Monday, January 25, 2021

The War of Extremes

October 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Dieting

I fear that extremist are taking over the world. No, no, I’m not talking about a terrorist cell or religious fundamentalists. I’m talking about extremes in the health, wellness and media world.

Whether it’s a local paper portraying a few pound gain on an actress as the worst natural disaster since hurricane Katrina or the fat acceptance movement toting that no women should ever diet, ever. I feel as if we are all stuck in the middle.

Let’s put all the BMI charts and scales aside for a minute, shall we? I’m not going to get into a numbers game. I want us, instead, to use a little common sense. Don’t you think it is extreme to…

  • think everyone can be the same size or even have the same body shape.
  • categorize a healthy, active person as obese just because of a number.
  • assume that every dieter is trying to reach some unrealistic number on the scale.
  • believe all thin people just have “high metabolisms.”
  • starve yourself for the sake of fitting into a specific size.

As we navigate these and a host of other extremes I fear we are losing site of what is really important. It doesn’t really matter what size you wear or how much you weigh down to the quarter pound.

What really matters, to me at least, is living a healthy, balanced life.

*Cue lecture on what the definition of healthy is.*

Another argument I’m not interested in getting into. Welcome to the second battle in the war of extremes. The healthy diet battle. From no carbs to no fat to free for all eating. I fear we are stuck in the middle here too. Don’t you think it is extreme to…

  • exclude all fat because it will make you fat.
  • believe you can eat whatever you want whenever you want without concern for your health.
  • never eat a carb again.
  • deny that the food you eat plays an important role in you overall health.
  • think eating a cookie “breaks” your diet.

Let’s get back to this idea of common sense. Not many people will argue that a diet full of fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains is good for us. And that getting up and moving around now and again is in our best interest. Does this mean you can never eat a scoop of ice cream or hit a fast food chain again?


Remember we are not extremist! We are a group of common sense folks who try to lead an overall healthy lifestyle while maintaining a healthy, for our size, weight. We believe in moderation and we know that no food is off limits but some should definitely be eaten more or less than others.

Finally, we believe that all people regardless of their body size have the right to live the life they want. There is no perfect diet, there is no perfect lifestyle. There is simply a common sense approach to your own personal health and wellness.

Anyone with me? Am I fighting this extremist battle alone?



No Responses to “The War of Extremes”
  1. missyrayn says:


    I like cheese too much to give it up just because too much of it will “make me fat.” I want to be healthy. And honestly my body size, shape, etc is not the perfect one but it is good and it is healthy. I’m healthier now than I was at a higher weight that may be healthy for someone else and that is okay.

    And I like to exercise. It’s good for me. And I am one of those crazies who run for fun but I like it. I don’t feel forced. If someone else likes to dance around naked in their living room for exercise that’s their choice.

    Enjoy your life but take care of it so it lasts longer. Just be happy to be you!

  2. lissa10279 says:

    Love, love, love this post, Roni. As someone who has struggled in the past with borderline orthorexia, I now realize just how scary and mentally dangerous an extreme it is.

    Common sense–amen! πŸ™‚

  3. Lori says:

    Thanks for this.

  4. Candice says:

    Love it. I wish common sense were more common. LOL

  5. Joy Manning says:

    I completely agree that all the extremes you mention can have a negative impact on those who live by them.

    I am strongly in the anti-diet camp, but I think the word the diet means different things to different people. Some would say that I am on a “restricted diet” because I don’t eat processed food or fast food. But it’s not that I want those things and don’t allow myself to eat them; I have learned a lot of their affects on our health and the planet and that makes me avoid them. Overtime that stuff has become unpalatable to me.

    I would say I eat whatever I want. Some people have said to me, “Oh, if I ate whatever I wanted I would be 500 pounds!” I think this is because a lot of people compulsively overeat. Unlike anorexics who compulsively undereat, compulsive overeaters have few options for treats and nothing in the way of social support. Overeating is a method of stress management just like running, bulimia, cutting yourself, sex addiction, watching TV, drinking both moderately and to excess. But no one looks much different as a result of watching too much TV–so those people escape the scorn that ultimately makes the problem worse.

