“…a sixty-billion-dollar-a-year diet industry…”

“Our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks…not to the amazing miracle of mere existence.”

“Women can’t imagine a world in which they stop dieting or trying to fix the size of their thighs…. They have whole friendships built on commiserating about the 20 pounds they have to lose and the jeans that are too tight and the latest greatest diets. They fit in by hating themselves.”

“I felt as if I were sinning by announcing to the world/myself that I could trust myself.”

~ Geneen Roth in Women Food & God

Yesterday Marsha Hudnall wrote about why counting calories doesn’t work on A Weight Lifted.  Most of the people who left comments didn’t agree.

I think we all know, on one level, that counting calories/following a program can help a person lose weight. It helps them become more aware of what and how much they’re eating. And if they eat less and exercise more, they will lose weight.

This brings up questions for me:

  • How did it get to the point that we need to count calories/go on diets in the first place?
  • When did all of this start and why?
  • Does counting calories/following a program result in a permanent, healthy weight? Forever and ever?
  • Are we THAT out of touch with ourselves and our bodies?

After years of consciously and unconsciously thinking about it, writing about it, and after reading books like In Defense of Food, The End of Overeating, and Women Food & God, I have come to the conclusion that over time, and for a variety of reasons, we been systematically taught that we can’t trust ourselves.

Add to that:

  • The evolutionary stuff, like cravings for fat, sugar and salt (which used to be scarce and are now available – supersized – 24/7)
  • A psychological unwillingness to be with uncomfortable feelings
  • A society that seemingly values and dictates appearance over substance/existence
  • An industry (diet/food) that spends tens of billions of dollars a year to keep us coming back for more
  • Peer pressure/peer commiseration. If we all stopped worrying/dieting then what would we talk/blog/Tweet about?

And it’s not just that we don’t/can’t trust ourselves, I think it’s safe to say that in some cases we don’t want to! There have been plenty of times in my life when I just wanted someone else to take care of me, to tell me what to do. Because then, if I screwed it up, it wouldn’t be my fault.

Geneen Roth was on Oprah yesterday talking to women in the audience who have read the book. Here is just one of the stories. A beautiful red-headed woman named Christine stood up and said:

“Back in 2008, in span of three months, I gave birth prematurely to my daughter who weighed just two pounds, I lost my home in a flood, and my father diagnosed with cancer. I ate all emotions, weighed 220 pounds. I decided that I needed a goal. So I went online and signed up for the Miss Iowa USA pageant. I’m just worried that after this big event that I am going to fall back and have to feel all of the emotions that I didn’t feel in those three months.”

Roth asked if her if she were on a diet. She smiled and said:

“I just exercise a lot, and I eat well, my personal trainer’s mother is here with me, and yes, I am on a diet (almost shamefully said)…but I just eat whatever…but under a certain amount of calories per day…but reading your book, it’s night and day from dieting to what your book is and I don’t know if I have the tools…am I ready? I don’t know if I am.”

And Oprah asked: “Ready for what?”

“Am I gonna fall back into the 220-lb Christine that’s eating 4000- calorie lunches?”

Roth responded: “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do know that if you want to be aware of yourself, if you want to use your relationship with food, as the doorway, as a way to get through to yourself, then you can start at any time.”

And Oprah added, “I know what she’s feeling. She doesn’t feel that she can trust herself (pan to shot of Christine nodding in agreement) because she had to use a diet to get herself here, and she had the goal of the Miss Iowa pageant to get herself here. I know, having Oscars, and Emmys, and big awards, and ceremonies and this thing and that thing coming up, none of it’s enough.”

And so, as I said yesterday, my goal is trust: I trust myself to know what my body needs, I trust myself not to buy into fads that will only keep me distracted from trusting myself, and I trust myself with my feelings…I trust that I will not fall apart, curl up and die if feel my feelings.

Do you trust yourself? Really?