Newt In A Tea Cup

{April 11, 2007}   Stop the Press! Don’t Diet!

It appears, that what the many of us have been saying for years, is now once more confirmed. Diets are a waste of time. Spectacularly. In fact diets are such a waste of time you could compare them to going to Chewbacca for a haircut. Which would be snazzy, I’m sure, but not quite the sophisticate look you’re going for.

Let me go through this article adding bits from my own experience of loosing weight because this blog is obviously about me, me, me and I like talking about me. 😛

Diets are not a good way to lose weight in the long term, according to researchers. They found that although dieters can lose significant amounts of weight in the first few months, most will return to their starting weight within five years.

“Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people,” said Traci Mann, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“You can initially lose 5% to 10% of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back. We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority.”

Don’t I know it. This is ringing very true at the moment. I’m very short, officially petite which simply means under 5 foot 4 (in fact this blog title came from me going over possible names and mispronouncing “minute” into “my newt” which I tend to do. I am told this is cute. Obviously I must now resign from my feminist position as it is well known we are a “socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” No mention of cute there and quite frankly it would undermine our whole evoool agenda.) Back on topic; this shortness means that whilst I weigh a lot less than most of my peers, I keep more visible curves- especially in the hip and bum area.

Last year, partly due to financial concerns (i.e. a £1 difference) I stopped buying the proper meals at my canteen and lived off soup and bread alone for lunch, and cut off all snacks.

I went from 9 stone 3 at the beginning of (I think) November to 8 stone 5 by mid January. When I weighed myself yesterday it was back up to 9 stone. Being honest, I’d love to loose the weight again but quite frankly I have better things to focus on and I can’t find the motivation to be dissatisfied with myself.

Repeatedly losing and gaining weight has been linked in previous studies to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and altered immune function.

Mmm… Soup is nice, but not quite nice enough to risk that if you ask me.

Of course I would encourage anyone to loose weight if they are feeling unhealthy but not to do so for aesthetics and not to do so as a regime. I’m not going to lie; It felt absolutely fantastic when my mother told me I should try on the size 14 jeans and it turned out I was a size 8. It felt great having a friend I hadn’t seen in ages say I looked “so totally hot” in my corset at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I loved seeing the numbers on the scale going down and it made me feel very confident and accomplished.

But during the same time period a friend of mine got anorexia. I believe she was at the lower end of seven stone?

I remember her going around her house and her rolling her eyes and joking about how if she had any cherry coke it would give her a heart attack and kill her. She’s a really tall girl and this is important because the doctors told her that she needed to weigh 9 stone minimum for her height. We think that there is only one template for the body and this is where we go wrong. There is no template. We all have individual BMI charts and we all have different metabolisms and shapes. This obvious truth should not need to be said. If you are living a healthy lifestyle don’t you dare loose that weight. It belongs there and is part of you. It is not an anomaly you can “correct”. You might as well chop of your arm.

My friend is okay now but it was incredibly scary (she’s the third I know to go down from that and the one who recovered the best); it wasn’t a long time after I found out I weighed less than my friend suffering from anorexia that I stopped trying to loose weight.

They have to look at it not as a diet where they’re denying themselves because eventually people get sick of that and go back to their previous lifestyle.

“What they’ve got to think about moving towards is a new lifestyle but doing it through small, sustainable changes. They’ve got to find a physical activity they enjoy, whether it’s walking or going to the gym or taking up a new sport.”

The above is very true. The only way I could motivate myself to loose was by hating; my body, my lack of self-control. It was the promise of beautiful as something ahead of me, something I had yet to reach but not yet. It was that “just a little bit more” and then… and then what? Another little bit more. Followed by yet another. My original target had been simply 9 stone. Then 9 stone 10. 9 stone 8. What about 5? And if the scale went up, I felt that promise of beauty slipping from my hands into the abyss of my stomach.

Here’s the beauty; when I was younger and living in France I sometimes felt like I was having out of body experiences. Actually I’ll call those “in body experiences”. They happened when I was feeling clumsy and awkward. My hands would seem disproportionate, I’d be towering like a giant over the slim petite French girls (damn their bone structure), I felt like my body was too big and heavy to move around or live in. I felt like my mind was sinking in this gargantuan vehicule I had no control over.

But now this is reversing. Jane Austen said “To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain for the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.” This, I found to be true. But that beauty and prettiness came to me through the realisation that I had something to be confident about and proud of; my intellect, my smile, my personality.

It came when I was standing in a harshly lit dressing room, trying on jeans and ironically joking to myself whether “my bum looks fat in that”. And then I thought “yes, yes it does. It’s huge and that gives me presence. I exist. And my body is just the right size to hold my spirit; I don’t want to be smaller because I feel like I’d flow outside of myself.” So I bought the jeans and quoted some Maya Angelou “Phenomenal Woman” to myself and went home.

