, if you really get into your subject. When this subject is uplifting, say art, it's life enhancing. When it's something awful, like how to be abused; then it is horrible.

The way we learn cannot be dispensed with, it would only have to be replaced by something else that would probably have the same potential to be corrupted by the content. It's so much about the content.

This is what the body is defending itself against when it comes to dieting, the content. It's trying to stop the disparate bits of how to engage in a life of semi-starvation from a unifying process that may well turn it into anorexia.

It does this even with fat people because if you work it out, fat isn't much of a long term defence against a life of this kind. I think this is more why the body fights dieting rather than because of what we should or shouldn't weigh.

Because the flaw in dieting is that the more successful it is, the more dangerous it is, the reason it doesn't seem to be dangerous to many is because the body has so many powerful defences against it. Just imagine if every (non anorexic) fat person became permanently anorexic.


After getting to the point of it finding it easier to think of your subject than not to think of it, you begin to realise that as hard as learning can be, much more time and energy is devoted to it than to the possibly equally important business of unlearning. It's inevitable that mistakes will be made.

Dismantling a body of knowledge is obviously possible, if you do the reverse of when you are learning, you stop thinking about it, you lower it's importance. You, attack it's logic and so forth, you are half way there, but it's better if you are aware of this from the start.

Rather than going round and round in circles, like Oprah.

It's too easy to overlook that dieting is problematic not just for those with eating disorders, but anyone who's dedicated part of their life to it.

We seem to think that once something has been found sorely wanting, that we will be able to leave it behind and we want, not so unfortunately.

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