Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What happens when I poke here...

I imagine in my Honest2Betsy head that I don't even have to update you on what I've been up to, because, certainly, it's horribly predictably obvious that after posting about how angry Betty Draper in a fat suit and the other Evil Robots make me and about skinny memes etc. etc. that you just know somebody recommended I read Susie Orbach and so I put a hold on Fat is a Feminist Issue at the library and now I've got it and am stuck somewhere in the middle of it, like a woman startled to discover she has squeezed into a pair of jeggings that are two sizes too small, and now has to get out of them without making a clamor in the change room.

Except that I am making a clamor, peeps. I'm having my own personal anti-diet revolution.

Fat is a Feminist Issue: there's not one, but too f-bombs in that title. So, despite that I'm, you know, feminist, and, you know, foluptuous, or more accurately, because of those two things, I've resisted reading that book before now because I've assumed that it was about how much society hates both females and fat people and also about how the two things are very intertwingled. I just don't need more information, thought I, about how much mainstream culture despises me and those who are round like me and sexed like me.

But it's not about that. It's subtitled "The anti-diet guide for women." I've never noticed the subtitle before, or heard it talked about, probably because there aren't any f-bombs in it. But because of a recommendation from a bloggy-friend and a flourishing loathing for diets and diet-culture, I've been gingerly making my way through Fat is a Feminist Issue, like a size 14 beauty in a new summer-dress, stepping nervously out of a mirror-less changing stall to timidly see how the thing looks. I've been discovering a lot of sore spots and clingly bits and too-tight spots and just earnestly trying to figure out what hurts, how it got that way, and how I can maybe make it better.

So. The last time I was on a diet was long after I'd sworn off diets for good. Some reputable source instructed me that I should "Never diet while pregnant or breastfeeding!" I first became pregnant more than 7 years ago. 3 babies latter, I've been breastfeeding and not dieting ever since. It's been wonderful.

But... I had such bad skin for a patch there, I just couldn't help going to the library (I do that) and reading up on how nutrition could solve all my skin problems. I ended up on this evil diet:

I know that diets, statistically, cause the vast majority of the people who follow them to gain all the weight back plus a  little more. I've never been able to quite wrap my head around why this happens -- especially to someone as sensible as me, but I know that to more than 90% of people, that's just the way it goes. But since this diet wasn't about weight loss, it was about "Clear and Healthy Skin at Every Age", I thought that probably, certainly, that wouldn't happen. 

Um. It did. 

I'm not sure I can explain the mechanism entirely but it all started off well enough -- eating salmon for every other meal wasn't that big a deal, 'cept expensive and yeah, the novelty of salmon for breakfast wears off pretty quick, and the complicated dinner recipes were very difficult to prepare with several small children at my feet and finding all the ingredients in the stores was even harder -- where are the hearts of palm? And the hazelnuts? And the Tilapia? And the chard? And why isn't there any fresh tarragon in Northern Alberta in November? In any case, the middle part had me sobbing, at one point, on my kitchen floor because I was working so hard to follow this "Acne Prescription" and I just couldn't believe that tonight's recipe had led me through the complexity of making a roasted-red pepper puree from scratch only to discover that there was an hour more of cooking to do on the next page for the Hazelnut encrusted Tilaipia and the puree was just to daub on top as a garnish along with a sprig of fresh tarragon which I just didn't have, and besides, I wouldn't be able to make the salad without verjus and what the fuck is verjus and ohmigod I better make something for the children before they eat me and I haven't had any carbs for two weeks and am breastfeeding and NOT FUNCTIONING WELL ON THIS DIET WHICH IS FOR RICH PEOPLE WITH HOURS TO PREPARE MEALS AND A PERSONAL ASSISTANT TO GET THEM VERJUS

Shockingly, I did every thing right only to discover that all my skin problems were not solved by the unfollowable diet nor by the REDONKULOUSLY OVERPRICED SKIN PRODUCTS that Nicholas Perricone, M.D. must be soooo rich off of selling along with his books to people hoping to make up for their moral failings as a human being, or why else would they have such bad skin? And it was quite depressing. And I ate far too much Almond Roca at Christmas time and also drank far too much red wine. And yeah, I gained weight and I've still got it.


My first diet? Honestly, I'm too young to remember it. But I just spent the weekend with my mother and she was talking about how her kids were picky eaters like mine are until she put everyone on Weight Watchers, and then, boy howdy, would her kids eat up whatever she served for supper and no complaining, just hungrily grasping for whatever she put on the table. I vaguely remember this period. I remember helping her prepare broiled grapefruit. I was 8? 9? 10?


I was complaining to my middle-sister, the one who has always been thin (why can't you be more like that, Betsy?) that it really bothers me to hang out with mom because she just has so damn many food issues.

She laughed and assured me she's noticed no such thing.

Really? I was shocked, truly shocked, that anyone could describe my mother as someone without food issues.

