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25 January, 2004

Speaking of dieting

I had an interesting conversation with Andy last night, paradoxically over a rich meal at a restaurant.

To freely paraphrase Andy, and probably distort his meaning, he is annoyed by people who make a big deal of being on a diet, who pointedly stare wistfully at food whilst complaining their diet doesn't allow such 'naughty' lapses.  As Andy says, if one misses cream cakes (or whatever) to that extent, one should acknowledge reality, eat the cream cakes, and accept the consequences; if denial is such a hardship, it isn't worthwhile.

I view the motivation differently: there is pleasure in denial. To exert self-control makes one feel good about ones self, rather more than the fleeting pleasure of surrendering to temptation, with subsequent self-loathing.

I agree that extending secret, personal satisfaction to vocal self-righteousness is annoying, but I can understand the (subconscious) reasoning.
As an observer, it would indeed be preferable for someone to practice self-denial without trying to transfer guilt onto others, with the unspoken messages "how can you eat that in front of me when you know I 'can't' have any?" and "I'm mentally strong and physically healthier for resisting, but you're weak and foolish for eating unhealthily."
However, I'm aware that some need the approval of others, so feel compelled to loudly point out their compliance with self-imposed restrictions. It's even simply social bonding, an opportunity to receive and give praise from/to friends. Only when explicitly analysed does it appear crass self-promotion; unacknowledged, it seems okay.

Undoubtedly this is only a partial view, by someone who has never experienced a weight-reduction diet; at 1.85m and 70-80kg, and male, I've never felt a need to diet. However, at certain times in my life I've needed such external markers to feel good about myself, and I know that 'worthy' denial can boost self image.

Incidentally, the restaurant, 'The Gatehouse', at White Cross, Lancaster, is normally excellent, but for once I was unimpressed. The batter on the chicken, apple and ginger fritters was undercooked, and the cod in mussel sauce was excessively salty; that might sound picky, but we split the bill as 25 each for two courses and rather ordinary wine, so one would expect better. A pity, as otherwise I'd recommend it.

Also incidentally, happy birthday Alizon!

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