Friday, November 12, 2010

Embracing the Anti-Diet in a Thin-Starved Society

Some of the names of people interviewed have been changed at their request. These changes are indicated by the asterisk (*) symbol.

In North America, the diet industry –everything from weight loss programs, books and videos to prepackaged meals, supplements and diet pills – rakes in billions of dollars a year. Corporations have made a lucrative business of packaging and selling the idea that everybody can be skinny to our thin-starved society.

However, the problem with diets and the diet industry, says Maya Radunz, fourth year Human Nutritional Sciences student at the University of Manitoba, is that they don’t work. Not for the long term anyway.

“Losing weight is short term, nothing has been proven to work long term,” said Radunz. “The majority of those (weight loss) programs, people do lose weight on, but they gain it all back because they teach eating behaviors that are not long term behaviors. You can’t always be dieting or tell yourself ‘I’m never going to eat white bread.’ That’s ridiculous, because yes you will, eventually you will.”

Radunz says that instead of focusing on diets and weight loss, people need to change their school of thought when it comes to eating and consider that being healthy isn’t restricted to any one size. Being skinny, she says, is not necessarily an indication that someone is healthy.

“A preoccupation with weight and food is dangerous because it can be a prelude to an eating disorder,” said Radunz. “Society needs to stop thinking that everybody can lose weight, because they can’t. Some people are just bigger, and that’s OK.”

For Grace Macatangay, 27, being bigger wasn’t OK.

The five-foot-two casino security manager said that she was depressed at 155 pounds.

“I thought, I’d like to be more cut,” said Macatangay. “So I ate less carbs and worked out for four hours a day for three months. It was a passion, I was dedicated to it.”

Macatangay admits that she never gave up any particular kind of food, but she did limit her portions of certain types of foods like bread and pasta. She credits her rigorous workout routine, which she still does on a lesser scale, for her 15 pound weight loss.

“It was a lifestyle change, not a diet,” she says. “I still work out four times a week and eat whatever I want. Being healthy is very important to me.”

Kate Greg*, 26, a self described “foodie,” has been on the Weight Watchers program, on and off, for a couple of years.

“Out of all the programs out there, I do believe that Weight Watchers works,” says Greg. “At one point I lost 25 pounds, and then I had a cheat day, which led to another and another…”

Greg admits that she is self conscious about her weight to the point that she sometimes cries.

“I think that the worst thing, in the end, is my self esteem. Yesterday my boyfriend, Jeremy*, had to listen to me cry for half an hour because I couldn’t find anything to wear that looked nice on me,” said Greg. “You can tell I am having a bad day when I wear baggy clothes.”

Radunz says stories like Greg’s are far too common.

“People need to start enjoying food and just listening to their bodies,” she said. “And that will come with size acceptance.”


Dr. Linda Bacon, a biology professor at San Francisco’s City College explains the theory of “health at every size” that Radunz refers to in the article, on her website:

Radunz also uses information gathered from Dr. Michael LeBow’s Dieter’s Snake Pit, -- This theory is confirmed at the end of the story when the second woman admits that she cries about not looking or feeling good about herself.

During our interview, Radunz sourced both authors, and even brought copies of these books (as well as numerous nutrition journals) to our sitting.


  1. What a great Article! I watched a movie called Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts and it was great because it shows how twisted we North Americans think life should be.

    Everywhere else in the world (well almost) people are more concerned with general well being and emotional happiness than do I look like Jen Aniston etc.

    I have read some books from guru's to the dalai lama and it seems to me that most people who dont live in North America are more concerned with connections to God,The Universe,or the world around them and less with the stupid shit we north americans worry about.

  2. Great article. I've been struggling with my weight issues all my life. Everytime I went on a diet I lost some weight, then gained it all back and more. I remember eating iceberg lettuce dipped in mustard for lunch day after day in high school. I went to high school before the advent of calorie reduced or fat-free condaments...and mustard was the only 'free' food on my diet at the time. Finally, decades later, after years of being either totally on or totally off a diet, and after hitting close to 300 pounds, I finally decided to never diet again, but to just eat healthy. I dropped 60-70 pounds and have kept it off for 5-6 years..I feel better, and it was such a relief not to think of food in such stark terms as 'good or bad.' My only regret is that it took me so long to come to terms with my relationship with food and that I was such a bad example for my children when they were growing up.

  3. Women's Health Clinic

    419 Graham Ave, unit A
    #947 3844

    They have 2 dietitians that are weight neutral and counsel accordingly.