Use The Force (to destroy Diet Culture)

Ray Beam Mindset 27 Comments

When I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I left the theatre feeling like glitter had exploded inside of me. A powerful, child-like awe had consumed me with a single, joyous determination: “I want to be like Rey when I grow up!” This must have been how a whole generation of kids felt when they saw Luke Skywalker on the silver screen in 1977.

Unfortunately, I am technically already an adult. Also unfortunately, I live in the “real world.” That doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people are going to connect to Rey and Luke’s stories. Who doesn’t want to feel like they have unlocked something inside themselves that makes them stronger?

While I can’t guarantee you a lightsaber battle any time soon, I can tell you that there is a power in you that can be unlocked.

The Sith, the Jedi… Let it all die

You’re probably thinking that this just took a very dark turn. ‘Ray’s quoting Kylo Ren, maybe it’s time to back away slowly.’

I promise you, I’m going somewhere with this. Caution: spoilers for The Last Jedi below.

The Last Jedi, a subject of massive fan controversy, takes a new stance on the old Light-Dark dichotomy. Early in Rey’s training, Luke tells her that The Force does not belong to The Jedi or the Sith. It is the energy that connects the universe and will continue to exist without these groups.

Light and Dark are not actually the division. The Jedi and the Sith are, and The Force exists independently of them. Weirdly enough, this got me thinking about diet culture.

First off, what is Diet Culture?

There is no official working definition of diet culture. Generally, it’s applied to a world obsessed with dividing food into “good” and “bad” and applying morality to these foods. Diet culture preys on people’s insecurities. Companies often use it to sell useless supplements that promise miraculous results.

It is undeniable that excess adipose tissue (colloquially “body fat”) poses risk to the human body. While there is a range of tissue that is both beneficial and essential to human life, adipose both above and below these levels are dangerous to human health.

Recent research shows that excess adipose leads to chronic, low-grade inflammation which can decrease cognitive function  and increase risk for cancer (sourcesource, source, source).

It’s understandable that there is a societal push to lower body fat. But, diet culture breeds gurus and experts whose extremism is detrimental to living a healthy lifestyle. For our purposes, these are our Jedi Masters.

Meet the Jedi Order

Cucumber Skywalker

Cucumber Skywalker

This Jedi has an obsession with “Eating Clean” or some other sort of fad diet that creates a list of foods you should eat and foods you shouldn’t eat. His mentality puts you in a mindset of guilt or shame; that you’ve “cheated” by having a single piece of chocolate and ruined everything.

Cucumber’s attitude applies morality to food groups, and ignores the main factor in maintaining, gaining, or losing body weight which is energy balance. Obviously, certain foods have more vitamins and minerals than others, but that does not make them morally better. Food is fuel and fun, and enjoying treats in moderation doesn’t make you a bad person.

Obi-Wan Cleanse-obi

Obi-wan Cleanse-obi

This master is a bit more insidious and predatory because it’s got a goal — $$$. If you want a quick fix, Cleanse-obi has got it. Whether it’s wraps or pills, shakes or slimming tea, it promises too-good-to-be-true results, which is exactly what they are.

Our culture thrives on instant gratification – how many of you got Amazon Prime for the free two-day shipping? Not judging, I’m a sucker for that day-after-tomorrow delivery. I’ve gotten so many dejected looks from people when I tell them my fifty-pound weight loss came from time and effort. (I’m not certain how they’re surprised. It’s mostly coworkers I see regularly. They know how long it’s taken me.)

But take heart, it means you don’t have to spend a dime to take steps to make yourself healthier. That power is in you.

Master Yoga

Master Yoga

This Jedi is one of the most pervasive myths there is — the notion that the trick to a healthy body composition is hours and hours of boring, monotonous cardio. It conjures up images from Fifteen Million Merits of people grinding away on exercise bikes, pedaling and pedaling and going nowhere.

Exercise is amazing and even a few minutes a day will improve pretty much every area of your life. (Humans did not evolve to be desk jockeys.) But when it comes to maintaining a healthy body composition, energy balance is key. You can’t outrun your fork.

