Dear Diet Industry: I’m Breaking up with You.

Via Sara Lovelace
on May 9, 2013
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Dear Diet Industry,

I’m breaking up with you.

After almost three decades of togetherness, I’ve decided to go it alone. I need to find out who I am without you, maybe recover a few pieces of the person I was before we met. This is going to be hard for you to hear, but I know the last thing you’d want, Diet Industry, is for me to sugarcoat it.

I remember the day we met. It was the early 80s. I was a spunky six-year-old girl with pigtails, a foul mouth and a penchant for pink Sassoon jeans. My mother stood over a slow-cooker filled with cabbage soup. For over a week, the house was rank with the smell of it—like being trapped in a gym bag with last week’s moist sweat-socks.

It was my mother who introduced me to you over her fourth cup of cabbage soup that day. When I asked her the reason for the smell, for the lack of food in the house, for the constant cup of piping hot roughage in her hand, she explained that she wanted to lose a few pounds. This was what she called a diet, a miraculously simple way to lose weight. All you had to do was starve and stay away from any possibly tempting or edible food and release so much awful smelling gas that you end up on the EPA’s most wanted list.

It wasn’t my mother’s intention to make me fall in love with you. She didn’t have to.

It seemed that all the women in my life were in love with you, too. Jane Fonda on every morning talk show with her legwarmers and shellacked hair. My ballet teacher, who spoke often of watching our little figures. My grandmother, who never finished a family meal without apologizing out loud for having eaten the entire contents of her plate. My lands, I shouldn’t have done that. I’m going to pay tomorrow!

And then there were the after-school specials, so many of them about the delicate, beautiful, overachieving anorexic girl. I suppose these specials were designed to warn young girls about you, about how dangerous you could be, which only made you sexier, more tempting. You were the rebel, the Heathcliff or Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street. I was, even then, stubborn to a fault. You saw me coming from a mile away.

We flirted for a few years, but the summer between fifth and sixth grade was, truly, our summer of love. I wasn’t fat or even chunky, but the peace-altering process of puberty was in full swing. My body was getting round in awkward places, and changing almost by the day. I didn’t know what was happening to me, exactly, though I’d been told by my mother and had spent many months at the public library, sneaking glances of a well-worn copy of The Joy of Sex. I really only knew one thing: I had no ability to stop this terrifying shift.

Well, until you.

It wasn’t that you could stop it entirely, but you seemed to have more control than I did. You offered me chalky, low-calorie shakes and miniscule candy bars that tasted like cardboard. You had videos and television shows and every other article in People magazine was about you. You were everywhere, a constant friend and lover. You made me feel powerful—like I could stop this malignant body of mine from growing.

This first flush lasted maybe a year. For that year, you were everything. You made me feel whole and sated. After a while though, I wanted more. I felt suffocated and controlled and would walk by the downtown bakery window very slowly. I’d ogle cookies in the grocery store and fiendishly watch Jacques Pépin on PBS with drool running down my face.

This is when you introduced me to pills—Dexatrims, remember? I spent sixth and seventh grade sweating through my New Kids on the Block t-shirts. I spoke fast, I wrote fast, and I got through a silver punch-packet of pills fast. You had me on speed, something I wasn’t fully aware of. The fact that I, an 11-year-old, could purchase them myself at the local pharmacy gave them an air of safety and effectiveness.

You were certainly happy to have me back—protruding hipbones and all.

It didn’t matter that I was on an emotional roller-coaster and doing tremendous damage to my body, a fact that became terribly clear

Then I began having outrageous panic attacks in the car on the way to school and breakdowns in the bathroom at Tastee Freeze after having three bowls of mint chocolate ice cream in a row. It didn’t matter to you, but it mattered to me; so we took another break.

We continued like this for the next 20 years—breaking up, getting back together, breaking up, getting back together. We would do this 50, 60 times a day. I would swear I wouldn’t go back, then I’d find myself drinking a Diet Coke for lunch and dinner. I’d starve for a day or two, then find myself eating an entire cookie sheet of biscuits. You’d tell me that I was getting fat, that I needed to take control and order some product or another for five installments of $25. To use my damn willpower. You’d bully me and ruin Christmas dinners. This only furthered my resolve to eat until I burst. To rebel outrageously.

Then came the other great love of my life: yoga.

I have to admit, Diet Industry, we were at a really good place when I started cheating on you with that Anusara class out in the sticks. You had me down to a size 4, the utopian end of the jean rack. I was eating almost nothing and spending every bit of free time at the gym. I would run mile after mile thinking of how pleased you’d be. It was actually you that told me to go to that yoga class in the hope that I might lose even more weight.

How naïve you were! You practically threw us together, me and yoga. Yoga loved me—it told me that I was, simply and without reservations, divine. It told me that my physical body was strong, flexible, and capable of standing on my head the way I used to as a girl. Yoga gave me moments of delight at the very fact of being alive. My body became a receptacle for something more than bitterness and ravenous hunger. I was, and still am, filled up with joy.

Where yoga gave me love and compassion, you gave me fear and self-hatred. When yoga gave me a community, you isolated me and left me terrified of dinner parties and potlucks. When yoga told me that I should channel my focus and dedication to promote good in the world, you told me to use it to torture and destroy myself. I gave you everything, and in return you gave me sugar-free pudding.

