A Unique Resource for Treating Eating Disorders and Body Dissatisfaction
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by Dr. Deah on Oct.06, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz


There are many terms for it; I choose to say that I am a reformed dieter. This means I no longer embark on diets or join programs designed for weight loss.  My reasons for this are many and my decision making process may be helpful to some; so from time to time I write about those aspects of my personal journey in my blog, Tasty Morsels.

But today I am writing about something else. 

As I review my futile quest to find the perfect weight loss technique, I see a road littered with detritus from countless attempts at a variety of programs.  Some more renown than others, I have left in my wake a trail of Jenny Craig bar graphs, Weight Watchers Lifetime key rings, and Atkin’s dip sticks; all tangible proof of my countless endeavors to lose weight in order to be happy.

There are many common themes embedded in each pit stop on my way to “diet cessation” but one of the most irritating is how I perceived my successes and failures.  Each time I lost weight, I sang the praises of the diet. “I love the South Beach; Grapefruits are the shot, me and Jenny forever!”  And each time I inevitably gained the weight back, I would wail the dirge of self-hate, “I am a failure.”

All of the credit went to someone else and all of the blame went to me.

It is a double standard I can no longer accept.

Writing about low self-esteem as a component of body dissatisfaction and serial dieting is nothing new. There are few, if any, Weary Weight Warriors who hate their body AND have a healthy self-esteem.  Body dissatisfaction is not created in a vacuum and is usually the result of someone being told that something is wrong with them.  If someone feels they need to lose weight in order to be loved by someone else, they are most likely going to feel unworthy in other arenas as well.

Because the motivation to lose weight is usually extrinsically foisted upon us and then externally reinforced by the diet industry selling the solution, we can understand the ease with which we give credit to the Stillmans and the Jennys. We feel flawed so how can it NOT be our fault if we can’t fix the problem by using these undisputed efficacious diets?  Placing the blame on ourselves instead of on the failure of the diet is part of the cycle of self hate that is inherent in using restrictive dieting as a solution to weight management, eating disorders and fighting the so-called war against obesity.  The proponents of diet programs are counting on the self-hate that they have helped to create, to fuel our appetites for trying the latest fad diet and Jennifer Hudson-esque intervention.

Breaking the self hate cycle is no easy task.  Ask any fellow salmon swimming upstream and the ones that make it will tell you it takes perseverance and motivation.  But the motivation MUST be intrinsic.  The choice to engage in a health based lifestyle instead of a weight based one must start from within and be fueled from within; not to please anyone else, not to live up to someone else’s expectation and NOT to be measured by any scale or tape measure.  And guess what? Because there is no double standard, the credit and kudos for maintaining these lifestyle changes may just be able to swim, with abandon, in a new direction…inward.

So lose the double standard and gain some self esteem.

You’ll love yourself for it!

24 comments for this entry:
  1. Chris

    How wonderful! I have been thinking about double-standards a lot lately – particularly in the context of being too hard on ourselves. If we have managed to stop holding other people’s size against them, how can we continue to hold our own size against ourselves? It’s the height of arrogance, shrouded in a cloak of love. It reveals that we still pander to the beauty standard.

  2. Amy

    Wow, Dr. Deah, this is a message that everyone striving for that two pound a week weight loss and being disappointed when the scale went down just one, it should have been more, will hopefully embrace and themselves after reading it. You are so right, even in my successes, I have felt disappointment and always a dread before stepping on that scale, what does that tell you? As if that scale is every voice in my head yelling, you would be so much better if you took off just one more pound this week. After a lifetime of dieting, I too have taken the inner journey and am finally hearing my own voice that says, the external does not hold as much weight as the internal does in the journey of self acceptance. I have to say, like you, I am winning that battle. I have put down all the dieting swords and picked up my tool box filled with a wonderful array of tools that help every day.

  3. Atchka!

    This bugs the ever-loving shit out of me. When the tiny percentage of Jenny Craig sticks with the diet for a full year and loses less than half of their goal weight, Jenny Craig will shout from the rooftops, “See! Our plan works! Look at Sara Rue in a bikini!” But show them the 80-90% who leave the program or who show no loss at all and they decry the lack of motivation and that they can’t force people to comply.


    Even the best compliance is fraught with failure, which is why these people drop out in the first place. They follow the plan to a T, but when they don’t lose the promised 1 to 2 pounds per week they abandon the program because it isn’t working for them. What they don’t realize is that it doesn’t work for most people, since the program would never sell a realistic assessment to potential clients. To do so would essentially destroy their credibility.

    So, the buck is passed and the blame is shifted, and self-loathing fatties flagellate themselves for not living up to their potential. It is disgusting and infuriating and I hope we’re able to eliminate this double standard in our lifetime.

    Great post, Deah!


  4. Dr. Deah

    Exactly Chris! And shrouded in a cloak of love, what a great image. Thanks for writing!

  5. Dr. Deah

    Amy brava for you too! How tragic, in retrospect, that we gave over our self-appreciation to a bathroom scale?

  6. Dr. Deah

    Thanks Shannon, and wouldn’t it be a whole different scenario if they had to put billboards up with their real stats!?

  7. Paula Young, LMFT

    I like your post, Shannon.
    Dr Deah, my 1st time here–found you thru linked in. You seem to me to be on the right track.
    I think there is a positive feedback loop that can occur: Happiness leads to normal weight (whatever that is for that particular person-not normal weight by some external standard) and normal weight promotes happiness.
    I have written a post on my blog about self-esteem but, really my entire blog is an effort to encourage people —to be their own very best self.

