Friday, March 14, 2008

Why continue to diet? continue...

Dieting as a Means of Change

Women's lives vary enormously. No two individuals have the same expectations, the same aspirations, the same struggles and the same problems. We all have different backgrounds, different histories and different futures. But we all have things in our lives that we would like to change. This need for change can vary from a niggling wish for a new washing machine to a desire to meet new people to a desperate yearning for a new and more challenging career. And most of us also want to change something about ourselves.

Below is a list of things that people often say about their lives and themselves. They are all to do with change. Some of these changes are more possible than others, some are dreams and others are goals. But they are all important factors in the way we perceive ourselves and our futures.

I wish. .. .

I were rich

I had more friends

I had someone to talk to I had a partner

I were loved

I did not have a partner I had a job

I had a better job

Diet Start

I were successful

I had somewhere nice to live I had more time to myself

I were more attractive I were more intelligent

People would notice me

My boss would appreciate me

I could stand up for myself I could control my anger

I were happier

I were more organised I were thinner

Some of these wishes are to do with changing what happens around us; some of them are to do with changing ourselves; and some of them are an interaction of the two. Most of them involve effort, help, support and a bit of luck to achieve; the rest may feel like impossibilities.

What has this got to do with dieting? Sometimes losing weight may seem to be the only thing in a woman's life which she feels capable of changing.

Imagine waking up on January 1st and deciding on your New Year's resolutions. You decide that this year:

1 I will get promoted.

2 I will find myself a nice new partner.

3 I will broaden my social circle.

4 I will be a nicer person.

5 I will lose weight.

These resolutions, like the wishes above, are all difficult to attain. And to an extent they may feel beyond your control. You might feel 'My boss decides if I get promoted or not' and 'I can't just decide to walk down the road and find a new partner'. But you may feel 'At least I can try and lose weight'.

Women live in a society which is still controlled by men. The average woman earns 63 per cent of the salary of the average man. Most top jobs are occupied by men; occupations such as teachers, nurses and secretaries are still predominantly female whereas lecturers, doctors and company managers are still predominantly male. Women have fewer options open to them. It is difficult to get promoted because it is still assumed that women will leave to have children, that women are not as dedicated to their work and that they are less capable.

As a result of this women feel that their lives are out of their control. They may make decisions about their futures and their lives but the realisation of these decisions is dependent upon society's response. Women may strive to fulfil their potential but are subjected to social norms and expectations which counteract their attempts.

In addition to these social barriers to self-fulfilment, women are not encouraged to understand where their potential lies. Nor are they expected to take control of their lives. Women's role has always been that of the passive receiver of whatever life might throw in their direction. Women are taught to accept and not to challenge whatever happens to them.

Ultimately women feel out of control of their lives.

And dieting offers a means at least to attempt to change something. It presents a way to regain control and to change one disagreeable aspect of life. We all have dreams and goals. If we cannot achieve most of them, at least we can try and change something: our weight.

Dieting Takes on a Life of its own

Dieting becomes a habit and offers change and because of this dieting also takes on a life of its own. Thinness offers success, love, control and stability, and dieting takes on all these qualities.

We believe that if we diet we will regain control over our lives. We feel that we are dieting for ourselves and that it is a way to create change when so many aspects of our lives feel unchangeable. A successful diet compensates for other areas in our lives in which success eludes us. And focusing on losing weight compensates for a life without focus.

Dieting is seen as a way to change not only your weight but also your life. Dieting becomes an end in itself rather than a means to an end. Although the initial aim may be to lose weight, the aim becomes to diet. Women continue to diet in the face of failure because even if there is no weight loss, dieting becomes a way of life and a goal within itself. And there is no final goal dictating how thin we should be. The aim is to be thinner. Everyone wants to be thinner. The process of getting thinner is what dieting is all about.

... andjoyohoxing