Monday, December 22, 2008

Worst. Stocking stuffers. Ever.

by Chloe Angyal

I was doing some Christmas/Hanukkah/First Amendment-loving secular end-of-year celebration shopping this afternoon when I walked past a rack of novelty fridge magnets outside a store. Should any of you be considering entering the lucrative and glamourous novelty fridge magnet business, please take note. The following is not acceptable magnet material:

"DO NOT open fridge: you are on a diet"
"Lord, if I cannot be skinny, please let all my friends be fat"
"Take charge, don't be large"
"CAUTION: hungry dieter, may bite if provoked"

You know why a hungry dieter "may bite if provoked?" It's because dieting sucks. It sucks because it means being hungry, because it means adhering to unnecessary restrictions and most of all, it sucks because it doesn't work. And yes, a healthy diet (noun) is good - balance and vegetables and all that jazz. But these magnets are talking about dieting (verb), the process of eliminating certain foods from your life because they're "bad." But the verb kind of diet sucks because, and I'll keep saying it until people start listening, dieting doesn't work.

And yes, I know, we live in a culture where skinny women are considered more beautiful, even if they're so skinny that they lose the capacity to bear children. And yes, I know, it's in a person's best financial interest to "take charge" because large people earn less than slim people (although, one could argue that we should be working to change such inequities in society, instead of accepting them and working out to take advantage of them). And YES, I know it's not healthy to be obese. I know all that. But these magnets are not okay.

They're not okay for several reasons. The first is that they make the crappiest, most passive-aggressive stocking stuffers ever (keep that in mind, all you last-minute Christmas shoppers). The second reason is that they totally normalize dieting, and a state of mind in which the body is the enemy, against which we're expected to fight a constant battle with our main weapons being deprivation and control. Sounds like fun, right?
Also, merchandise like this is clearly aimed at women. Unlike men, women are expected to be in a constant state of dieting, as well as constantly keeping tabs on their friends' weight (remember ladies, if she's skinnier than you, she's a threat, so you should pray for all your friends to pork up). And seriously, what manufacturer made that throw pillow expecting a man to buy it? I'm not claiming that the pressure to diet and be slim only affects women, because obviously men are targeted by predatory weight loss programs too, but the idea that dieting is not just normal but what "good" women do, is ever present for us in a way that it isn't for men. As Equal Writes' own Jordan Kisner pointed out last month, dieting is so normalized for women that our own birthday cards tell us to do it.

So whether you're buying stocking stuffers, designing fridge magnets, or just being a decent human being, try to keep in mind that normalizing dieting behaviour like this, particularly among women, is not okay. Because dieting isn't normal: it's the number one cause of eating disorders, which I think we can agree are pretty damn abnormal, since they're psychological conditions. And it's also a really great waste of women's energy, keeping them preoccupied and miserable with their perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful, perfectly normal bodies - just imagine what we could do with all that mental energy.

And, in case you've forgotten between now and the second paragraph, it doesn't work.


At December 22, 2008 at 3:37 PM , Blogger Milly said...

There's something about magnets that seems to attract the most awful stereotyping. A few Christmas ago I was given a set, as a "fun" office gift, with not just diet but PMT based slogans. What a way to make a girl feel extra special.

At December 27, 2008 at 3:23 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...

So I was ruminating on this post while at christmas dinner and I wanted to gauge opinion on a thought I had.

While diets don't work, if you go through a couple of days of indulgence (as is all too easy during the holiday season), is taking a few days of sacrifice to get back to the weight you were before on the same plane as trying to lose weight in other parts of the year?

I was particularly thinking about college students (and other people in the same situation) that are seeing their family for the first time in months, even years sometimes. I'm pretty sure the last thing someone wants to do then is think about how much they should eat. I don't know, perhaps this kind of reasoning can just be used to justify fluctuating diets throughout the year, but, not to be shamelessly ad hoc, perhaps this is only acceptable during holidays centered around food, like Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever suits your religious fancy).

I'd love to hear what people have to say. Thanks for the ears.

Happy Holidays,


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