“That looks like a healthy lunch.”
The associate dean of my college (whom I greatly admire) was looking down at my heaping plate filled with salad, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and beans. Without thinking who I was addressing, I responded, “Thanks, Dean D——-! This is my 87th day on my diet!”
He looked away awkwardly and said, “Oh. That’s great.” He resumed attending to his own dish and quickly hustled out of the cafeteria.
Yesterday, I had a similar (but perhaps less awkward) encounter with one of my favorite professors. We ate dinner in our (very late) seminar and my friend caught a glimpse of me taking a picture and asked if it was for the blog. After saying that it was, my professor cheerfully asked what I blogged about.
After raising her eyebrows when I told her I had gained 15 lbs last semester and have now lost that weight, I explained that I was continuing the diet for health reasons, but if I lost more weight I wouldn’t be disappointed (in reality, I will be disappointed if I don’t lose a little bit more, but not devastated). She listened to my four sentence summary, said that it sounded interesting, and then quickly resumed class. Four minutes early.
I understand that talking about diets, especially at a women’s college, must be very difficult for faculty. I mean, it’s no secret that eating disorders hit college women hard and that our body image is distorted, distorted, distorted. I think that it’s easy for professors, superiors, and even fellow students to try to change the conversation instead of engaging the topic head on. Think about it: if I had an eating disorder (which I don’t perceive I do), they could accidentally encourage it or make me/themselves feel uncomfortable. Given stereotypes and statistics, it’s just easier to not talk about diets and lifestyles with women who are 18-22.
That said, I don’t think that avoiding the topic is healthy for people on the diet. If the dieter is honestly changing his/her lifestyle and not doing a juice fast, it’s a big change. Diets are a mild version of getting divorced (from the food you grew up with), a gateway to addressing emotions (tied with food), and can be physically taxing (because their body chemistry is fundamentally changing). Yeah, dieters can be grumpy people because diets are hard! That is why so many diets fail.
I don’t want my diet to make people feel uncomfortable, and I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable talking to me about the Four Hour Body, why I chose to do a lifestyle change, or dieting in general. I don’t really like it when people ask how much I’ve lost because then I feel pressure to lose more, but other than that I’m very happy and open to discussing.
Note that I’m ranting for myself, and not necessarily for every dieter. I just think that if you can encourage a smoker to stop smoking and a sexaholic to stop accessing porn, then it should be acceptable to encourage people to eat healthier if they are addicted to unhealthy habits.