I haven’t dieted since.

I don’t know if I never will again but I’m certainly not going to add to the coffers of a mega-rich industry that will never offer me fulfilment.

So that’s my experience. Don’t bother; don’t diet. Really love yourself; every single bit of you; right now. The more you do, the more you’ll be able to focus on what real self-improvement means because all the red herrings will be swept away.

Besides that, we are so much more than perpetual works in progress. Ultimately life is too short to count on the way we hope tomorrow’s photo’s turn out.

But don’t forget to wear sunscreen. 😛

Source: Why dieter’s have fat chance of loosing weight- The Guardian


[…] Stop the Press! Dont Diet! […]

merdeen says:

I concur.
I’ve never been one for ‘dieting’, but I follow the mantra of ‘live a healthy lifestyle’.
Damn those women’s mags that can’t help but put at least one diet in every issue! NOT that I buy them anymore. But I used to. When I was young. And stupid. And not a feminist.

tcupnewt says:

Yep- health is the optimum objective.
Heh *furtively glances at copy of Glamour lying beside me*. I find it quite fascinating; the balance the glossy has between addressing real issues that effect women versus the commercial ideals. Could lead to very interesting analysis. But yeah, those magazines aren’t really healthy for people with low body image. Which seems to be about 97% of women. Chicken and egg situation mayhaps.

Merdeen says:

sorry, I was trying to be funny in my own quirky way. Didn’t mean to offend anyone.
I admit, I don’t technically *buy* those gloss mags anymore, but when they are left about in the break room at work, I still pick one up and have a read…. so I’m not all that innocent, LOL. I mostly “tut tut” at stuff, but sometimes there are good articles worth a read. I certainly agree with you on the chicken/egg idea for women with already low body image. I’d never thought of it like that before.

tcupnewt says:

Offend? No, not at all! And you did make me giggle…
I do the “tut tut” too! Sometimes it’s such a guilty pleasure thing… God, I’m terrible!
Re:chicken and egg- I’m not completely convinced that those things by themselves have an effect but they certainly reinforce a lot to a very strict authoritarian level. It’s hard to extrapolate their precise impact though they are certainly inextricably tied into the issue. Maybe it’s the lack of other options that hurts more? Just IMHO.

Grace says:

Those magazines have made me feel worse in personal experience! They say something like “super easy ways to lose 5 pounds in a month”, and first of all i’d think “5 pounds, pah, that’s a bit slow for a months worth of dieting”, and then i’d read the article and basically it would say “all you have to do is increase your nonexistent motivation to that of someone with a very good personal trainer, eat lots of foods that you don’t like, can’t find, or are allergic to (it’s hard to eat healthy, especially when out, because my body seems to be intolerent of onions and similar veg, thank goddess I found Subway and it’s low fat/cal subs!), and become a 5* chef”, don’t drink any coffee or tea, despite the fact that you are starving your body of any natural energy or serotonin, and see the pounds just fall off.”

Well then…back to the low fat (ie. justification for scoffing) biscuits and hating myself then! Your experiences of feeling like a giant remind me of when I was at uni and all my friends were much shorter than me, even though i’m only 5ft 7/8 so not exactly unusually tall, and even though most of my friends were the same dress-size as me i just felt like an enormous fat lump next to them, like I completely stood out. Didn’t help that I always felt awkward because I chose to wear what made me comfortable instead of what made me a fashion icon.

Great post tcup, sorry this comment is so long, i’ve got lots to say all stored up in me because i’ve finally finished my mammoth assignment!

Grace says:

Oh it wasn’t that long, i’ll say more 😉 Just to say that so many people are distorted body image as we know and I don’t even think researchers saying ‘dont bother dieting’ is going to stop people is it? I’m personally not going to start looking at myself in the mirror and thinking there’s no point trying, because that would just be more depressing I think!

When I was a teenager my mum have a distorted body image of me on my behalf and made me diet and do Rosemary Connelly exercises. It was ridiculous, and one day I was sick at school because I couldn’t take the same sandwich anymore and she let me have what I wanted to for a change, so I started having crisps on a cob for luch and hey presto I lost like 3 pounds in a week!