  8. Dr. Deah

    Thank you for your comment Paula! I will definitely visit your blog.

  9. Deb Burgard, PhD

    Thank you Dr. Deah! I think we should all work toward the “Weight Cycling Prevention Act,” which would name the weight “loss” industry the “weight cycling industry” and its products “weight cycling programs.” Fat camps would have to be called “weight cycling camps,” and worksite programs “Weight Cyclers” meetings. But most important, no research on weight “loss” would be funded without a mandatory 2-5 year follow-up phase that tracked all the initial participants, and no weight “loss” testimonials could be portrayed in ads that were “not typical.” Things might grind to a very satisfying halt and people would have $60 billion a year back in their pockets.

  10. Dr. Deah

    Brilliant Deb! The W.C.P.A. No longer will we have to witness moments like these:

    The Weight Cycling Prevention Act

  11. Beth Novick

    BRAVA! Working from the inside out is the only way. It’s only through loving, respecting and nurturing oneself that good health can be achieved. Berating, belittling and punishing NEVER works.

  12. Dr. Deah

    Hi Beth, Thank you so much for your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. Here is a blog I wrote about shame that you may enjoy.

  13. Judith Matz

    Great post – identifying that double standard is right on target! We use the term “diet survivor” to describe anyone who has been on more than one diet, lost and regained the weight, and is becoming aware that the failure is not their fault.

    I love Deb’s thought about a Weight Cycling Prevention Act, and would love to see the “victims” of the diet industry declare themselves diet survivors. Given that there’s a $60 billion dollar industry, I wonder just how many people that would include….

  14. Dr. Deah

    And more and more people are joining the list as we speak Judith! Even the failure has been integrated into the culture of the diet and excused instead of exposed. How many times have I heard someone say sheepishly, “Oh yes, it’s my fourth time trying Weight Watchers” ™. Somehow they still don’t see that maybe it is the concept of the diet that isn’t working as opposed to them not working the diet? Thank you so much for your comment and for reading!

  15. vesta44

    The last fight I had with my doctor, before I fired her, was when she said she could send me to an in-patient weight loss center so I could have help losing weight. I asked her “What part of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, amphetamines, phen-fen, and a VBG failing to make me thin do you not understand? How do you think your center is going to make me thin when all those other diets and WLS couldn’t do it?” She continued to insist that it was calories in/calories out and I just didn’t try hard enough, that if I had really tried, I could have lost the weight and kept it off forever. I told her I wasn’t the failure, the diets, the drugs, and the WLS were the failures and I was done fighting with her about it. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t the failure, that it was the methods I was using that weren’t working, but once I realized it and took it to heart, no way in hell is anyone going to convince me otherwise.

  16. Debra

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more. About 15 years ago I threw away my scale, and even stopped allowing doctors to weigh me. I don’t know my weight, but I know how I feel. I eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and feel healthy. Food is no longer a dangerous enemy, and I gauge my body by how I feel – not a number on the scale.

  17. Faycin A Croud

    I was looking at a “Health and Fitness” magazine earlier this evening. They should have called it like it is: an Obsession with Thinness magazine. Every other page was about weight loss. Very discouraging.

  18. HAEScoach

    Love it. Love that I have found another voice of reason amongst the sea of stupidity!

  19. Dr. Deah

    Vesta, did you wind up finding a doctor that does support your point of view? If so, I hope you have listed her/his name on the HAES friendly doctor list. We need more physicians that understand what you eloquently explained. Firing your doctor was a true act of self-defense and self-love. Yay!

  20. Dr. Deah

    Thanks for writing Debra. My physician’s assistant after the first few times I refused to be weighed, now just asks me if I have any concerns about my weight? Period, end of story. I no longer dread going in for my check-ups!

  21. Dr. Deah

    Don’t even get me started on the magazine subject. I wrote a blog about how even in money magazines we are hit by the incessant message that we need to be thin. http://fiercefatties.com/2011/06/15/body-hate-for-sale/
    There were a few magazines around for a while that were a bit of an oasis. Radiance, which I think you can still read on line, and of course BBW. But alas, the pickings are, PARADOXICALLY SLIM!!! Thanks for your comment!

  22. Dr. Deah

    Welcome to the Sea of Sanity! :D

  23. vesta44

    Dr Deah – I haven’t found another doctor yet that supports my point of view, unfortunately. My endo doesn’t say much to me, she knows how I feel on the subject, but I noticed that in the time between visits to her (about a year apart), she has lost weight, and one of the nurses said she had been following that “Eat to Live” by Dr Joel Fuhrman (and the surgeon who took out my thyroid was suggesting that to me as an option for weight loss). My endo’s office is fairly fat-friendly, they don’t complain if I refuse to be weighed, they have gowns large enough to fit me (and people larger than me), and they have seating that doesn’t cramp my hips. So what she does with her body is her business and I don’t care, as long as she doesn’t suggest that it’s a good idea for me as well.
    When I need to see a doctor for anything else (like when I had strep throat last year), I call the clinic, tell them what the problem is, that I need to see a doctor, any doctor but Dr W (the one I fired), and no problem. But that doesn’t solve the problem of getting my back problems diagnosed and resolved. So far, I haven’t been able to find one in this area, unless I want to drive 2 hours to Minneapolis/St Paul, and I’m not willing to do that at my age, in my condition, with Minnesota winters being what they are.

  24. Dr. Deah

    All the more reason Vesta to keep making noise about this! Somehow, I have a feeling you are already doing this! ;-)

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