Don’t call or write or try to re-friend me on Facebook. You’ve been blocked. When I see you on the cover of magazines with a new trick, I will promptly turn away. When I see you on a CNN segment, looking all gussied up with your new pills, I will change the channel. I’ll avoid your section of the grocery store and head straight to produce, to real food with real taste that’s real good.

Leave my friends alone, too. Even though things are over between us, don’t think you can fuck with my friends. I know that you’ve messed around with them before, but I’m calling a stop to it. Don’t come around my friends or family, and Shiva help you if you lay one hand on my goddaughter. I’ve gotten a lot stronger since you faded from my life. Don’t make me prove it to you.

I know that you’ve been out and about with actresses a lot, lately. Last week I heard that you forced actress Jessica Alba into a double-corset to get rid of her post-baby weight. How bold and 17th century of you. How sad and painful for her. I suppose you’ll always find someone you can dominate and enslave.

Diet Industry, that someone is no longer me.



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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Sara Lovelace

Sara Lovelace is a yogini, writer, filmmaker, and fearless fool. She received her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and her certification at the Satchidananda Ashram, VA. You can contact her at [email protected]


11 Responses to “Dear Diet Industry: I’m Breaking up with You.”

  1. andieth says:

    love and amen!

  2. gregcatcat says:

    The message here is good, but I wonder how actually fat people feel about going to yoga class? In the various huge mass John Friend vids from yoga conferences I've seen, there haven't been many if any fatties among the sleek, Lululemon'ed mob of women visible. After I quit smoking many years ago, I ballooned up from about 165# to almost 250#. Yoga didn't help much, but at least I'm back down to about 200# now, years and years later. This writer has good things to say, but she was a size 4 when she started Anusara, the feel-good yoga? Not too bad, although I hear that size 0 is the new size 2. Yes, diets suck, diets are bad, but eating well–not too much fat, sugar, or refined carbs, and more fruits and veggies and unrefined foods–seems to be the key.

  3. Preach! I too have broken up with the diet industry. I’m in a long term stable relationship with peanut butter now!

  4. sara lovelace says:

    Dear Gregcatcat,
    I understand what you are saying. It can be hard to go to a yoga class when you are heavy. I've been obese, thin, and everything in-between. I've done yoga throughout all of those changes. I've been the heaviest girl in the class more times than I can count. I've had to look for the right studio and teachers, but I've always found a place that made me feel alive and safe. Yoga has been my best friend through thick and thin! I also eat a very healthy diet of real food. The article was a jab at the diet industry, not healthful eating. Thanks for the feedback and point well-made!

  5. Yoga has been really important to my recovery from addiction, sustainable eating, and coming to love and appreciate my body. Not so much because its good exercise (although it is), but because its enabled me to developed an embodied spiritual practice. For my yoga teacher, Julian Walker, creating a sacred space means leaving body judgments at the door. The proof is in the diversity of bodies that show up every week to practice together. Men and women, very old and young, very thin and fat. In our community there are a half dozen regulars who most would consider "obese" but, in our community, we are fellow journeyers.

  6. Isa Dias says:

    Great article Sara, I'm sure that a lot of people share you sentiment. I'm glad that you got the strength to move past this self destruction. The diet industry is a billion dollar industry and these images that we're bombarded with in the media have affected many people and brought them down a path of self destruction but the reality is that it only has power over you if you allow it to. Ultimately yoga has taught me that I'm more than just a body and the yoga poses are really just an extension of myself, but its much more profound than that. That being said it is important to respect and treat our bodies well as it is the vehicle that we are blessed with to experience this world. Yoga and other forms of exercise both mental and physical are important to our wellbeing. Proper nourishment, eating clean and adding supplements like fish oil etc help strengthen not only the body but also keeps the mind sharp.

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  8. amphibi1yogini says:

    Dear Diet Industry–

    You mostly sold me diet books because I could not afford to join Weight Watchers. You had shoved low-fat down my throat, and I could never keep the weight off for any appreciable length of time (I never, ever felt full; but I always had a 3-alarm hunger except for within an hour after I'd eaten) …

    Maybe I'm built differently (heredity), but I'd had cholesterol readings through the roof despite "low fat", so I'd gone on statin drugs at a relatively young age … Less than two decades later: hello, diabetes type 2.

    I am too old to be doing it now with utmost safety, probably; but I don't care at this point. (Reason = Lifestyle).

    I became another low-carb dieter–with some calorie restriction. No need to join a gym. No need for diet pills. Hunger kept in reasonable check. Not looking for sexy muscles, but with waning strength, I'll take anything at this point–even more of the same (need my bulky quads back, for starters). Not a marathoner. I mostly dance and do pilates. That's it.

    I feel a blog coming on ….

  9. @chicksinger says:

    this is one of the best posts I have read…what a great tho't breaking up with dieting! truly struck a chord with me…

  10. inspiredBYyou says:

    Thanks, thanks for sharing this inspiring and so nice article. More than the message you sent, the fun "format" you chose to tell this story was amazing. Congrats fot the writing, congrats for you search in finding your beauty and inner love <3

  11. SaiTaarn says:

    This article makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Thank you for opening the door for me:)