Believe me, I’ve done my share of dieting …er …making quiet, healthy lifestyle changes to get to an ideal weight. Just kidding, I definitely spent a few months in high school living mostly on Handi Snacks Cheese and Crackers, granola bars and Pepsi ONE. I dunno, it worked. When you diet as a teenager there are some strict rules. They go like this:
-Do not acknowledge that you are a little bit fat. You don’t want to draw attention to your fatness.
-Don’t talk about your relationship with food. You will draw attention to how much you do/ do not eat.
-Don’t diet by eating healthy food. This will look suspicious. Also, teenage boys don’t like girls that eat salads.
-The more weight you lose, the more you need to appear as if it effortlessly falls off and that you do indeed eat a massive amount of junk food. (You can’t do the junk food eating thing while you are still fat though.)
-When people compliment your figure, look genuinely shocked and say you need to lose 3 pounds.
Basically, dieting like a teenager means super-secretively eating like a crazy person while being insanely self-conscious. It’s annoying. If you are still doing this as a grown-up, you did not get the memo that there is a better way. Here’s how it goes in the adult world:
–You can admit that you are a little fat. By now you should realize that you can be a little fat and people will still like you. Isn’t that great? Unlike a teenage girl though, you do not need to call yourself fat frequently and at awkward times. That’s called fishing for compliments, and people will not like you anymore.
–You can solicit help and encouragement from your friends. Unlike high school, they will not sabotage you by trying to get you to eat a mini candy bar every time they do so that you all go down together.
–Exercise! I don’t know if this was just me but in high school I never thought of all of my activity as exercise because so much of it was mandatory. Run the mile! Do some athletic extra-curricular activity! Walk home every day! As an adult you actually have to seek that activity out, and because you initiated it out of care for your own-wellbeing, it becomes rewarding. It also helps you be less fat.
–Drink less or at least smarter. Booze is a variable thrown into adult life that did not cross my mind often as a teenager, although I realize I might have been more innocent than most. If you are an adult trying to de-fatify yourself you have to booze less because booze has calories and make you snacky. (In college I was convinced that booze did not have calories and I never really gained weight. College is not real life.) My co-worker is on Weight Watchers and realized sadly one day that consuming 4 beers at a beer fest was a whole day of points. How’s that for an adult reality? Deal with our world, emo teens. So you have to drink less or at least just drink vodka sodas.
–Be honest. There is a scene on Skins where Cassie shows Sid how she pretends to eat at meals by 1) moving food around on her plate 2) feeding it to whoever she is with 3) talking so much that people don’t know she’s eating. As an adult, you can just say something like, “I am not finishing this because I am trying to lose weight.” Boom. That easy.
I realize that dieting doesn’t need to be a sensitive issue, but it definitely is in our culture. Shit’s fucked up. Girls can be competitive and manipulative. Boys will bully you one year and sexually harass you the next. Find a girl who has not internalized destructive attitudes toward eating and you’ve found a liar. But it’s not just weird for girls either. Guys don’t get the same tip-toed sensitivity to their body issues – people will just straight up call them fat, and I can’t believe that it doesn’t hurt them almost as much. I’m just writing this because it’s impressed me how much easier all this stuff gets once you get out of that hell hole called high school. Take a breath of relief and like yourself just a little more.