Could it be me?

My oldest sister, however, describes my mother as someone who fed her kids junk food all the time and was always overweight.

Really? I don't remember that person at all. 

In my mind, my mother is someone who has always been on a diet, who always is on a diet, who won't shut up about how morally superior people like her, who have their weight under control are, and how easy and sensible it is, and how blah blah blah blah. It drives me nuts.

And I've noticed that spending time with her makes me want to indulge in "emotional eating" afterwards. I just think, after all that, I deserve a bowl of ice cream, okay? 


She's recently read The China Study and I should read it to because if only everybody followed the simple nutritional advice contained within that book, they would be lovely, thin and certainly disease-free. It's animal proteins, apparently, that are causing everyone to be fat, ugly, and tumorous. 

Now it's animal proteins. Before that, as I'm sure you recall, it was carbs. And before that it was improper food combinations, and before that, it was simply portions. 

Sigh. I don't want to hear it anymore.

The way Susie Orbach explains the problem with diets (like about how they don't work) is that they are a cause, a spur, and a type of compulsive eating. Dieters, while dieting, are evangelical. They are high on dieting. They are the Kings of their own Castle. They think constantly about what they can/can't eat, about what they will/won't eat about what they can/can't eat. They want to talk about it. They want you to be like them, to see the light too. Until they crash. Then they hate themselves. And eat too much.

And I just don't want to hear any of it. Ever again. From anybody. I'd rather hear about someone's bowel movements than the latest diet they are on. I'd rather hear my mother talk about her sex life, for the love of sweet Jeebus, than about how she has eating right all figured out and such a healthy relationship with food. 

I met a group of women for a picnic/playdate at the park the other day and it was lovely until one of them starting going on about The China Study and how she's vegan now and blah blah blah. She had that look in her eye. Like she might as well be talking about ourlordsaviourJesusChristwholovesus and blah blah blah. She wanted to save our souls/midsections. It was the same tirade my mother had been on at me the week before.

I left. 

I un-pryed my children from the monkey bars and left. "Naptime," I explained, instead of, "You are making me angry at my mother by sounding just like her right now with the blah blah blah."

Betsy is never going to diet again. Betsy is not a dieter. Betsy is an anti-dieter. Betsy is pissed about it. Betsy is not going to take it. Betsy is better than diets. Betsy doesn't know all the answers, she knows very little, but she knows the answer is NOT to diet. Betsy is awesome in so many ways, but none of the ways she is awesome has anything at all to do with dieting. 


  1. Yes! Yes, so much yes. I'm on that train with you, Betsy. It's a happier, easier place to be, don't you think? =)

  2. Ugh. Yes. So true about the Zeal of the Newly Veganized, or Atkinized, or whatever-the-fuck. I think it's almost impossible to have a healthy relationship with food in the world we live in - it's not just tied up with feminism, it's tied up with profit motives and trans-national-mega-corporate stuff and human nature being the fucked-up animal it is. That said, it would be nice if we could not pass on our food issues wholesale to our kids - they should get to have special new issues of their own, don't you think?

  3. Go Betsy!! (Betsy is totally awesome.)

  4. Have you read anything by Michael Pollan? NOT dieting books, promise :-) I loved The Onmivore's Dilemma, and struggled through In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

    The thing that resonated with me the most, the thing that I made into my very own food pyramid and posted on my fridge was the advice on the rubber band around the cover lettuce: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I also laughed at the part where he advised to not buy anything from the grocery store that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. That sounds good, but my Nana wouldn't have known an avocado if it reached out and squeezed her.

    Anyway, all that said, I then had a massively traumatic pregnancy and birth, got PTSD, ate my feelings and got fat. I've always been a feminist, thought. So I should probably read that book.

    1. Yes, I've read everything by Michael Pollan because I read about food a lot. It's a subject that interests me a lot.

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    1. Did you post diet and beauty product links in the comment section of my anti-diet blog post? I'm not going to follow them.

    2. Nope, links pertain to food, nutrition, and health. But it's fine if you do not wish to review the content.

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  7. i absolutely cringe anytime anyone says 'china study'. most people who say these words have never been to china -- i have. i would have to question the sample used.

    i hear those words a lot, and a whole bunch of other crap too, because as part of my job i feed people, thousands of of them, all day long. often i feed them cheese. peoples neuroses all show themselves when you feed them. it's not pretty. the general public, in general, is not pretty. the general public on food; oh my!

    while i get, and completely agree with the need to consume more plants - way more plants - than we do, and to reduce our intake of animal fats, i'm amused, irritated, and sometimes frightened by the religious vigilance with which our species attacks new fads and quick fixes that are at the edge of the envelope. we seem drawn to severe, cataclysmic change as the way to fix things. we seem to need to punish ourselves in order to feel we are doing right.

    we are a strange bunch of naked apes.

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Tell Betsy...