We're Either Dieting Less or Lying About Our Diets More

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Jan. 10 2014 2:48 PM

We're Either Dieting Less or Lying About Our Diets More

454560127-vegetable-smoothies-stand-after-a-styling-at-salon-shan
In what world are vegetable smoothies not a diet food?

Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images for Shan Rahmikhan

Hey, guess what? Dieting is in decline. A new report by the market research firm NPD Group reveals that about one-fifth of people said they were on a diet at some point in 2012, down from more than 30 percent in 1991.

Is this because:

a) We have all miraculously obtained physical perfection and have no extra fat cells to melt off?
b) We have all miraculously achieved perfect body acceptance and have no further insecurities or dissatisfactions to melt off?
c) What shreds of willpower remained to us have finally blown away on the wind like hamburger smoke at a barbecue?
d) We’re all liars?
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Actually, fat acceptance may be a (tiny) part of it. In 2012, NPD says, about 23 percent of people reported that they find overweight bodies far less attractive than normal-weight ones, contrasted with 55 percent in 1985. The survey also implicates Option C, stating that up to 60 percent of Americans wish to slim down, even if they aren’t actively pursuing weight loss.

Of course, my money is on D. In this age of health, purity, and clean living, no one wants to admit to something as outré as a diet. We are all effortless Gwyneth Paltrows, not hapless Bridget Joneses! We follow our active, juice-loving instincts, and our bodies naturally conform to the radiant well-being of our souls. That’s why Marisa Meltzer can describe calorie counting, in Elle, as the “last feminist taboo”: Not only is it an unglamorous slog, but it telegraphs weakness—a appetitive susceptibility, a desire to “fit in.”  “Evolved girls simply don’t need to diet,” Meltzer insists:

The modern woman, after all, is that highly capable, have-it-all creature to whom career success, confidence, and effortless style—and, oh yeah, the yoga body and the eco-conscious, preservative-free diet—come naturally. She’s too damn smart and balanced to overeat in the first place. If anything, she’s already healthy and getting ever healthier. So juice fasts and Goop cleanses and barre classes? All fine as part of a vague ‘healthy lifestyle’ of ‘clean eating.’ Losing weight for your wedding day? Okay, you get a free pass on that one. But the daily slog of dieting—all that calorie counting and dessert skipping and 
cardio bingeing? That’s not at all chic.

But oh, dissembling ladies (and men) of America, we are onto you. We know what you’re up to when you order the organic sprout salad with dressing on the side, and it is not reconnecting with your Paleolithic ancestors. We know that the 60 minutes of cardio you do every morning does more than “clear your mind.” Your waistlines may be shrinking, but your noses are growing.

Katy Waldman is Slate’s words correspondent. 

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