Are you familiar with the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? It is a satirical, Christian novel that takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon (Screwtape) to his young nephew and protégé about all the tricky ways it to screw up the lives of humans through temptations, etc.
I thought it might be interesting to look at a personified Diet in a similar way. You don’t have to be religious to be able to imagine a villain named Diet with a capital D. You can envision the Joker from Batman or any sinister bait-and-switcher. What would Diet write to humans and what would the behind-the-scenes thinking be? Here’s what I imagine…
Dear Eater,I noticed you were looking at yourself in the mirror yesterday and reprimanded yourself. Makes sense to me. After all your neighbor has 3 kids and her clothing size hasn’t changed. So clearly you’re going downhill. It’s okay sweetie, I can save you.Love, Diet(This is perfect! The worse the self-criticism, the more comparing to others she does, the more she will lean on me and feel dependent on me. I will promise her an amazing body, perfect health and even though I’m impossible to live with, she will blame herself…muahahaha. Job security rocks.)Dear Eater,I noticed you enjoy that sandwich on two thick slices of white bread. Don’t you know enjoyment is dangerous? You can’t trust yourself. Food is your achilles heel. You need ME to show you how to do it right.Love, Diet(This is working great. Now she has to feel bad and try “harder” tomorrow. Maybe I can convince her to only eat a salad to make up for it at dinner. Poor woman, she has no idea of the binge coming her way after a too-light meal that leaves her craving. But it works out great for me because that means she’ll come crying back to me later).Dear Eater,I noticed you plow through your day completely ignoring your hunger. I bet you felt powerful. Only weak people cave to their stomachs. You can eat when you get home, besides you haven’t been able to see your abs in a few years. You can spare the calories.
(Oh my this is almost too easy. Hard workers are the best. Pretty soon he won’t have any idea of what normal hunger and fullness feel like. He’ll be bouncing between too-busy-to-eat and stuffed. And he’ll think it’s because he has no self-control…HAHA! Then he’ll come running to me to tell him what to eat. I think I’ll suggest carbs are the problem next time. Or maybe sugar. That one is so fun to play Keep-Away with. And it will make him feel so virtuous at parties.)
Don’t be fooled, Diet does NOT love you. If these letters from Diet give you an icky feeling of manipulation, that’s what diets do, and why the diet industry thrives on repeat business. You aren’t failing your diet, Diet fails you. Every. Single. Time.
Diet, may not be an actual entity, with purpose and intent behind the harm it causes, but I hope these examples help you see more clearly the way diets and a dieting mindset can so easily prey upon our insecurities and amplify them. Diets promise the impossible and leave us high and dry.
Diets push us to give up our autonomy and self-trust and instead dissociate ourselves from our amazing internal regulatory skills. Some skills may have gotten buried or rusty, but skills aren’t immutable traits. They can be improved and polished so you are empowered to be your own food guide and not rely on any diet to tell you what or how much to eat. Next time “Diet” writes you a “letter” — burn it! Even better check out the lovely letters from “Food” on the fabulous “Love, Food Podcast” with my dietitian colleague, Julie Duffy Dillon. You’ll get a dose of compassion for yourself and feel empowered in your ability to do well with eating. Because you really can.
If you’re ready to get off the diet roller coaster and learn more joyful and realistic ways to take care of yourself with good nutrition, schedule a 15 minute FREE discovery call with me: Click here