The most important thing when it comes to exercise is to find something you love to do, and that you can do consistently.

And, just as Luke unleashed Kylo Ren, these Jedi have unleashed their own Sith.

Diet culture tends to breed a mentality of never being good enough, of failure and unhappiness with our bodies. In reaction, there has been a massive push towards body-positivity, the idea that we should love and care for our bodies with all their flaws.

Don’t get me wrong, here. Self-love and self-care are massively important to our psychological well-being. But there is a very scary movement that has been born out of this. One that is built around the scientifically false idea that there is no health risk to obesity. As mentioned above, both having too little and too much adipose are risky and the effects of low body fat are much more immediate due to various deficiencies and malnutrition.

However, having excess body fat has more in common with smoking when it comes to health risks. You don’t smoke one cigarette and end up with emphysema. It’s the same with obesity – the major problems don’t turn up for several years. Yet, this group is out there trying to insist the problems will never show up. These are our Sith Lords

Meet the Sith Lords

Darth You’re-going-to-gain-it-Maul-back

Darth You're-going-to-gain-it-Maul-back

I’ve seen a lot of numbers thrown around, the most common is that 95% of diets fail and so long-term weight loss is impossible. (This insidious little myth is not true at all.) The problem here is that we’re talking about different definitions of the word “diet.”

Merriam-Webster actually has 4 definitions of the word. Sith Lords are focused more on the last two:

c : the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason ·was put on a low-sodium diet

d : a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight ·going on a diet

When we talk about diet here at Triple S we refer to the first two:

a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed ·a vegetarian diet

b : habitual nourishment ·links between diet and disease

So, what’s the difference? “A Diet” taken as a temporary measure is never going to produce lasting results. Why? Because our bodies are reflections of our lifestyles.

If you have every intention of going back to your old habits, you will go back to your old body. That’s why you need to focus on “your diet.” What are you eating every week? Every month? People who make these kind of slow-but-steady, long-term changes are proven to keep the weight off. (The National Weight Control Registry has shown 87% of people maintained a 10% reduction for 10 years.)

Darth HAES-der

Darth HAES-der

This is the most sinister of Sith Lords in my opinion, because it has the potential to be something truly meaningful and instead is something deeply dangerous. HAES stands for Health At Every Size, a social movement based on self-acceptance and rejection of dieting. If you’re talking about inconsistent fad diets, I’m all on board for it!

The problem is, this Sith Lord also tries to convince you of anti-vaxxer level pseudo-science that is downright harmful. Darth HAES-der insists that obesity does not cause any health problems, even though there are well-documented links with:

While it is possible to be young and carrying excess weight and not have any of these conditions yet, the risk factor is still there. Health is an investment. No matter what your passion or purpose is, it can only be enhanced with a healthy lifestyle.

Kylo Zen

Kylo Zen

This is an idealistic, overzealous Sith Lord, closely linked to Darth HAES-der. Kylo Zen is drawn to the self-love and body-acceptance that the Sith Lords promise. There’s great appeal in wanting to feel perfect the way you are.

The problem with Kylo Zen is that it equates loving yourself with refusing to change yourself and vice versa. Not only that, but if you are trying to change yourself, KZ insists you are doing harm to other people. Much like Cucumber applied morality to food, Zen applies morality to the intentions of others.

If you are trying to get lean, Zen insists you’re shaming others for not being lean themselves.

The truth is, Kylo Zen is usually hurting quite a bit. For all the talk of self-love and not wanting to change, there’s a lot of insecurity beneath the surface. Still, maybe it’s not too late to change?

Again, what does any of this have to do with diet culture and fitness?

Much like The Force does not belong to the Sith or the Jedi, health and wellness do not belong to any particular group.

There is a balance to be had — nutritious foods with treats, exercise with rest, self-love with self-improvement. None of these things are mutually exclusive.

Let go of the notions of a perfect Instagram-worthy health-style. Reject the idea that changing things you don’t like about yourself means you hate yourself. Forget needing fancy workout clothes from Lululemon or a budget-blasting gym membership. Throw away body hatred and remember you’re doing this because you love your body and you want it to be the best version of itself.

