The Dieting Life

I posted this over at Divine Caroline

Life Out of Balance

There’s no such thing as The Balanced Diet. I’m convinced it doesn’t exist.

The balanced, also known as “healthy,” diet is inescapable. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know what the balanced diet is: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, all with a soupçon of olive oil and a daily Omega 3 supplement. It’s essentially a low fat diet. Add to this “portion control” and you’ve got the balanced diet.

Women’s magazines are full of tips for creating the balanced diet for you and your family. There are whole magazines devoted to eating low fat eating. It’s light and “clean”—whatever that means. I’ve never seen a recipe or menu called “healthy” that didn’t also claim to be low in fat, even if it means making the portions the size of silver dollars.

This diet is the end all, be all for those looking to lose weight. It’s perfect. Except … There’s one little problem. It’s a small problem. Tiny really. And it just occurred to me after, what? Almost twenty years of dieting. The low fat diet is not a balanced diet. It’s just as unbalanced as the much maligned low carb diet. I know I’m going to have to explain this.

The low carb diet, as every dieter knows, doesn’t make any pretense of being balanced. It asks you—no, commands you—to give up bread, the staff of life itself. This diet is the one that elicits outrage from nutritionists and dieticians everywhere. Low carb diets, especially the fat-loving Atkins, are the bastard children of the diet world, considered illegitimate and unwelcome to the obesity epidemic. They argue, “Humans have been eating bread and rice and potatoes for millennia. How is it that all of a sudden they cause an epidemic of obesity? Carrots are a vegetable! It is not balanced. The French would never give up their bread.” You know something’s up when Americans use the French as an example of the way things ought to be.

But honestly, the same could be said for the low fat diet. It’s asking you to cut out fat, a whole category of food, one of three macronutrients. How is that balanced? “Humans have been eating fats of all kinds for millennia. How is it that all of a sudden they cause an epidemic of obesity? The French would never give up their fat.” Oh. The French again.

I don’t see the balance in either of these, and yet these seem to be my only two choices if I want to lose weight. So am I condemned to a life out of balance, giving up one thing or another, either choice dooming me to crazed cravings both physical and social, real and imaginary? The short answer: yes.

Welcome to The Dieting Life.

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December 14, 2008. Uncategorized.

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