Unsolicited Advice

January 22, 2015

I feel like I’ve written this before, at least mentioned it in passing, but this is so closely related to my resolution to not take health advice, or diet advice, from people who don’t carry degrees from accredited bodies and I have been so annoyed with this kind of thing lately that I am writing about it again.  Like everything else in this space, this is my opinion. I’m sure that there are people who love being told that they are eating the wrong things by everyone they know, who may even enjoy having friends slap food out of their hands or shame them for their choices, but I am not one of those people.

This may be because, for a long time, anything I heard about food sounded shameful.  (That’s how eating disorders work.) A year and half ago someone sarcastically commented on a salad I had packed for lunch with, “Big enough salad?” and I hear it in the back of my head EVERY TIME I pack a salad now.  What I wanted to say was, “Why, yes, this box of lettuce nearly the size of your back end!” What I should have said was, “Why do you care?” Because having an opinion, or (why, god, why) voicing an opinion about what someone is eating is a kind of back seat driving that can do damage for a lifetime.

Here’s the thing, I have tried almost all of the diets in my nearly 37 years:  from macrobiotic to low carb to nutrisystem to weight watchers to cabbage soup to lemon water to bulimia.  That last one isn’t a marketed diet but, let’s face it, it’s something a lot of people try their hand at. (HAHA, HAND! I kill it with the eating disorder jokes.)

At my biggest I was an unhealthy size 22.  At my smallest I was an unhealthy size 4.  I have, since December of 2010, managed to reach and maintain a pretty healthy size.  I have bounced between a a couple of sizes during that time, but I have remained active and continue to make good choices about food 90% of the time, and have no remotely approached a size 22 again.

In that time I’ve also moved twice and been surrounded with an entirely new group of people who never saw me at size 22.  And, maybe it’s worse right now because everyone I know is trying to lose holiday weight, or on a cleanse post New Year’s Eve indulgence, but people are constantly offering advice to me.  And, god help me, if I’m trying to focus on getting back to the lower end of my personally acceptable sizes and they notice?  It is relentless and if they see me eating something that they think is inappropriate they will go so far as to admonish me.

Listen up, and listen now:  I do not take dietary admonishment or advice from my own mother. I am not taking it from you, rando-person who has never had a weight issue or studied human anatomy.  And no, that super interesting article you read on paleo dot whatever about how quinoa is going to kill us all, or that spot on Dr. Oz you watched telling you that cranberry capsules would let you drop 5lbs a week is not a legitimate resource.  You can, sit right down and shut right up, because if you haven’t ever had more than 10 pounds to lose you honestly don’t understand what life is like on this side of weight maintenance. I actually don’t even want advice from other people who have had a weight issues because we have some of the worst habits and weirdest foibles.

All of that said – if you find that cutting out all grains works for you, you go to town.  You have a problem controlling yourself around sugar?  Even fruit?  That’s what works for you?  That’s your body and your diet and I’m not here to tell you to stop.  You want to eat bacon at every meal and drop all carbs?  You do you.  Ultimately you control what is going into your body, you know what you and your doctor look at after your annual physical and blood work, and it is none of my business.  I know that fad dieting doesn’t work for me long term I have proven that over and over. It’s not sustainable for me, and I don’t need it to be. I need a balanced diet that I like, can follow easily while living my actual life and I’ll be just fine.

It’s been almost 5 years since I dropped 70lbs and, sure, around the holidays I might gain a few and drop them again, but I have mostly kept it off. So, think before you speak about food, diet and exercise to people.  Unless they specifically ask, don’t offer advice.  When they ask, make sure you’re paying attention to the question being asked and that you’re actually answering the question they are asking. Don’t offer color commentary on the things you see people eating. It sounds easy, but it’s actually pretty difficult.

If you’re desperate to be supportive offer to eat lunch where someone is comfortable eating.  If someone starts a new workout class, offer to join them. Don’t push, don’t pull, be supportive and let that person lead themselves, it’s the only way to make lasting change.

p.s. The sentence “I just don’t understand how X let themselves get like that” is something only an asshole would say.  Think about it. You only say that to someone other than the person you’re talking about. A. That means you’re gossiping. B. It is mean spirited and you don’t know their story, so check yourself. (This applies to so many, many things.)


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