This post was originally a comment left on Mo's excellent pop-culture (as it relates to body image) blog, Big Fat Deal. I ended up waxing eloquent and feeling rather pleased with the result, so I decided to make it a post on my own blog. To remind myself that sometimes I can write, and it is funny. I just added this preamble to give due credit and linkage to my inspiration.
This article left a bad taste in my mouth. The information hidden in there is that the "non-dieting" group of women did actually change/improve their eating habits, and become more active, but they did not do it as part of "being on a diet". Also, they recieved counselling specifically geared to make them accepting of and happy with their own bodies, the "dieters" recieved support, but I can only assume that support focused mainly on the diet part, and not on supporting THEM and making them feel good about themselves.
So really I think it comes down to terminology. Arguing about terminology is, ultimately, not particularly useful to making us feel good about ourselves. We already know that thinking of it as "I'm on a diet" leads to also being "off" your diet, "breaking" your diet, and "failing" at your diet. In fact, I'm currently struggling with this very issue: trying not to beat myself up for not being on plan, while simultaneously working towards actually being on plan. All week.
I think that it's true that women who think of themselves as on a diet, or dieting, may tend towards the self-punishing techniques of trying to make themselves adhere to that diet. It's so easy to focus on the self denial and restraint part, because a lot of that is involved in changing your habits.
Healthy positive lifestyle changes and active choices are just much more FUN to do than self denial.
For example: eating a banana and a low fat yogurt because it makes your body feel good and energised instead of the short lived sugar rush of a banana split sundae...that's a positive being-nice-to-your-self behaviour.
Eating a banana and a low fat yogurt as a poor substitute for the banana split that you crave, because you're not allowed the sundae on your diet, and it would be bad for you and you'd feel like a big fat greedy cow for eating what you're not supposed to have...that's self punishing unhappy behaviour.
I think the word diet is a good one, but mostly in the context of phrases like "vegetarian diet", "organic diet", "balanced diet" or "my diet seems to contain an inordinate amount of liquorice and turmeric". We can make it a cage if we like, and lock ourselves inside it and be miserable, or we can think of it as merely a word that describes the combination of foodstuffs we use to fuel our day.
I've certainly found that starting to actively work on loosing weight and getting fitter has made me more self concious and critical about my appearance and fitness capabilities, because I'm paying attention now. It's hard to change your habits without becoming more self aware. It's hard to be self-aware without discovering a few things you're not very happy with, and wishing them gone, or different, or FIRMER.
Oh, and I also think claiming numbers as definitive as 90-95% is an immediate red flag, I want to know their margin of error on that number, not to mention how they define "success" and "failure". If you define failure as gaining back ANY weight whatsoever ever again...the only way to succeed is to go on the chainsaw diet and chop off you head, because you certainly won't gain back any of that pesky weight if you're dead!