    I understand this because I grew up in an environment where compulsive overeating was completely normalized. Holidays, pizza night, out to dinner–everyone ate until they were in pain. One of the biggest insights to my health I’ve ever had is that eating shouldn’t hurt.

    This is my point: I believe no one should diet. I also believe that everyone should quit processed foods and work on overeating if that’s an issue for them. Some people might call that a diet, but that’s not what “diet” means to me.

    I guess I think if we were a little more extreme about the wholesomeness and quality of our food in general, if you went the the supermarket and there were no boxes or freezer case or soft drink aisle, a lot of people’s weight issue would cease to be an issue, provided the addressed any compulsive overeating they might do.

    • greenbunny78 says:

      I very much agree! And I don’t understand why it is that people assume that eating what you want to eat automatically means over-indulging! My goal is to eat healthy- we eat a lot of veggies and fruit in our house, lots of whole grains. But if I want a cookie, then I am HAVING a cookie- or a piece of cake, or ice cream- whatever. And having that cookie or whatever is not the same as BINGING on that cookie or whatever.

      I think health is about learning your body- knowing what you TRULY can and cannot do, and being a bit intuitive with your food. Not making lists of “forbidden foods” that should fill you with shame for having. The problem, though, like so many things that are better for us, is its not a simple, quick fix, and we, as a society, don’t really like to take the time to do things the right way. We want them NOW. Which I guess is another extreem.

  6. Joy Manning says:


    “compulsive overeaters have few options for treats and nothing in the way of social support”

    That should say few options for treatment. We all have plenty of options for treats.

    • mamaV says:

      Hi Joy! I wanted to direct you to the comment I just made below, because I am sure you are much more educated than I on the topic of “natural vs processed foods,” and I am thinking you will have a lot to lend to the convo.

  7. Cynthia says:

    Getting up and shouting Hallelujah!

  8. Forestroad says:

    This is where I fall right now, but it’s changing:

    I think that if people choose to diet/lifestyle change/whatever, they should go into it with their eyes wide open. I believe that lifestyle changes only work for a small number of people. I don’t know whether it worked for me; I am focusing on healthy habits now and I may maintain this weight, I may not. If I gain weight again, I am going to try to break the yo-yo cycle (which I believe is worse than being fat) by fully adopting HAES.

    Some fat people are unhealthy. I think HAES is a better treatment option than a diet. I also think that that HAES can look a lot like a “lifestyle change”, and it depends on how much the person practicing it can decouple weight loss from health and have it not be a primary goal. If HAES doesn’t work, I’m really not qualified to say if a diet is good medical advice for someone.

    I don’t think it’s the public’s business to try to make everyone skinnier. Just about everyone has habits that cost the public money, and everyone pays for services they are never going to use with their tax dollars, and while it’s a good thing to promote healthy habits, it’s a bad policy to scapegoat fat people for health care’s fiscal situation.

    As always, very interesting to read everyone’s opinions πŸ™‚

    • greenbunny78 says:

      I agree! I also don’t know that much has changed with an adaptation of a healthy lifestyle- other than the fact that I feel great! And I am trying to teach myself to be ok with that- after years of disordered eating and hating and loathing my body, I am trying to say “ok, self, you do all of these things, so if you are not the size you were when starving, maybe this size is just your size, and that’s ok.” Its kind of a hard road, but more beneficial to me that focusing on any numbers.

  9. greenbunny78 says:

    great post Roni! I muse about this all the time!

  10. mamaV says:

    I had a major rude awakening a few months ago on how totally extreme and false our sense of “diet” and “healthy” foods are in this culture.

    My family has been going through a major transition on our daily “diet” due to my husbands recent health problems (we had a major scare a few months ago that scared the living crap out of both of us, which I will get into at some point, but I am not quite ready to at the moment).

