Food & Fitness

The Use of Language

Leslie over at The Weighting Game wrote a post on dieting every other day, which has initiated this current train of thought (my apologies in advance for the sarcasm and cynicism throughout)…

Take care of yourself, eat healthy, make healthy lifestyle choices, and you'll be on the right track! Diet doesn't have to be a bad word. Think positive and think healthy!

Ever since I started paying a wee bit more attention to my nutrition and general health—sometime around January 2007—it’s been really interesting to look at how people perceive the food they eat and the exercise that they partake in. In today’s society, it seems you can’t walk 10 feet without hearing about this diet or that diet. But what exactly do we mean by “diet”?

Generally associated with negative connotations, a diet is viewed as a restriction or a limitation that we put upon ourselves. Hold up a sec! “Diet” just means the way you eat. There shouldn’t be anything negative about that; it’s a very neutral term, in fact.

Unfortunately, in a world where we define what we eat by “the Mediterranean Diet” or “the Atkins Diet” or “the South Beach Diet”—or even the “Green Tea Diet,” “the Eat Right 4 Your Type,” diet and “the Volumetrics Weight-control” diet—it would appear that we are unable to make food decisions without slapping a label on them and declaring something to be very firmly, absolutely, 100% off-limits… and then the second our willpower wavers slightly, we ravenously fall upon those foods that are so very evil otherwise.

This then leads into the comfortable cycle of self-loathing, with a renewed effort to radically obliterate that food (among a whole host of other foods) from the diet, feelings of self-righteousness and pride for having done so, and then—oops, there goes the willpower, dammit, I wasn’t supposed to eat that apple, it’s got carbs! Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What. The. Hell?

To be honest, it kind of reminds me of when I first started hearing about “The Secret.” For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the concept is that if you think positively, then the natural progression will be that positive things will happen to you (although, if my skeptical self seeps in, I have to wonder—was the person who “dreamt up” this concept someone who lived in a war-torn society and was starving to death? I rather doubt that).

Anyhow, when I first heard about that, I didn’t really see what the big deal was (I should probably tell you right now that my natural philosophy towards life is and always has been to think positively because of the belief that it will result in a positive outcome… again, I can say this from the comfort of my middle-class condo). But how is that at all a secret? It’s basic karma and the golden rule and all that. If you do good, it’s likely that good things will come to you. If you do bad, then, the cops will likely come after you (disregarding for a moment my issues with how lenient the Canadian justice system is). But, getting back to the point, I would have thought that “the Secret” was common sense.

Eating healthy is also pretty much common sense. Eat in moderation, try to eat more wholesome, nutrient-rich foods. Everyone is pretty well aware of that. So the idea of our current conception of “diet” is really incredibly ridiculous—what’s the point in all of these different companies “dreaming up” these fantastic miracle “diets” that essentially end up hindering your body? (case and point: the Atkins diet is the equivalent of your body eating away at itself. YOU NEED CARBS TO SURVIVE!) These fad diets are just a way for the people “inventing” them to make some easy money.

Nutrition books, I love. Love love love. Can’t get enough of them. You know why? Because they teach me about how I can treat my body the best way possible. They teach health. They don’t promote ridiculous programs which consist of either starving your body of certain nutrients or causing you to lose water weight (because that number on the scale is really affecting your fat mass… cue rolling eyes).

One of the most contributing factors for the reason that there’s so much discrimination in the world, in EVERYTHING we do and see and are, is these labels we place on things. We insist that everything needs a name.

Language is incredibly powerful. If we instead viewed how we eat as just that—how we eat—rather than a negative, scary, rigid “diet,” then I bet there would be a lot less eating disorders, a lot less body image issues, a lot less pressure to do or be this or that, a lot less health problems resulting from these societal pressures and issues, a lot less paper being wasted on books that assert “you can lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks!”, a lot less time and money being put into such unfortunate schemes, and perhaps a lot more emphasis being put on trying to encourage healthy lifestyles and the wellness for all of the people in the world and the earth itself.

If we lived in a world like that, it sure would be nice. But I guess if we lived in a world like that, we wouldn’t have a whole lot to strive for and improve upon.

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