Rebel Without a Carrot Stick

Biggest Loser Baby CarrotsYesterday in the comments Linda said “I recently saw an ad for veggies that said something like ‘not all 100 calories are the same, go big’. The presentation of veggies as a diet food make them more unappealing to me. Anybody else have that reaction?”

Yes, yes I do.  I was recently at the store trying to buy some baby carrots for a recipe, and the only bag that they had was Biggest Loser endorsed.  What the Actual Eff?  First they fill the airwaves with a show that mentally and physically abuses fat people for entertainment, then they try to pass it off as “inspiration,” then they take over the baby carrots?  What fresh vegetable hell is this?

It’s not just the carrots, I know for me and lots of of recovered dieters I have heard from, we were really messed up from a lifetime of being told that everything we do – what we eat, what movement we participate in etc.  – should be done for the express purpose of being thin and that if these things didn’t make us thin we are failures who aren’t doing it right, or liars who lied about doing it at all etc.  Dieting messages like “If you’re still hungry try eating salad with lemon juice” or “if you’re not losing weight you aren’t working out enough etc. repeated ad nauseam for decades (without success, as we would expect from the research)  can damage our relationships with food and movement, and we can start to actually rebel against not just the messages, but the food and movement as well. When we give up dieting, can end up giving up things that we associate with dieting along with it. Or the aggressive marketing of things as “diet” can turn us off from them.

To be clear, nobody is obligated to eat vegetables, or to exercise, or to prioritize their health a certain way or choose any specific path to get there.  Lots of people choose not to eat vegetables or exercise (or whatever else we’re told that we “should” do for our health) for lots of reasons and all of those choices are valid.  The public health issue is about access to options, not about making personal health decisions the public’s business. Health is not entirely within our control and decisions about health are intensely personal.  I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live or to cast judgment on anybody’s decisions. What I am interested in doing is looking at how a culture that abuses and shames us “for our own good” affects our ability to care for ourselves.

The phrase “just eat less and exercise more” activates my face punch reflex, but there have been many much more subtle issues as I’ve left the weight loss world behind.  Years of being told that if I’m hungry I should eat a salad (with lemon juice for dressing and no carrots because they have too much sugar) made me hate the idea of salad.  Years of using the gym to punish myself for being fat made me forget the things that I loved about movement and working out.  In what is a completely natural reaction to being harmed the way that weight loss culture harms us, I rebelled, choosing not to do things that diets told me to do just because diets told me to do them, whether I liked them, or they supported my health or not.

For me finding peace with myself and choosing my prioritization and path to health involved making peace with my dieting past and realizing that I had been negatively impacted in a lot of ways and that I wanted to tease apart the diet industry that had abused me for profit from the behaviors and foods that they had used as tools to do so.

I made a project out of trying every food (that I’m not allergic to) again as if I had never had it to see what I actually liked.  I ended up being really surprised by the results. Then I did the same thing with working out – doing a bunch of different workouts and classes to see what I really enjoyed doing and what I didn’t.

Sometimes people get confused and think that they should use this as a matrix to tell me what choices I need to make (ie: You shouldn’t have done a marathon because you hate distance walking, or you should have bought those baby carrots because you like them even if they were Biggest Loser brand.)

Neither the process of looking at ways that weight loss culture affected me, nor my choice to practice Health at Every Size locks me into certain choices.  On the contrary, they allow me to make choices from a much more authentic place.  I don’t buy products that advertise themselves as “diet” whether I like them or not.  I think that social change requires sacrifice and I’m not willing to give my money to the companies who did so much harm to me and are currently hurting others – so I’ll find another brand of baby carrots or I’ll go without.  I hate distance work but I wanted to do a marathon so I did it, even though there was very little of the training or the marathon that I actually enjoyed, and I was astoundingly bad at it.

In the end, for me, it came down to a decision that I didn’t want the diet industry to harm me any  more than it already had, and part of that was making sure that I wasn’t hurting myself by rebelling against them.

