I was looking for The Fat Nutritionist’s definition of diet, since I’m pretty sure she said it more pithily than I could. I didn’t find it, but I did find this:

I am hungry, and my body is a much better estimator of calories and portion sizes and even balanced nutrition than my head, or anyone else’s, will ever be. I eat exactly what I’m hungry for, and I do this because I learned how — something that many people won’t ever learn, because that is exactly how fucked-up our culture is over food. If I overeat, it’s an occurrence relative only to myself, not to the thin person next to me. And if I eat more than someone else, say, more than someone thin, it is not because I am stupid and they aren’t, not because I don’t understand nutrition and they do, not because I’ve never been read the Riot Act Obesity Act, and certainly not because I am an immoral, no-good, greedy, wanton symbol of evil Western imperialism and overconsumption.

It is because I am hungry, and I know how to feed myself so that I am no longer hungry. It’s something no one else can do for me; I have to do it for myself. And I thank the good Lord every day that I can, and do.


When I say I don’t want to go on a diet…

When I say I don’t want to go on a diet, I don’t mean just that I don’t want to go on a 1200-calorie diet, or I don’t want to live on Slim Fast and salads with fat-free dressing. I don’t just mean that I don’t want to count calories, or carbs, or points. I don’t just mean that I don’t want to weigh and write down every bite I put in my mouth and step on the scale every day.

I don’t want to do any of those things, but that’s not all dieting is. Any change in eating habits with weight loss as its goal is a diet. And when I say I don’t want to diet, I mean I actually don’t want to diet.

I don’t want to stop eating when I’m still a little bit hungry, or look at the clock and question whether I really should be eating a snack a “mere” two hours after a meal, or whether I’ve exercised enough to earn it. I don’t want to take the skin off my chicken, or put salsa on my salad instead of dressing, or eat more broccoli when I really want pizza.

*Why* I don’t want to do these things is probably another post (or six). For the moment, I would just like people to believe that I know what it is they’re suggesting when they tell me I need to lose weight, and that I really have tried this stuff before. Since I was a teenager, in fact.

One of the effects of huge focus on weight loss as the magical answer to all things health-related is that the common definition of “dieting” has narrowed. Diets don’t work, but instead of admit that they don’t work, we change the term. Oh, those fifty million people didn’t lose weight because they weren’t committed enough. Or because they were following a “fad diet.” Or they didn’t exercise enough, or they ate the wrong kind of carbs.

The really convenient thing about defining diets this way is that you get to keep shifting the goal posts. Today’s “lifestyle change” becomes tomorrow’s “fad diet.” The fact that some people are genetically predisposed to be a certain size, not to mention the fact that dieting tends to make people fatter, suddenly becomes their fault for “doing it wrong.” And when today’s “right way” doesn’t work, just move the goalposts again.

So, when I say I don’t want to diet, I mean simply this:

I am not interested in pursuing weight loss as a goal. If it happens as a side-effect of exercising more or eating more homemade meals and less Chinese takeout, fine. But I am not undertaking any system of calorie restriction, no matter how prettily packaged, in the hopes of shrinking my body.

When I say I don’t want to go on a diet, I actually mean that I don’t want to go on a diet. And I’m not going to.

Names and Identity, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

In a nutshell, the issue with a woman taking a man’s name is the way it folds her identity into his. We’ve mostly gotten past the idea that women are the property of their father, until he hands them over to their husbands. (I say mostly because of the “giving away” tradition at weddings, and please don’t get me started on Purity Balls.) So, we should maybe *not* have the default be that her name reflects that handing over from one guy to another, with the idea that a woman’s only identity is in terms of the man she belongs to.

At the same time, your identity does change when you’re married, so having a name change reflect that isn’t wholly a bad thing. It’s just that the husband’s identity should, presumably, change too, rather than the wife’s identity just being subsumed. In the more or less egalitarian society we’re supposed to have, he’s made a major life change and commitment, not acquired a new piece of property. And yet, most of the time, the wife’s name is the one that changes.

There are times when one partner’s identity is subordinate to the other’s. Like, when I go to a work picnic with my hubby, I’m Mrs. Matt–anyone there who knows me knows me in relation to him. That’s not a bad thing. When he goes to my cousin’s wedding, he’s basically Mr. Kelly.* In that context, people know him in relation to me. And when we have kids, their friends and teachers will know us first and foremost as “Billy’s mom” or “Susie’s dad.” Identity is complicated and multifaceted, and the people you have connections to–particularly your spouse, the person you share your life with–do define facets of your identity.

Ideally, there’s a balance there. My identity isn’t wholly subordinate to Matt’s–there are times when my role is “Matt’s wife” and I’m in a certain place doing a certain thing to support him. And the reverse is also true. But for most people, the name change pretty much only works one way (though in fairness to Matt, I should point out that he offered to take my name if I wanted him to).

There’s really no way your name can incorporate every part of your identity, because no one has the time or inclination to string all the facets of identity into a person’s name. I can’t very well introduce myself as Kelly, daughter of M and C, wife of Matt, sister to A and sister-by-marriage** to D, M, and B, daughter-by-marriage** to T and K. And that’s just the close family portion of the identity. Start the whole thing off with a dozen key things about me, like where I’m from or where I live now, where I went to school, what I do for a living, or the fact that I’m a Christian or a writer or a sci-fi geek, and it gets supremely ridiculous.

And I don’t really expect that a name should encompass every piece of your identity. That’s not really what names are for. They’re there to give the people who know you something distinct to call you that’s unique, or close to it, in the circle of people they associate with, so they can distinguish you from everybody else. But how names are formed, and when and how they’re changed, does say something about what we define as distinguishing one person from another. And it’s problematic for the first thing that distinguishes one woman from another is “who her husband is.”

*I will say, by the way, that I love the trend among feminist bloggers who are married to casually refer to their spouses as Mr. [Theirbloghandle]. It’s so perfectly appropriate, because as their readers, we know about these husbands only in relation to the wives whose work we’re reading.

**If it were feasible to incorporate all your familial relationships into your name, I like “sister/daughter-by-marriage” better than “in-law” because it better conveys my relationship with my husband’s family, all of whom are awesome. “In-law” has a connotation of people who aren’t real family, but you’re legally stuck with because of who you or they married.