At the moment, I don't recall how I found myself on the diet bunny trail. Nevertheless, this is the subject which occupied my busy mind when a new thought struck me: diets and religion are connected.
This combination may sound like a strange mix. Nevertheless, if you allow me to share my thought process, you may discover I may not have missed the mark after all.
Diets and Religion: The Tools of the Trade
Diets have all the making of religious affiliations. Actually, the use of the word "cult" may be even closer to the truth.
There is always a leader, usually the author of a book. Then, there is a "scared" text of some kind, most commonly the manuscript written by the leader. Within its pages are the promises of a better life, paradise, Nirvana, (aka. the body of your dreams). And, lastly, there are the devotees who adhere to The Diet with dedicated fervor.
The darker side of the diet religions are the nameless women sacrificed on their altar.
The" funny"—or pathetic, whichever verbage you prefer—part of this description is that I once was a devoted follower of various diets myself before I came to my senses.
I had high hopes of shedding the extra weight I had gained to due to hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue.
However, nowadays, my serenity and success are not be the result of any specific diet. I much prefer marching to the sound of my own drum thank you very much.
Pass the chips, please.
Seeing the Light
A few years back, any diet book—which seemed to make sense and promise me the result I was yearning for—would find me on Facebook feverishly trying to find a "group."
While I was mostly just a lurker, my foray into Facebook diet group territory was nevertheless enlightening.
One such group—which shall remain nameless—was stricter than most. The Book was hailed as almost equivalent to Holy Scriptures. Any novice who did not have The Book was promptly referred to its pages with an admonition that one would neither understand nor succeed without learning its content.
Questions not in line with the adopted doctrine were deleted, and the offender promptly warned and threatened with excommunication.
Yes, I got my fingers slapped a few times.
The Diet needed to be described as "official" so that adherents could not be led astray by "unofficial"—and therefore mediocre—groups which did not accurately observe The Rules.
You may think I am kidding; sadly, I am not.
The believers defended their stance with forceful gusto bordering on hysteria. If, however, you agreed with all the book's content, towed the party line AND, even better, posted pictures of your results, you received the proper admiration and praise.
The Black sheeps did not fair as well.
There were casualties; the women who despite their best effort and adherence to The Rules could not shed the unwanted pounds. Or worse, those who could not follow all the rules to the letter of the law. These women became the rejects, the unknown, the unheard, and the black sheeps.
They had failed.
Quickly, other enthusiasts would give them Book-approved pointers; often times to no avail.
These "unsuccessful" women had high hopes when they joined. They wanted to believe THIS was THE way. Finally, the weight would come off, they would get their body back, and they would "fit in." Some of these women remained for years in the group, hopeful, despite the lack of results.
Some destroyed their metabolism. Maybe even their self-esteem.
Some quit, despondent for not reaching the desired outcome. In the end, their voices were silenced.
Failure was okay as long as these women stayed quiet. Open discontentment was frowned upon and was always assumed to be the individual's fault rather than the fact that, maybe, The Diet was not the panacea for the entire world's population.
I know—such a snarky comment.
Sadly, there are such casualties on every diet journey.
I have personally known people on the following diets: Weight Watchers, Keto, HCG, low carb, South Beach, Atkins, vegetarian, vegan, Trim Healthy Mama, Whole 30, Clean Eating, grapefruit diet, potato diet, rice diet, and I know I have left many more out of this list.
Some adherents were more militant than others in trying to make converts. In the beginning, every individual believed they had found the "Holy Grail." Some lost weight, some didn't, and yet others lost and gained it back (often, plus more).
It is a scientific fact that diets—any diets--fail over 97% of the time and this, my friends, is the reason why diets are money makers. One perfect diet would be the end of all other diets, and we would all be skinny, happy...and healthy?
The Winners and the L.....
Yes, there are lovely diets out there with aficionados who have had remarkable results. This fact cannot be denied.
There are also those for whom the same diets failed miserably to deliver the promised results.