Your friend’s experiences sound very scary, and i’ve seen a few videos of people suffering from eating disorders. They were heartbreaking enough so I can’t imagine what it’s like when someone you know goes through it.

tcupnewt says:

What frustrates me about those magazines is that they expect you to have unlimited income and means; dress is a bargain at £85! Shoes going cheap at £250! Go to a spa and find a personal trainer! Sorry- not practical and not going to happen. Which is probably why I read them as some kind of curious, but cheaply amusing alter universe publication with no bearing on me at all. I think the expectation they raise of you being a rich, white upperclass, professional women is limiting. You can’t win at that aesthetic indulgent capitalist game unless you devote your entire life and earnings to it and even then…

(this is going to be long, isn’t it?)

Why can’t they make fashionable comfortable clothes?! I’m about 5 ft 2 and as a result I used to wear killer heels that bled my feet dry- checking just now and I’ve still got the red blister marks from 4 months ago; why do they force us to hurt ourselves? Yes, I could have not bought those shoes, but then what? There isn’t much else that doesn’t make me look like an ant could crush me.

I’ve gone the opposite of you- my mom had absolutely no interest in teaching me anything remotely girly and, I think purposefully, tried to buy me ugly, practical clothes so no one would possibly mistake me as “slut”, “shallow”, or as “trying to fit in”. As a result I’ve resented it a lot and gone the way of the wanabee diva. Being forced into either mould isn’t good.

“I don’t even think researchers saying ‘dont bother dieting’ is going to stop people is it? I’m personally not going to start looking at myself in the mirror and thinking there’s no point trying, because that would just be more depressing I think!”

I do somewhat think that there is value in taking pride in appearance (but all things in perspective). For one thing it makes me more confident and generally feel happy, and it can be fun. But you’ve got to deal with the body you’ve got instead of the one you wish to have. I think that the right cut of material, shape, pattern etc… can make anyone look good. It’s a matter of finding a personal style that you, personally, feel good in. A problem is that we’re only fed a single, rare body type and all the clothes we have are made for that specific body. No one is going to stop dieting reading that, and yeah, I don’t want to be giving the message that “You are DOOMED to uglyness so get over it!” but I wish girls, especially young girls, realised there is more than one way to be pretty and your body doesn’t have to be modified to become a suitable canvas for looking pretty.

Maybe this makes me not radical enough to join the non-shaving ranks but so be it. (Funny thing is- all my “normal” female friends have moaned about shaving and said they want to stop doing it altogether. Most of us don’t shave above the knee or anywhere non visible when wearing jeans. Maybe the hairless thing is *shock* a myth!)

(this is getting very long, isn’t it?)

She seemed to take the anorexia really well… I think I was more scared than her, but it was clear that they got it early enough that she would recover.

That’s completely opposite to my other friend who was diagnosed just after she got the GCSE results. I didn’t manage to keep in contact because of various reasons and despite several attempts but after talking to her mom, it appears the doctors thought she was going to die (I think life-supported?), and she had three suicide attempts. Last I saw her was last saturday; I’ve started working in the same supermarket as her which is rather weird and awkward. She’s still much too thin.

It’s strange but I feel more resigned to it than anything, like I’m expecting that to happen. I’ve got a large friendship group and I’m just waiting to tick of the boxes on the statistics that they will each become. I’ve already got ; 2 anorexia (three if being specific), 1 domestic abuse (she broke it up not long ago just before he would have started beating her), 4/5 self-harm, 1 attempted rape, 1 drunken/underage sexual encounter which I’m begining to see as a kind of rape. Sometimes, when I think of it, I feel so angry that all of this has happened to people I love, all under the age of eighteen; much too young. And we’re the “good girls”!

I can’t wait to see what else is thrown my way.

Grace says:

I agree with you completely about how anyone can look good, and look confident if they can find the right thing to suit them – but instead the looks that are publisized by size 0-4 models and celebrities get peddled to normal women with realistic curves and their is no balance between feeling confident because you’re comfortable, and able to move, and feeling confident because everyone knows you’re wearing the latest look!

I’m quite undecided about body hair – i kind of like growing my underarm hair but then shave it off when it’s too warm to not wear a sleeveless top, because I care too much about what other people, correction, other women, will think of me. As far as leg hair goes, I do let it grow sometimes but then shave it off because I don’t like the look of it (and I have to stop second guessing myself that that’s because i’ve been socialised to think it’s ugly, and just realise that I like having hairless calves!)

Depends what you mean by ‘hairless thing’ really – I think plenty of women can’t be bothered with shaving/waxing because it’s inconvient/painful, but when it comes to feeling under pressure to impress a man all measures are taken to remove as much hair as is bareable! I read an article on BBC (linked at lonergrrrl) about a female comedian who was decided to stop removing/dying her body hair, and there were a few obvious comments from men about how female body hair is gross, but one guy actually said that in real relationships things like body hair and perceived ‘imperfections’ become part of the person you love (or words to that affect) – I felt like going to Cambridge and giving him a big hug (as that’s where he was from)! It was just so refreshing!