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42 thoughts on “Rebel Without a Carrot Stick

  1. I saw the Biggest Loser endorsed baby carrots too – and unfortunately they were the only type of baby carrots available at my supermarket, and my son loves baby carrots, so I didn’t have a lot of choice. I bought them and I sent an e-mail of complaint to the company. They did respond to tell me they would take my concerns under advisement. Which probably means, yada, yada, whatever, lady. But at least I said my piece.

  2. I always thought “baby carrots” were actually young carrots and then found out they take regular carrots and put them through a type of carrot pencil sharpener to make them small. My parrot loves them too but I can always cut up larger ones for her if I were to run into BL on the package of baby ones!

    1. Yeah,when I found out the difference between “cut baby carrots” and “baby-cut carrots,” I was pretty ticked off. I still buy the “baby-cut carrots” if they are on sale for less than plain old carrots (and if Alaskan carrots are not available–seriously, if you get the chance to buy Alaskan carrots, do so, you will not believe how sweet and crisp they are even when they look like they should taste of liniment). I haven’t seen the “Only 100 calories yayz!!!!” baby carrots here, yet, but I’ve been grimly amused by how yogurt keeps getting awesomer for your diet while less and less actual yogurt is in it and the containers are steadily shrinking.

  3. Your piece is spot on. I am currently trying to re-engage with food after decades of having two food groups – good and bad. I’m listening to my body more and going with that. It’s not easy though living in the culture we do and the one dimensional view of health professionals.
    Your blog helps me re-focus.

  4. So true, I started loving salad after I stopped dieting and started making my salads with things like – urrgh – OIL in the dressing … and even putting things like nuts and seeds and cheese in it ;). But I hate when one gets told: If you crave chocolate, eat some celery sticks instead … that sure gets me off vegetables. When I want chocolate, I eat chocolate, and when I want vegetables, I eat vegetables – but only with a littel fat in the dressing or the dipping, because they taste better that way and the body needs some fat to process the vitamins anyway

    1. Or those “If you’re craving…” memes that tell you to eat Anything “healthy,” instead of the thing you’re craving. Because the thing your craving is most likely “bad” and should be avoided.

      I hate those.

      Especially since one resource will tell you that chocolate is healthy (antioxidants, donchaknow) but only the “good” kind. So unless it’s at least 78% cocoa, and unsweetened with no dairy, it should be avoided at all costs and you should have a handful of raw, unsalted almonds (or some other foolishness) instead.

      :eye roll:

      1. The stopped-clock exception is that if you’re craving sweets, you might try a drink of water first. Apparently the human brain is crosswired such that it may interpret “need water” as “need fructose/sucrose.” Maybe because fruit was usually the sweetest thing available (without risk of getting stung) in the Really Old Days and most fruits are juicy–? Anyway, when I learned this bit of info, I realized why sweet stuff sometimes satisfied my craving and sometimes left me feeling sort of bleh.

  5. I still hate salad, but I LOVE this line: “The phrase “just eat less and exercise more” activates my face punch reflex..” Hah!

  6. Oh heavens, I do not recognize myself AT ALL in this article. Me? Rebel against something to my own potential detriment? Never in a million years!

    Hmmm… sorry, I seem to have dripped sarcasm by the bucketload all over your nice blog. Sorry. I’ll clean it up, I promise.

    I completely recognize the thing about retrying foods to see whether I actually hated them or enjoyed them. In fact, for a number of years I’ve done this periodically with a variety of foods I disliked on the first try or prepared a particular way. I just figure tastes change and sometimes your first taste was a bad batch of whatever.

    Of course, now that I’m past fifty and still find mushrooms and asparagus revolting… I don’t think I’m going to bother again. If I’ve tried so many varieties prepared so many different ways and I still haven’t found a way to like them, I don’t think it’s going to happen at this point. Still, nobody can say I didn’t give them a fair shake. On the other hand, keeping an open mind helped me find ways to eat beets even though I have a serious texture issue with them. Now that I get the texture is the entire problem, I merrily make borsht or beet risotto (it uses liquified roasted beets as the broth and chopped beet greens to add a little greenery and textural variety, plus you get risotto which is one of my favorite foods to both cook and eat!) on a semi-regular basis.

