Dietary Injustice

I was sitting outside on a recent day and that was a treat. I rarely eat lunch anywhere but my desk, and even more rarely outside. I found myself a café, ate something, and then felt compelled to keep eating – not because I was hungry, but because I wanted that rare sunny time outside to last. This is a classic mistake; eating not because you are hungry, but because the food is in front of you, because you want time with friends to last, or because you want to enjoy a sunny day.

Posted on | Ramani Durvasula, PhD | Comments ()

I was sitting outside on a recent day and that was a treat. I rarely eat lunch anywhere but my desk, and even more rarely outside. I found myself a café, ate something, and then felt compelled to keep eating – not because I was hungry, but because I wanted that rare sunny time outside to last. This is a classic mistake; eating not because you are hungry, but because the food is in front of you, because you want time with friends to last, or because you want to enjoy a sunny day. 

I realized my mistake, threw the excess food away and embarked to find a place to sit outside without food present. I found a spot, and there I saw a young, relatively thin woman, with a large pizza in front of her. I assumed that other people were coming to meet her – and in the 20 minutes I sat there, one friend did join her, but he did not partake of the pizza. She however, did. She ate slowly and she didn’t appear out of control. She enjoyed her friend’s company. She even dipped each bite in ranch dressing. She ate at least half of the pizza herself (and they were large slices). And she appeared to be normal weight.

As I walked into the building for my appointment, I mulled over the dietary injustice of it all. In those 20 minutes, that young woman consumed a quantity of calories it would take me a day and a half to consume – and I struggle with my weight every day. Pizza is a rare treat, least of all dipped in dressing! Many people who struggle with weight and diet agonize over why some people can eat with abandon while they have to count every calorie, weigh every portion, sweat mercilessly and still see only minimal results.

While there is some truth to the math of it all – 3500 calories in a pound etc., some people do have an easier go of it – their bodies just handle it better.

Of course, we don’t know how that woman usually eats – maybe it was her birthday, maybe she had recently been sick, maybe 9 meals out of 10 she eats really healthy stuff and I caught her on an odd day. And maybe she does eat like that all the time and has cholesterol and other indicators that are in the unhealthy range.

That said, as I reflected on her pizza love-fest and my rather unsatisfying lettuce lunch, I recognized that each of us has a very different relationship with food. Yet most diet gurus, trainers, and other weight-loss mavens preach a one-size-fits-all strategy. There is a lot of “eat this not that”, exercise this way not that way, universal truths that are supposed to help all of us.

Just as there are individual differences in body shape, metabolism, taste preferences, food tolerances or height, there are also going to be different plans for different folks. And yes, it will be easier for some people than others.

Weight loss, like life, is a personal journey – my advice is that you start by writing down everything that hasn’t worked so you can sweep all that away, and come up with something that does work. 

Don’t let the injustice get you down – and make sure you find a diet and exercise plan that works for YOU. Don’t get mad about the folks who can eat anything, they have their demons too.

Blog written by Ramani Durvasula, PhD
Dr. Ramani Durvasula has over 15 years of teaching, clinical and research experience. After receiving her doctorate in clinical...