Dieting Is Not the Same Thing As Brushing Your Teeth

facepalmThere are some things I can’t believe I have to say, and it appears that this is one of them. Yesterday I blogged about how my life changed after I found out that research shows that, while most people can lose weight short term, most people gain it all back (with the majority gaining back more than they lost) in the long term. Nearly every time I bring this up, I get comments like the one I received this morning:

shower, brush teeth, diet

Pictures shows a comment by “Barry” that says:

So why bother with anything? Why shower? Why brush your teeth? Eventually they’ll get dirty again, might as well just give up right?

My first thought is that if someone really can’t tell the difference between showering, brushing their teeth, and trying to manipulate their body size in a way that the research shows is nearly impossible and may harm your long term health, then I recommend they go ahead and stop showering and brushing their teeth and see if that helps them figure it out.

Seriously though, one of the things that holds a toxic, and sometimes deadly diet culture in place is the fact that people think giving your body so little fuel that (you hope) it will eat itself and become smaller, is roughly the same as brushing your teeth. That’s the world that diet culture has built.

Dieting can be a physically brutal, emotionally difficult, and expensive process that is often undertaken by those who have been misinformed – typically by the people selling the diet – about it’s likelihood of success either at making them thinner or healthier (which are two separate things,) and/or those who are trying to find a way out from under the soul-crushing horror of weight-based shaming, stigmatizing, bullying, harassment, and oppression that exists in our culture.

If we are to give fat people their rights to basic human respect, if we are to have any hope of a productive discussion about public health, then we have to stop normalizing dieting to the point that people consider attempts to manipulate our body size to be the same as basic hygiene.


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18 thoughts on “Dieting Is Not the Same Thing As Brushing Your Teeth

  1. I read this story yesterday:

    The headline of the story calls the diet “terrifying”. What is the diet? Basically, it’s 1200 calories a day, and carefully monitoring everything she ate. She also says smoking cigarettes. Maybe that’s the part they were calling terrifying, but I’m guessing it was the combination. So this article seemed to imply that 1200 calories a day helped to make up a terrifying diet regimen.

    And yet for those of us who are obese, 1200 is often a GENEROUS allowance of calories if we are put on some sort of medically supervised diet. It’s a veritable feast for those who have undergone WLS, especially at the beginning.

    And people seem to think that hey, if you just had a little willpower, you could do it.

    It’s such a disconnect.

    1. The last diet I did before deciding never to do it again had me between 800-900 calories per day. 1200 would have felt like a splurge to that version of me.

    2. From the article:
      “Interestingly enough, even though Mila herself went to extreme lengths for Black Swan, she didn’t end up winning the 2011 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.”

      Possibly because the Golden Globes awards are awarded based on the actual on-screen performance, and not on the prep work it took to get there? Also possibly because someone in the throes of a serious diet is not able to FULLY give themselves over to the part. They are using way too much energy (mental as well as physical, and a lot of emotional, as well), to maintain the diet. Even if dieting was part of the character’s life, as well, it still gets in the way of acting, because there is more to playing the part than just saying, “she’s on a diet, too.” Acting is really hard work, and requires all your mental and emotional capacity, and if she’s busy starving herself, especially if such dieting is new to her (as she said in the article – apparently she’s naturally slender, but not “typical ballerina” slim), then she’s dividing her energies, and that will certainly affect her performance.

      Fortunately, she doesn’t care about awards, and just wants to enjoy the work and have fun. She sounds like a level-headed person, to me. I’m not into drinking, which she claimed to enjoy. But if we found another activity we both shared, I think I’d like hanging out with her.

      This, however, is another reason I think movie producers should cast people based on their current actual body type. Instead of putting a thin actor in a fat suit, hire a fat actor. Instead of putting an able-bodied person in a wheelchair, hire a wheelchair-bound actor. Instead of forcing an average-sized actor to crash diet for a part, hire a naturally thin actor.

      The only reason to have someone who is not already that physical type playing the role is if the character must be both types: both fat and thin, both able-bodied and disabled. Then, you hire someone who can transition with the aid of suits and CGI, and what-not. I mean, look at Captain America! What they did with that actor is AMAZING, but clearly possible. And it’s not as if there is such a limited supply of actors that they can’t find someone to really fit the role.

    3. The whole extremely low calorie diets that are recommended for “morbidly obese” people, with the caveat that they are ONLY healthy if you are “morbidly obese” is just so ridiculous and scary. It’s still hard to wrap my mind around medical professionals thinking my body somehow has such drastically different dietary and nutrient needs because of my BMI. As though at a certain weight we start manufacturing macro and micro nutrients without food? Nope. Not how fat bodies work actually!

  2. “we have to stop normalizing dieting to the point that people consider attempts to manipulate our body size to be the same as basic hygiene.”

    Sadly, I’m afraid we’re too late for a huge section of the population. So many people really DO believe that we (especially women, but people in general) are obligated to diet our entire lives, just as we are obligated to practice basic personal hygiene. Because body odor and halitosis disturb the people nearby, and apparently, fat does, too. Because you can smell it? Some people seem to think so. Fat and smelly seem to go together in their minds, and they truly believe that fat people are not clean, and literally are incapable of wiping, let alone washing, our bottoms.


  3. This article, about a woman basically destroying her hair, in order to fit into the straight-hair norm at her school just seems apropos, to me. In trying to change a part of her body to meet society’s expectations, she wound up destroying that part of her body, instead.