    But I’ve also managed to use that technique with Mr. Twistie – who has more food issues than you can shake a stick at – with some success. He still won’t try cauliflower or Brussels sprouts no matter what I do with them, but he’s actually added a wide variety of leafy greens, turnips, pears, and multi-colored carrots to his list of acceptable foods. He always loved carrots, but was put off by the heirloom ones that sometimes show up in our CSA box. I just cook the foods, and let him decide for himself whether he’s willing to try it out. Funnily enough, I discovered later on that this is pretty much Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility feeding technique she developed to help children learn eating competence. But I only discovered that after getting my husband to give kale another chance.

  7. How the blue thundering f*ck can a carrot be commercialised? Will someone please tell me how that works? “Carrots, brought to you by The Biggest Loser…try some today!” What next…”Oxygen…brought to by Micro$oft”??

    It’s a frickin’ vegetable!! For goodness sake!

    1. It’s not just carrots. A few months ago, I went to the grocery store for some celery. I checked to make sure the celery was good but didn’t pay much attention to the packaging, only to notice after I got it home it was sporting TBL’s logo and the stepford-smiling portrait of the TBL trainers. I’m not sure how that particular brand of celery/carrots is supposed to be more Diet and Righteous than other brands of vegetables that are not Legitimized by TBL’s icky endorsement, but I learned my lesson about reading the packaging even on fresh vegetables.

    2. The bag actually has a legend about TBL with a measuring tape printed on it. Bleeech! What they’ve done is pay the company that produces and sells the carrots for the right to print advertising on our carrots.

      I would buy the odd bag of baby carrots since Mr. Twistie enjoys them with dip in his lunches, but I can’t find any that don’t promote that vile show, anymore, and I refuse to buy anything with their logo on it.

  8. I haven’t seen the TBL packaging (thank goodness) but I HATE the idea of veggies being so commercialized.

    Thanks for expanding on my thought, Ragen. I feel better knowing I’m not the only one who does this.

  9. I have a pet peeve about reduced calorie versions of food products, often priced the same as regular versions.. The whole thing is based on a false premise because the hunger drive will have us make up the deficiency in calories by eating more of the reduced calorie product or eating other foods..

  10. I’m blogging about this soon too! I think she’s talking about that veggie commercial where the veggies are brightly colored and the “bad” food is all grey and unappealing. But in real life we all know that chocolate and ice cream is pretty darn appealing at times. Just as those veggies are!

    A few days ago this was all set in motion with my by the above commercial and by the banana label I found stuck to something in the cupboard: Eat Me! I’m Fat Free! Why do you have to say that? Why not: Eat me and look like a monkey? Eat me and not use a utensil?

    Food marketers suck.

    I love you, Ragen!

    1. Or how about ‘Eat me, I’m delicious.’ ‘Eat me, I’m packed with vitamins.’

      Both of those sound so much more appealing to me than ‘fat free.’

  11. i was put off by popcorn forever because of this… much freaking 60 calorie air popped popcorn i ate while dieting growing up. i jsut cant enjoy it how. i try but i cant.

  12. I used to eat brown rice, because it’s supposed to be “better” and “healthier” than white. And while that might be true, part of my impetus for eating brown was weight.

    Recently, I finally admitted to myself that I hate brown rice. I think it tastes like dirt, and it RUINS sushi and other Asian dishes.

    And, yes, I have tried several different kinds of brown rice. They all taste like dirt.

    Since letting go, I no longer eat brown rice. There are other ways to get fiber.

    1. Conversely, I used to think I didn’t like oatmeal (mainly because I had only been exposed to poorly-prepared stuff with the texture of hot snot).

      I started eating oatmeal, for dieting reasons, fully prepared to have to choke it down. I discovered that I actually liked it, a lot.

      So that was a food that I got to add back to my diet…. ironically, through dieting.

    2. I’ll totally save you from brown rice by eating it all myself… but I absolutely agree with you about brown rice in sushi.