Let's not be so quick to blame the person's lack of commitment or worse, self-control. The fact of the matter is that there is NOT nor shall there ever be ONE PERFECT DIET.
How could there be?
Seven billion people on the planet, all with the exact same nutritional needs?
Please, you jest.
Likewise, we are not meant to eat the same way all of our lives. Any of you still on breastmilk or formula? Pureed foods? I think not.
Our body's nutritional demands change as we age, depending on the time of the year, and what is going on in our lives.
Yes, eating a vegan diet may be invaluable to some for health reasons. However, others will have to let go of that very diet a few years later when it no longer resonates with their changing body. This very thing happened to a friend of mine who after years as a vegetarian and then as a vegan had to reintroduce animal protein into her diet. I have another friend who has been a happy—and healthy—vegetarian for decades.
Why are we so quick to blame the eater rather than the diet?
There is no—or there shouldn't be—shame with needing to change course from time to time.
Another acquaintance—a vegan—desperately craved red meat when pregnant and after many agonizing weeks she finally listened to her body—in secret because she was so ashamed for "failing."
The only failure is in not listening to our body's cries.
What I am not Saying
I am NOT saying food does not matter to our health or our planet for that matter. What I am saying is that it is the diet fanatics who help no one.
Do we—in general—consume too much junk?
Hallelujah, we are not suffering in the throes of starvation. A pop tart, while we can all agree is not the breakfast of champions, is better than hunger. Those among us who have to struggle to find food rarely worry about the foods they consume. Pickiness is a problem of the privileged.
Again, don't get me wrong, I am grateful I can afford to be picky because, in all honesty, I am indeed finicky. I am an unrepentant label reader. I do genuinely care about the food I serve my family. However, unless I hate—as in taste—a specific food, I resolve never to complain when I am a guest. I will gladly bless the food, thank my host, and chow down.
I have given up dieting for good.
Freedom at last!
I ascribe to no particular diet religion. Incidentally, it is in Freedom I discovered healing. I still mind about the quality of my foods and I still very much have my quirks and not-so-healthy-guilty-pleasures. To the best of my ability—and mindfulness—I endeavor to listen to my body and its needs.
I strive to eat as well as I can while leaving others alone. Granted not always as easy as it sounds. I am no paragon of virtue. I still frown at anyone eating anything with NutraSweet or any other artificial sweetener, ditto with sodas which I don't personally like. While on the other hand, please pass the chocolate and whipped cream thank you very much.
I am a human mess, and it is grand!
Diets and Religion
I don't care if you follow any particular diet religion unless you try to convert me.
Let's be honest here, and contrary to popular belief, health and size are not synonymous. Moreover, health means different things to different people. Those who profit the most from the various diets are the authors of such diets. Most have private groups, classes, and products they sell.
I do not begrudge anyone an honest living, and when it comes to eating we all like and partake in the activity.
I also believe that most authors genuinely care about their message and the people who read it. Their ultimate desire is usually to help. It is equally valid to point out that many among us will benefit from their wisdom. What I am saying is that not ALL will benefit.
Those who don't benefit, or don't even care to try any particular method, should not be made to feel "less than" because they chose a different path.
My body is my own to care for and to live in, as is your body your own. I do not require anyone's approval. Some days, I could win a healthy lunch award while by evening, I'd have to give it back.
Life is by all accounts hard. No one comes out alive (sorry bad joke). No one decides they want to be overweight or unhealthy when they grow up.
Sadly—and tragically—both my parents died rather young for their respective families despite being the most health conscious (my mother was barely 70). I know this is circumstantial evidence. And again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am not advocating a junk diet or being overweight as some badge of honor.
My point is this: let's all eat—as well as serve others—more of a love diet. Can we love people despite their food choices? Can we give others the same grace we so desperately desire?
Let's avoid trying to make converts and instead let's let our lives be THE testimony. I love this quote which has been attributed to Francis of Assisi although I have been told these words did not pass his lips. I still find the saying accurate, so I will nevertheless share it with you (which is a bit hypocritical since I did use a lot of words in this post):
Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.
Blessings and happy eating!