    Like dieting destroys our bodies.

    Interesting read, and another reason why we need to spread the word to love and accept our bodies, as they are naturally. That doesn’t mean we don’t wash (or moisturize!), but that we don’t try to fundamentally change our bodies.

    Even make-up should be something you only do if you enjoy it, and like the look, and not because you feel you HAVE to do it to please others.

  4. I’ve had conversations with people about the science of weight and how it’s not as easily manipulated as we’ve been told. Once you see the truth, it’s like living in bizarro land talking to people who still believe all of the nonsense. They really believe that losing weight is just diet and exercise and 60% of the population is failing at that. And it seems no matter how much scientific data you show them, they refuse to believe otherwise. This is an uphill battle but someday people will see the light. The sun doesn’t revolve around the earth anymore. 🙂

    1. Based on what I have read, they truly believe that the only or main way people get fat is due to eating too much.

      Many believe that the reason people don’t keep the weight off is because they gave up their diet and exercise regimen.

  5. My whole life has never revolved around brushing my teeth the way it has revolved around dieting when I used to. I don’t spend my whole day thinking about the need to brush my teeth the way I would think about the “need” to diet when I was on a diet. And of course the actual act of brushing my teeth takes far less time than measuring food, entering it into a database (or in the old days, righting it all down and doing the math by hand, looking up food without a label in a big calorie counting book), and spending time exercising and not enjoying it because it was all about burning calories, instead of enjoying the activity.
    And because of that I’ve never run into “teeth brushing fatigue” the way I have had diet fatigue that resulted in the yo-yo dieting.

    1. That’s kinda how I was when I went on my first diet at age 13 or 14.

      I obsessively counted every calorie by keeping track of what I ate in a food journal and exercised for, if I remember correctly, 45 minutes to an hour nearly every day. If I went on a vacation with my family and the hotel we were staying at did not have a gym, I would get upset.

      I don’t want to have to live the rest of my life in a state of near constant vigilance like that — it is just not sustainable mentally and very draining.

      I quite possibly could have developed an eating disorder.

      Meanwhile, my well-intentioned mother thinks that the old me was much better because at least I was slim, eating healthy and exercising. It has not even occurred to her that I could have developed an ED. Couple that with my depression and Asperger’s…

  6. Well, let’s see: When I had to quit brushing my teeth for about a week due to a horrific sore throat with hideous breath-stealing coughing waiting to happen, I felt awful. My breath stank, my teeth were furry, my gums felt sore.

    When I quit dieting, I felt a heavy burden lift. The background noise of nonstop anxiety about food…stopped. “Trigger foods” started to go stale in my cupboard. And I wasn’t hungry anymore!

    Yeah, sure, exactly the same.

  7. Can I just say how infuriating I find it when the decision to stop treating your body like an enemy is described as “giving up.” If you’re harming yourself (by dieting even though it’s clear that it’s more likely to produce negative results), then giving that up is a positive and brave thing. When we hear that a friend has finally given up booze or heroin, we don’t say “Fine, be a quitter!” Sadly, the desire to be thin (with all that entails) can become just as addictive, and just as important to escape.

  8. Random thought time (possible trigger warnings follow): Does anyone else think they have less of a right, if only a little, to do certain things or have certain feelings because they are fat?

    I’ll use myself as an example. One thing that really irks me is when dogs beg. My boyfriend has a chihuahua that has slowly learned to not bother me when I’m eating because begging doesn’t work with me. Before, however, it would jump on the couch, plant its booty at my feet under the table, stare and claw bare skin for attention. He also has a much larger dog that, when it was able to walk (it is old and has DM), once waltzed up to me and put its snout within inches of my meal.

    I just feel like my boundaries are being violated when stuff like this happens, and maybe I am “mean” for making them go away, but don’t think I am.

    Now, it’s not overwhelming by any means, but I slightly feel like I may be viewed as a so-called “typical greedy fat person” because I refuse to share with the dog. A thin person, however, may not be viewed in such a way — not to the same extent, at least, though I could be wrong.

    My man has not said anything and actually prefers I don’t feed it but an ex “jokingly” made comments.

    When we’d grab a bite to eat, his then-friend’s dog was sometimes with us because we were at the park beforehand. He’d pressure me to share, and I was hungry, so I refused. I don’t mind sharing my food with certain people but dogs? Yes. Yes, I mind.

    He also “jokingly” made fatphobic comments concerning large women and food that I don’t think I’m allowed to mention here.

  9. When I saw the headline, I thought it was going to be about “healthy habits”. People always talk about healthy habits and use brushing your teeth as an example – “You just need to get in the habit of exercising! Every day, like brushing your teeth!” Now, I am all in favor of healthy habits, which are a lot more likely to lead to health than having to make a million small healthy decisions each day, but can we not pretend that something that requires energy and an hour of time and usually some sort of equipment/place to do it is the same as something that can be done in 3 minutes for cheap, anywhere with a faucet?

  10. What is dieting? It’s deprivation. It’s the opposite of natural self-nurturement. The feeling of deprivation is an horrid thing. Would a kind and thoughtful person wish that upon snyone else? I don’t think so. Trolls tend to be neither kind nor thoughtful. And although I lack formal training, I’ll suggest that the lack of empathy and a conscience are a portion of the definition of sociopathy.

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