The Key to Fitness is The FORCE

F – Food is fuel.

Whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or maintain eat for your goals. Focus on filling foods that are high in protein and fiber and nutrients. While energy balance is key, you have a lot of flexibility within those boundaries. Eat for what makes you feel energized and ready to take on the world.

O – Observe Your Progress

The scale is only one of many ways to see changes. Take photos, take measurements, see how your clothes fit. Track trends over time, because daily fluctuations are incredibly common. Try to divorce yourself from adding too much meaning to those numbers.

R – Realistic Expectations

When trying to lose fat, you can expect about a 0.5-1% reduction a week. This is about 1-2 lbs for most people. Of course it’s not the 30 lbs in 10 days fad diets like to claim, but much like the tortoise and the hare slow and steady wins the race.

C – Consistency is Key

One slice of pizza is not going to destroy all of your progress, just like one salad won’t undo months of eating junk. It’s not what we do every once in a while that determines our health, it’s what we do consistently. Build healthy habits, one at a time. Start small and you’d be amazed at what can happen.

E – Exercise for enjoyment.

There’s no need to spend hours grinding away on a treadmill, unless you actually like it. Find a workout routine that you like — maybe it’s a bootcamp class, maybe it’s a dance video online, maybe it’s going out and hiking in the woods. Whatever you choose, go out and get those endorphins!

Now, I’m not going to leave you hanging. Here are two awesome Star Wars inspired workouts for you to try!

Check out the Star Wars Jedi Training 101 from Nerd Fitness and the total body, bodyweight-only Jedi Workout from Darebee!

What is your experience with these Jedi Masters and Sith Lords? Have you found your balance in The Force? Let me know in the comments!

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      Thanks! Geeky things are my passion, but I rarely see the crossover of geeks who like fitness. So I’m working on trying to bridge that.

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  1. I love this post! For the first time ever my new health journey is about understanding the root of the problem and understand what foods will nourish me for the right reasons. You need to sell a poster size of The Key of Fitness. I need it for my fridge 🙂

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      I’m so excited for you! Food is so psychological too. I’ve struggled with eating as a coping mechanism to deal with depression and anxiety and I’ve been learning to replace it with healthier habits.

  2. I will never look at food the same way again. I also sadly have not watched the last Star Wars movie. Dare I say yet because I actually did watch the last one.

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      It’s worth it, I’ve seen it twice now. (Plus there’s some cute new critters.) I hope I didn’t scar you for life with cucumber skywalker lol.

  3. I love this post! There IS something in each of us that we can awaken if we have strength and perseverance and food has so much to do with it. It’s amazing how slight changes in our diet can really have an affect on our overall wellbeing. You are a lovely writer, by the way! Loved the intro!

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      <3 Thank you so much! (though I admit, the glitter line is a reference to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but it's such a wonderful line I had to honor it.)

  4. Wow, I feel ashamed, but the important thing is to go back on track, I am going to put the acronym of FORCE on my refrigerator and on my desktop.

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  5. I am not a fan of star wars and I haven’t seen any of the recent movies. But I love how you’ve taken it and mixed it with improving how one looks at diet culture. Love your FORCE. Food really is fuel

  6. I’m not even a Star Wars fan, but I did genuinely enjoy this post. It’s definitely a different and unique way to discuss this diet culture that our society seems to revolve around. Like you said, diets aren’t going to work, because you’re on them for a certain period of time. You have to be willing to make a lifestyle change to keep that healthy body and that weight off. That can seem a bit daunting though.

  7. I love this post. I love how you incorporated the Star Wars characters and a good deal of puns to be able to get your point across. I do believe that you have the right goals when it comes to the end. Although exercise needs to be done whether fun or not. But always better when it’s fun.

  8. I really love how you incorporated Star Wars into this post. I definitely do not like the diet fad, as it seems popular among everyone even young teens. I believe you just need to eat in moderation and have self control. Thank you for sharing this, it was a wonderful read!

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