      Other than that, though, I love the stuff and could eat it every day. Well, except for the fact that being Scottish, German, and Irish I am genetically hardwired to run mostly on potatoes.

    3. I went through dozens of brands of brown rice before I found the one I love – Uncle Ben’s. Lately I’ve been using Success brand boil-in-bag brown rice when in a hurry.
      You can also try some of the more exotic ones, like brown jasmine and brown basmati. They taste nothing like the regular brown rices do.
      I still keep a bag of white rice in the house, because my favorite bean burger recipe uses short grain white, and that’s the rice my son prefers to eat, too, so the bag doesn’t sit around forever and go rancid.

        1. Also, white rice doesn’t really go bad/rancid unless it’s stored improperly (ie: exposed to moisture). Stored in an air-tight container, it should last for years.

          Brown rice can go bad because the essential oils in the bran can go rancid. Still, you can combat that by storing it in the refrigerator or freezer.

    4. I buy brown rice because WIC will pay for it, but ATM I am the only person in the house who will eat it. I have found that this method will make it as tender, fluffy, and sweet as it is going to get:

      1. Measure rice and max amount of cooking water into pot.
      2. Put lid on and leave overnight.
      3. Cook the next day, for the max time listed on the package, with a bit of salt if you like. Use the “bring to a boil in the water, then cover, reduce heat, and cook without lifting the lid” method.

      Good with some sauteed onions, some mushrooms, a little salmon, any dark green vegetable, and/or a bowl of miso soup. It’s really, really filling, so go easy on the sides at first and go back for seconds if wanted. Also nice in chicken soup.

      Now, in my efforts to make our pasta meals less starchtastic without breaking the bank, I have discovered that replacing 1/4 of the regular pasta with whole wheat pasta will make any pasta dish more satisfying without changing the taste. I saw a technique for cooking brown and white rice in the same pot online, so I may try that to see if I can do the same thing with rice that I do with pasta.

      1. WIC doesn’t pay for white rice? That’s stupid. People should have the option to choose white. I mean, it’s not like it’s alcohol. It’s rice for crying out loud.

        1. WIC exists to guarantee that rapidly growing babies and small children, as well as pregnant and nursing women, get foods rich in the nutrients they need. WIC gives out what is basically a set of one-month coupons redeemable for one free ______, regardless of price, plus a small check that is earmarked for produce only. This is why WIC won’t pay for white rice. Brown rice, whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereal, oats, barley, etc., are much richer in the needed nutrients, even if they cost up to 10 times as much per serving as white rice. There are things WIC will allow me to get with those coupons that I can only afford on clearance if I am using household money, and other things that I just plain cannot buy anymore except on WIC.

          That said, because the WIC allowed foods list is a result of negotiation with the big food corporations, there are some baffling and frustrating aspects. For example, if I want to buy hot cereal, I can’t get chewy, rib-sticking, extra-nutritious steel-cut oats, much less groats; WIC only pays for instant oats. And of course there’s fat phobia. I am buying for a child over two, so I am not allowed to buy full-fat milk. Because he might getfatanddieeeeee.

  13. I was nodding through the whole article.

    I have been put off my exercise myself for the longest time this year and am slowly coming back to it now. I read several articles/blogs like yours and am forever grateful that they explained to me, why I suddenly couldn’t be bothered with salads and movement anymore…because they all told me “You need to do this because you are fat and thus unattractive”. What the actual fuck?

    I realized that while I loved the Bootcamp program we have in my town, I hated how they promoted it with weight loss only. How about “you’ll feel awesome, because you’ll be sore for a week, will have no more backpain, can train in a group with nice people, get to know new people” etc…nooo they only work the weight loss angle.

    Anyway, to close my rant: Thank you! Thank you so much! For writing awesome articles like this and for making us realize that movement does not need to have another purpose then actually being fun. For telling us that food does not need to serve another purpose but be delicious and make your body and soul feel good.

    Keep on rocking!