I’m sorry to hear that so many people that you know have experienced those things. No one is immune to these realities unfortunately, which puts paid to the idea that bad things only happen to bad people, who basically ask for it through a combination of ill morals and idiocy. That’s an idea that I would like wiped from the repetoire of journalists and writers everywhere!

What IS radical anyway tcup? 😉 (will not actually open that can of worms, as i’m scared of worms and I er…broke the can opener…)

this is radical – but not in a good way. My friend is severely overweight (22 stone plus) and has recently started the Lighter Life diet. In only 3 months she has lost nearly 5 stone and she’s delighting in fitting into old clothes. But her personality is slipping away along with the pounds – she’s on this scheme which allows her 4x shakes a day (at 125 calories) but she’s starving – and so is eating snackajacks and other low cal snacks as long as they’re under 125 cals. And now I’m sure she’s started sticking her fingers down her throat to make herself sick afterwards. Her skin is loose and saggy due to such a sudden weightloss and where she used to be so carefree she’s now uptight and irritable.

I’ve worried about her for years – she has children and I’ve often fretted about her health in later life, but surely this get slim quick idea could be doing loads more harm than good…

anyone else been on Lighter Life?
Any good/bad experiences?

tcupnewt says:

I’m so sorry to hear that alison… I can’t offer any answers since so much of this is personal and different for everyone. However I do want to offer all the support I can to you, and I hope you can find a way to be there for her- God knows it’s hard! Please hang on… *hugs* You are a good friend to be concerned and to notice all that and care.

That diet sounds really bad, just from what you’ve said… There is no way someone can realistically keep that up, and I’m imagining that any sudden shift in your body, up or down, presents a lot of stress for it.

I guess several of my immediate thoughts are:
Is she following this diet supervised by a doctor or nutritionist or any other medical professional?
Do you know if she’s getting all the minerals she needs?
4x shakes a day does not seem balanced at all… This lack of variety is bound to have health consequences.
Can you approach it with her from that angle?
And has she noticed this personality shift for herself? I doubt constant hunger makes her a happier, better person.
More importantly how do you think she’d react to your concerns, can you talk to her about it? I know that my ex-ana friend was angry at another friends mother for reporting her to the school counsellor. But when it became official she seemed to respond in a positive way, wanting to get better. But that is not to say that is a universal reaction…

I’ve just done a google search and come up with these websites/pages (just copy and paste):
I don’t know where you are from but they seem to have good general info… Even if this isn’t an eating disorder there certainly seems to be a serious skewed image of body health and image. Of course, you and her are the best judges as I am only an internet stranger…

Do you mind if I dedicate a post to this? You’re last questions strike me as worth further exploring in their own right.


Please do! I think body image is a huge issue that us women deal with every day and I imagine there’ll be lots of varied comments if you dedicate a post to this subject.

With regard to my friend, she’s not even having the 4 shakes a day – sometimes she says they taste so awful that she’s just having 2 or 3. But the weight is falling off and there’s no denying that it works. I’m just not so sure what will happen when she stops. I know that there is a ‘maintenance programme’, but she has already said that she’s not overly bothered about sticking to that. I know – it’s all so unhealthy and not a great outlook.

I think she has noticed the personality shift but is so delighted how her clothes are hanging from her, that it’s taking over!

I will go and check these urls that you’ve found – a sincere thank you for that!

And let me know where to find the new post as I’d love to see others comments too!

many many thanks once again.xx

tcupnewt says:

There’s the link. I wasn’t quite sure how to start that conversation so I made up a little survey with various questions, hoping something will evolve from it. I’m not sure how much it’ll help in your situation but at least it’s an open and honest sharing experience (dear lord, I sound like a navel gazing, new age, vegan yoga instructor or something!) Anyway, I’d be keen to find out how your friend is doing over time- she sounds like she’s degenerating but keeping it up won’t be a possibility. Something has to give, I hope. I’m keeping your situation in my thoughts- we all need a lot of courage just to live in the bodies given us these days!

sadiespeaksnow says:

Thanks for this post; there’s something interesting you said in there–
“Yes, yes, I exist.”
I think that’s key. The other day I was watching Oprah of all things. She had Dr. OZ on with a slew of really really fat teens and preteens, and someone said something to the effect of gaining weight to show that you exist–that you’re here on the planet. Kudos to you for eschewing the dieting pitfalls; lifestyle change is a better word–but honestly, if you’re happy the way you are–honestly happy, then go to it and live life fully and out loud, and if you’re not happy (and I’m speaking about myself here) than make small changes in your LIFE (not just your body) that will help you to be happy.
Thanks for your blog!

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