All of us, whether we are for or against diet culture, exist on a spectrum between Dietland and Donutland.
Dietland is the world where you are consumed with food and dieting. You obsessively count calories or points or don’t eat certain types of food because they are “bad” and you weigh yourself constantly. People who say no to food, even (or especially) when hungry are praised for their “willpower.”
On the other side of the spectrum is Donutland. This is where the rebels live. The ones who actively reject the rigid rules of Dietland. While Dietland is low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb, Donutland is high-fat, high-sugar, high-carb. It’s rainbow sprinkles and chocolate cake and pints of full-fat ice cream, none of that Halo Top shit trying to pass for dessert.
The thing about Donutland, though, is that for some of us, if we spend too long there we start to miss Dietland. We start to miss having rules to follow with regard to food. So, we find ourselves dieting again. But then, like last time, the rules feel stifling and oppressive and we go back to Donutland.
And the binge / restrict cycle continues.
Remember, I said Dietland and Donutland exist on a spectrum. Between them is a third D – Discernment. Here, we can apply lessons from both sides of the spectrum and instead of living in one extreme or the other, we can find a happy middle ground that leaves us feeling satisfied mentally and physically.
Most of the time, I do a good job living in Discernment. I celebrate food like I did in Donutland, where nothing is off limits. But, I also discover, hey, I actually like salads and chicken and broccoli if made with good ingredients. I eat it because it’s delicious, not because I’m “supposed” to.
When people are hesitant to leave Dietland and say goodbye to diet culture, the one argument against jumping ship is the idea that if they don’t have restrictive rules to follow, they will just eat everything in sight.
As someone who left Dietland three years ago, that can happen. And, as someone who left Dietland three years ago, it turns out that even after you’ve been living pretty happily in Discernment for awhile, you can unknowingly slip back into Donutland without realizing it.
Which is what happened over the weekend. Sunday, specifically, when I spent several hours that morning meal prepping for the week. I think I spent an hour alone chopping vegetables for a variety of meals I decided to make ahead of time so then I can just pop them in the oven when ready.
It got me thinking because I don’t remember the last time I meal prepped. Not even to this extent, of premaking so many dinners, but just in general. When I lived in Dietland, I meal prepped like it was my job. I had everything figured out days in advance and would plug them into my various Apps, be it Weight Watchers or MyFitnessPal the day before, because I already knew what I was going to be eating.
Lately, though, I realized I hadn’t put any thought into what I was eating. I just sort of, well, ate. Without thinking. Which sometimes meant eating things I probably didn’t really want but, because I hadn’t meal prepped, they were easy and within reach. I’m not going to say I ate bad foods because, again, that’s not a thing. But I definitely did not eat nutritious foods. I basically ate a lot of things that just didn’t make me feel good. I kept wondering why I’ve been feeling so lethargic and moody lately, and then looked back over some of my food choices. (Let’s just say it involved a lot of chicken nuggets and either Kraft Mac n Cheese or Velveeta Shells and Cheese. And let’s also say that I saw the “servings in box” as more of a suggestion. Which, again, is not bad but my body doesn’t always respond well to so many carbs.)
Some people choose to live in Donutland all the time and that’s totally okay, but I know that for me I feel better when I live in Discernment. And I haven’t been there lately, and while, y’know, popping over to Donutland for a weekend every now and again is fine, but this long-term temporary visit is effecting more than just what I put on my plate.
So right now I’m trying to claw my way back to Discernment. Not Dietland, never Dietland, but that may mean perhaps applying some old rules from Dietland so at least I have something to guide me along the way. If nothing else, at least this week I have some really good dinners planned.