    This health scare lead me to start reading, reading, reading and I was shocked– and I mean completely shocked — at how much I did not know about some of the foods we eat. We talk about “processed foods” but do we really know what that means and why it matters?

    I didn’t, but I do now and it is very, very scary to me — and I believe processed foods, specifically those with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), are one of the main culprit for obesity (ie its in everything –even beyond the obvious including wheat breads, Nutra-Grain bars, “whole wheat” cereals, yogurt, you name it — check your labels now) This is a HUGE topic for another day (I am sure Joy Manning has a lot to say on this topic as well), but for now I’ll stick to the point.

    I believe our extremes have lead us to this false sense of what is good for us and what is normal for us.

    Case in point; prior to my family health scare I would say we followed what we thought was a “natural/organic” lifestyle, with a healthy share of candy and fun stuff on the side πŸ˜‰

    As I discovered, many of the foods I thought were “natural” are far from it. And there are TON of foods that I never even knew existed — ever heard of quinoa, amareth, spelt, kamut, and millet? Maybe heard of them but have no idea where to buy them or how to cook them?

    Turns out the rest of the civilized world knows of these wonderful grains and flours, but Americans? Nah — we’ll just keep shoveling in loads of crap into our bodies. Why? Because we allow our learning about food to come from companies that are in it for the $$$$$. Plus, the truly healthy stuff is so dang expensive the average family can not afford it (I mean, what mom out there can afford to buy their family organic fruit bars at 5 bucks a pop?)

    Well, at the place my family is in life, we can’t afford NOT to afford it, so we have found ways to get all the REAL healthy stuff in our grocery cart, while we start skimming out the fake, chemical based, processed buckets of lard we had been consuming.

    I literally feel like we have been conned! Do you?

    • cggirl says:

      Hm actually that sounds a bit extreme to me too πŸ™‚

      I mean, we go around scaring ourselves silly about the dangers of our supermarkets. Meanwhile, people today do live longer, healthier lives than ever before according to what I’ve read. Not that I’m an expert. Bit could it be we just point the finger at “evil” foods because we want to believe we have total control over our health when really we don’t?

      Not that I’m sayin that’s what you’re doing, I don’t know your specific situation, but as a culture I think we do that.

    • NewMe says:


      There’s nothing like a health scare to freak you out. I don’t know what happened to your husband and I respect your interest in eating more healthily, but I have to agree with cggirl. Methinks I hear a bit of orthorexia creeping in there.

      The standard North American diet could do with a lot of tweeking (or maybe a major overhaul), but I, for one, am not going to go bananas and throw away the one jar of Nutella we buy a year, or the odd loaf of French bread we enjoy at the supper table.

      Americans tend to jump on bandwagons and go all out. I think that’s the point of Roni’s post, which I agree with entirely. After trying out a number of cockamamy “diets”, including cutting out all sugar, wheat products, Brussels sprouts (for pity’s sake!), tomatoes, not mixing carbs and proteins and the beat goes on…I’ve come to intuitive eating. I read labels, try to avoid high sodium foods, foods that rely on HFCS etc., but mostly I try to chill out rather than freak out about the (for the most part) healthy food that I eat.

      Just my humble opinion.

    • julie says:

      I think you’re climbing up the wrong tree by being so very afraid of HFCS. The problem with this sugar is that it tends to be in processed foods, and replacing HFCS with sucrose won’t help you much. Better to avoid those foods for the most part if you’re looking for a healthier, less processed diet. And as for fruit bars, whatever they are, costing $5/pop, that’s still sugary processed food. At my farmers market, fruit is not so expensive. Those grains are available in natural food store, and I eat them as cereal and other uses. Natural doesn’t have to mean the same processed sugary stuff made from better ingredients, it can also mean less processed, good food.

    • greenbunny78 says:

      its pretty insane all the thing HFCS is tossed into in the states! That said, I also think it is in our nature to take the “easy” way out, and believe health claims without checking their validity, or thinking about what is being said. But really, mama v- your money would be better spent on plain ole fruit than $5 fruit BARS- which are a processed food.

