One of the ways we’re creating and maintaining community is through a virtual book club. Our first read is Anti-Diet, by Christy Harrison (which you can buy here). You can check out our Chapter 1 recap or just jump into chapter 2.
Trigger warning: We discuss some elements of disordered eating and associated behaviors and feelings in this post. Please use care when reading and responding.
Laura: This week, my thoughts from this chapter have revolved around my sense that no book, ever, will be able to break my now decade+ of ingrained eating habits. I love the idea of eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full, and trusting myself to eat what I’m craving, but that seems like something that other people do. I have no confidence that this is something that I’ll ever fully experience, regardless of how much I read and research about disordered eating, fat phobia, intuitive eating, and the like.
And, while that might sound sad and depressing, and some days it is (not to mention ironic, researching eating disorders whilst having disordered eating patterns), I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. Today, by virtue of my current weight and because I lack an obsession with my body size, I wouldn’t be classified as having one now, either. Further, what emerged during darker periods of restriction was a strict adherence to eating routines and habits – yet, adapting these routines also enabled me to recover and still, today, enable me to eat enough every day. Altogether, however, these routines are intractable, and, frankly, damn inconvenient sometimes. I’m just not sure that they will ever change – I’ve been following them for too long – so I’m not sure I can change them. Even if I could, however, the pressure to continue to be thinnER and eat like this is literally everywhere. It is on Instagram, the news media, the magazines I don’t read any more, and it is reinforced by the thin privilege I have in every aspect of my life. And that, to me, is what this chapter of Anti-Diet was about, at least in part – the morality of body size that is perpetuated in new and persistent ways, most recently food activism, such as so-called “clean eating,” gluten-free diets (that aren’t medically necessary, as they are with me), and even the local food movement. I am surrounded by messages clothed in “science” that effectively promote disordered habits toward eating and, therefore, prevent complete recovery.
As Harrison discusses, through food activist movements, the discourses of sizeism, discrimination, and racism are so deeply hidden behind the morality of health, environmentalism, and health that it is possible to lose sight of their harms. Yet, attacks on fast food and processed food neglects to acknowledge that the only people who have access to local, organic, sustainably grown, produce and meat have the money to purchase those premium food items. Instead, the choice of what to eat is presented as an individual choice that neglects to acknowledge the range of other factors that impact what someone can or cannot eat. Further, the assumption that “bad food” causes fatness and fatness is inherently bad only reinforces fat stigma. The continued reference to obesity as a disease in food activist movements reinforces that stigma – especially when those trusted experts, like Michael Pollan, that are speaking on these issues aren’t medical professionals or scientists. Fat-phobia and sizeism subtly re-emerge in new and different ways; we even see that now in the way coronavirus severity is linked to obesity (described as causal instead of correlational). At the end of the day, these discourses simply reinforce fat stigma and serve to rationalize the shaming and blame of people who are overweight and obese. And that makes me mad as hell – both for them but also for me, who was fine just as she was on the day, 13 years ago now, when she decided to embark on a weight loss journey. Sometimes I wonder about that me and her future, had she simply rolled over and went to sleep instead of getting up and making that fateful first trip to the gym. Would she be happier albeit less successful (because research suggests that there are professional ramifications for being fat)? I’ll never know.
Rose: While Harrison criticizes the approach of every other diet book/program that has been on the market in the past 40 years, the author uses the EXACT same formula as all of the books she is criticizing by spending this chapter explaining what is wrong with others…presumably as a set up to how her approach is different/right. Which is what everyone does. I have tried some of these approaches that she is criticizing, some with more success than others. I have also done the food sensitivity testing. While there are remaining questions about the replicability of the test results (and it is too expensive to test regularly) I generally feel better when I avoid the foods that tested as inflammatory, some of which (cow dairy, wheat) I had discovered through trial and error prior to testing. While I am not 100% strict with it like I was a few years ago for the most part it was a permanent change in my food choices. I have been through several revisions to my food choices (lifestyle changes) since my diabetes diagnosis and that is how I got to the point of being able to manage without medication. Sure, I could eat whatever I wanted if I want to use medicine to compensate for the dysfunction of my metabolic system. But I don’t really want to if I don’t need to. I do agree about the whole “detox” thing – your body has organs/processes for that (unless they’re not working properly) so there’s not a reason to do a “reset” or “cleanse” unless you need the mental pause and redirect. And as someone who has been a variety of weights as an adult I will say there are a lot of things that are just a lot easier to do when your weight isn’t excessive. I’m not talking about the extra 10 that make your jeans tight.
What are your thoughts about Anti-Diet chapter 2?