There is a dangerous virus going around the western world. It is unseen, unrecognized but can be lethal and crippling. People do not talk about it, it does not make the headlines like SARS or the recent MERS. It is not transferrable by sneezing or direct physical contact with the carrier and washing hands for 15 seconds does not help. It is far more dangerous. It does not necessarily kill people, but it robs them of their light and power. It makes them small and helpless. This mysterious virus spreads very quietly, but relentlessly through invisible channels of social interaction and media, subtle messages and images that we glimpse every day. Its name is chronic dieting. Maybe this is the first time you hear about it. I would not be surprised. This virus is so wickedly embedded in our culture that we eventually became insensitive to it. We are frogs in a pot of boiling water, we got warmed up so slowly and carefully that we did not notice we were being cooked.
The term “chronic dieting” was formed by Constance Rhodes, the author of the book “Life inside the thin cage”. She felt the need to name more specifically her condition that she suffered from for many years. She saw psychologists and they would label her with “eating disorder not otherwise specified”. Experts recognize the extremes of disordered eating, like anorexia and bulimia but anything in between is a grey area that is not considered serious enough.
Who is a chronic dieter? The definition is quite simple. It is a person who excessively worries about food and gaining weight. Chronic dieting can have many manifestations. Infected people can keep their viral beliefs totally private and not even their closest friends can sense that something is wrong. Yes, we all were on a diet at some point of our lives. I did too. Specifically it was South beach diet and I lost 9 pounds in 2 weeks. And I felt like I achieved something. I felt great. But then I went back to my natural eating, enjoying life and food. That is something that chronic dieters cannot do. They cannot go back. They get locked in the prison of thinness and desire for thinness. They get hooked on the toxic nutritional beliefs that food is the enemy, food makes them fat and that weight-loss is a mathematical equation of calories in and calories out and the grand toxic belief that ” I have to be thin to be lovable. ”
Especially women are susceptible to catch the virus. The statistics say that in the US 80 % of women have a distorted view of their bodies and 70 % of those women show signs of a subclinical eating disorder. College campuses are a fertile ground for growing this disorder. Young women that depend on their surrounding for validation soon discover that skinny means sexy and sexy is popular, admired and loved. Young women would do anything to get there, they would start controlling what they eat, skip meals, deprive themselves of food, they would create some kind of a crazy system of rewards and punishment, they would start calling themselves good girls or bad girls depending whether they were able to resist temptation of that chocolate cake or a donut just to find themselves occasionally losing control over their appetites and binging on the forbidden foods and then feeling like a failure, hating themselves, hating their bodies and their lives. When a girl gets into this cycle she is lost. Because chronic dieting never delivers its promise, on the opposite it damages metabolism and spirit and has many side effects.
Lets see how does this virus operate. Where does it affect us the most? It attacks our immune system. Our immunity against innate love of self. When a child is born it believes it is perfect. Small children do not care about their protruding bellies, high percentage of body fat, and chubby cheeks. They do not worry what others think about them when they scream for food or attention. They believe they are lovable just as they are. And we do love them, unconditionally. Parents do not tell a chubby child, “I will love you if you lose 10 pounds.” But adults do it to themselves. They put all these conditions to their self love: lose x number of pounds, have buns of steel and abs of rock, ….. (I bet you can fill up the blank with your own conditions of self love). That is because as soon as a child starts noticing its environment, is exposed to media and advertisement, becomes part of a social circle, and understands to a certain extend what is happening around it, it becomes very susceptible to catching the virus (and so much more if it is a girl). And the virus aims straight at the immune system. It makes the immunity turn against its owner. It makes self reject self. It operates in the body just as an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease of the soul.