      I HAVE to check labels. I have a kid with an egg allergy, and its SHOCKING how much egg is added to EVERYTHING. I end up making nearly everything myself. But I respect that not everyone has the time/inclination to do so. I enjoy it, thought, and by making it myself, I know EXACTLY what we are eating.

  11. cggirl says:

    “believe you can eat whatever you want whenever you want without concern for your health.”

    well, you CAN. Wheter it is advisable is another question altogether.

  12. wriggles says:

    I’ll tell you the form of extremism I dislike intensely, that of being overwhelmed with a need to make false equivalency.

    Fat acceptance is not extreme because it suits your argument for it to be pigeonholed as such.

    I’m also none to impressed when anyone comes out with the innately superior wisdom of the middle ground line, no side or ‘ground’ has all the answers. I find a lot of ‘middle grounders’ are no less extreme or narrow minded, than anyone else, not least because they are soo convinced that all wisdom resides them.

    There’s a difference between an extreme personality or approach and an extreme philosophy.

    It is dieting that is extreme -what is a more extreme way of gaining nourishment, drip feeding ? The fact that it has been so normalised makes everything else seem extreme in comparison. Which has been the aim of those who tout it.

    If I believed fat acceptance was extreme, I’d say so, and punch the air, it isn’t. It seems to be to be all together too conventional, frankly, a lot of it’s so called extreme positions come from dieting lore. You forget most of us were dieters for years.

    As for common sense, it’s often wrong, that’s one of the reasons we have science.

    In many ways ,dieting is common sense in that calories in calories out is logical, it makes sense, it feels true and is easy to understand. That doesn’t make it any less dysfunctional.

    If people wish to diet, that’s got to be up to them, I wish any of them the best of luck, I hope they get want they want, I truly do, I just know that it’s unlikely.

    Acknowledging that is not an act of hate. No more war thanks, the obese one is making us battle fatigued we don’t wish to have yet another one declared on us if you don’t mind.

    • greenbunny78 says:

      I don’t think the problem is that calories in equals calories out is a dysfunctional idea. I think the problem is we are surrounded by an excess of food, and our daily lives just don’t contain the activity levels that they used to.

      I have trouble with fat acceptance because I feel like it just tosses personal responsibility out the window. If you ever talk to women/men totally enmeshed in anorexia or bulimia- they LOVE to play the victim. Its so frustrating. Because, yes, it IS a disease. But at some point, a level of personal responsibility NEEDS to kick in. You reach a point where you realize in order to get better, you have to accept that the power to change it is YOURS and not on other people. Its up to YOU to break the cycle, and make choices. And I don’t feel that its any different for someone who uses food as their coping mechanism- whether or not they want to call it an eating disorder.

      The pro-ana movement wants people to accept that anorexia is simply their choice. So, should that be just fine, too? When I was anorexic, I wished that it was socially acceptable to refuse food in social situations by saying “no thanks, I don’t eat that, I’m anorexic”. I NOW realize how truly messed up that is, and I am glad I am not in that place anymore. But I see fat acceptance as being something similar- if on the opposite end of the spectrum. And I get that in our fucked up world its more acceptable to be anorexic than to be fat. But they still are the same thing, and I personally have trouble with people playing the victim in their own tragedies, when they are the ones with the power to change it.

      • Synna says:

        Fat acceptace is not a mental illness

        Anorexia is.

      • vitty10 says:

        It’s not fair to compare anorexia/ bulimia with fat acceptance. Being fat is not a disease.

        There are many reasons why some people are fat and some are thin, and it doesn’t always have to do with food and exercise.

        All I am asking as a fat acceptance advocate is to not be treated like a second-class citizen because I am fat.

        I don’t think it’s extreme to question weight-loss dieting, a practice with such a dismal success rate. It there was a 95-98% chance of my next flight crashing I certainly wouldn’t get on the plane.

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