Thursday, March 13, 2008

If I were thinner everything would be all right

Dieters diet to become thinner, and being thinner is seen as the way to make life better.

Thinness has many meanings beyond that of simply weighing less. On the following page is a questionnaire to identify what being thin means to you.

Circle the answer that best applies to you.

How often do you think, If I were thinner...

Score the questions by awarding yourself one point for each 'never', two points for each 'sometimes' and three points for each 'often', then add up all your scores. The highest score possible is thirty and the lowest is ten.

The questionnaire illustrates how important being thin is, and how many other changes you expect from thinness other than simply weighing less. A high score suggests that you expect many changes.

Diet Start

If you diet because you feel that being thin offers a solution to many of life's problems, then it is necessary to put being thin into perspective. If you think that being thinner will change your life, then challenge these thoughts.

This is difficult because the association between thinness and a good life is intrinsic to our perception of ourselves. However, with a degree of effort and dedication it is possible to realise how ridiculous this association is.

The following exercise aims to highlight how it is possible to dissociate thinness from all the other supposedly related qualities.

Think of all the things you, would be able to achieve or feel if you could weigh less. To do this, picture yourself as you are at the moment and then as you would be if you were thinner and try and evaluate what the difference would be. Make a list of these differences, and next to each item write down all the possible reasons why this may not be the case.

Overleaf is a list of some of the possible meanings of being thinner and a reason why thinness does not have to have this meaning.

Thinness and attractiveness

We believe that if only we were thinner we would be more attractive. But how thin do we have to be before suddenly becoming attractive? Most women who diet would be considered as thin by everyone else anyway. But they still feel that being thinner would be an advantage. Dieting makes you miserable, preoccupied with food and weight, feel a failure — none of which are attractive qualities. A failed dieter can feel useless and lacking in will-power. Attractiveness is about liking yourself and presenting a likeable person to the outside world. Dieting detracts, not adds, to your attractiveness.

If you do lose weight, will this make you more attractive? What weight will this be, or will you always feel that if only you could be that bit thinner you could be more attractive? Look at the people around you. Are the thinner people more attractive? Do your thinner friends feel more attractive? Attractiveness is about using your body in a positive way and it's about feeling confident with your body. Being thinner does not create this, but your attitude to yourself does.

Thinness and success

Seeing weight loss as the way to success is self-defeating. Trying to diet undermines any feelings of success because weight loss is so difficult. Dieting is associated with feelings of failure which generalise to other areas of your life. Feeling a failure is not the way to succeed. Constant attempts at dieting can contribute to low self-esteem which can actively prevent success. Why spend so much time trying to lose weight, and feeling bad when it does not happen? Success in dieting is very difficult, so why chose weight loss as the area for success?

And if you do lose weight, will you be more successful? Or will you simply be thinner?

Thinness and happiness

We are sold the message that thinness is happiness, so we try to become thin. Whatever size we are to start with we still want to be thinner. But getting thinner is difficult, it is depressing and can be a miserable way of life. If we never achieve the goal of gettingthinner, we are constantly disappointed and annoyed with ourselves. Being disappointed and annoyed is not the way to be happy. And even if we achieve the desired weight loss, thin people are no happier than their larger counterparts because thin people still want to be thinner.

Happiness is about liking ourselves and not being constantly critical. It is about feeling positive and in control and proud of what we have to offer. Dieting is about the opposite. Trying to be thin creates a state of constant self-criticism, it is a difficult task and generates a negative view of who we are at the present while focusing on who we could be in the elusive future.

Thinness and control

We believe that 'If only I could control my weight then I would be able to control my life'. But weight naturally controls itself and is regulated around a fairly stable set point. Dieting imposes an unnatural form of control upon something which is self- regulating. Constantly trying to eat less, sometimes succeeding and sometimes overeating, undermines this control and can leave the dieter less in control than she was before she started to diet. In the short term dieting may provide a structure, but in the long term constantly trying to limit your food intake can create chaos. And feeling out of control of your eating can generalise to other areas of your life. Trying to be thin can undermine, not add to, your sense of control.

So if we realise why we diet, and can find a substitute for dieting, we can stop dieting.

... andjoyohoxing