  14. I was hoping someone would bring up the biggest loser carrots. I had a mini freak out when I saw them. I ended up mumbling around the house , “Come on now folks, ‘Biggest loser baby carrots?’ Can we ease up on the marketing just a smidge? They’re baby carrots, the only brand at the store, I’m going to buy them, you don’t need to tell me they’re gluten-free, low fat, and vegan b/c, you know, THEY’RE GOD DAMNED CARROTS.”

  15. I tutor at a public grade school. We meet during the student’s lunch time so he brings his tray to our sessions. On the tray was a bag of baby carrots with “The Biggest Loser” endorsement! In a public school! I took photos (couldn’t get the bag) and sent them to Deb Lemire

  16. Thank you for this wonderful article. It stands to reason that we would have negative associations for certain food groups and even exercises, because of all the diet rhetoric we have heard throughout the years. I had not put it together though, until I read this article. Thank you so much! Because of my problems with my legs, I have had 3 operations per each knee because of a congenital condition with them dislocating. They still dislocate under certain conditions and I do have problems with movement. Your articles give me motivation to try new ways of moving. I had heard about water exercises and water aerobics, but because (for me) people always drew an association of those exercises with my weight, I resisted trying them. I felt angry that the emphasis was on my weight rather than my legs, and my body feeling the strength through lack of gravity, so that I could actually move. Now I see the resistance for what it is and am considering water aerobics. Thank you!

  17. What a dance we make to get back to just enjoying food and movement for what they are. Not only are these simple parts of life complicated by the diet rhetoric but by other issues as well. Exercise and movement are also filled with competition, being the best. How very difficult it is for me to not associate movement with weight loss attempts and winning.

  18. Dear Ragen, I haven’t said “thank you” lately – you give me a lift every time I read your blog! “Just eat a salad” reminds me of my first diet doctor. My mom’s dr. told her there was a “cure” for overweight kids – amphetamines! Yep, at the age of 12 I was given speed. The doctor’s comment from so long ago has stuck in my head – “If you are hungry, just drink water. You can fill up on anything.” Nutritional advice? You betcha! And many doctors are just that ignorant today about how the body works.

  19. My take on Food and Guilt is this:

    Food Is Not Allowed To Make Me Feel Guilty

    The only way I would ever allow food to make me feel guilty is if it was able to call the police on me. The REAL police, not the Food Police. 🙂 Have me arrested and hauled down to the station to have charges pressed against me. Have me thrown into the hoosegow. Then made to appear in court, complete with jail jumpsuit, in handcuffs, ankle, and belly chains, to answer those charges. Prosecuted me successfully as GUILTY in court, and finally have me sentenced to a Life Sentence in the State Pen. As food can do NONE of these things, I refuse to allow it to make me feel guilty. If the day came when food could do these thigns, then MAYBE then I’d let it make me be guilty.

    I tried to point this out when I still did WW . Typically, the uptight members of the Self Appointed Weight Watchers Enforcement Squad who are afflicted with Offensensitivity that infest the message boards at WW’s website got themselves into High Dudgeon over that. LOL 😀 I was told that if the food was Pot Brownies, then, well, a food could very well have me arrested,charged, proescuted. and jailed. Rigggggghht I said, the Pot Brownies can’t drop the dime!

  20. A friend just turned me onto your blog today and I wanted to say how much I LOVE IT! I love how you say what you say and how your mind works. I’m sharing your blog w/ everyone I know. THANK YOU for talking about the things that have been on my mind and giving me ideas of how to handle them as they come up in real life.

  21. Yeah, I am still getting over Diet-Induced Salad Aversion Syndrome (DISAS) after about two years of really actively embracing HAES and re-learning to eat what I actually want and like, when I want it, in the quantities that are are right for me at the time. And celery? Don’t make me go there. I still have Post-Traumatic Celery Disorder…

  22. Neither my son nor I can abide “lite” salad dressing. Son is average size on the slim side, and I’m Deathfatz. Either way, we refuse Diet Dressing. Give us the real thing, or don’t bother!
    I actually love salad, always have. If I throw in some grilled chicken and cheese cubes, it can be a meal.

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