By Alex Raymond, RD,LD.
Happy New Year! When I think about the New Year, my brain automatically goes to “New Year’s Resolutions.” I think about all the messaging out there about “weight loss” and becoming a better YOU (usually by some form of losing weight). *cue eye roll*
And this messaging is just so damaging, well to all people, but particularly to those struggling with eating disorders and those who are working on improving their relationships with food and body. The diet industry sells us a false sense of happiness. When our self worth is based on our appearance and the way our bodies look, we will never truly be content. And the diet industry makes a HUGE profit out of our discontent.
When I help my clients make New Year’s Resolutions, if they decide to make them, we never talk about resolutions about food. We instead talk about self care and compassion and silly things like…. Putting your clothes back on the hanger after you try them on.
In this blog, I wanted to talk about diet culture terms to watch out for in 2019. The reason being…. I feel it is important to call out diet culture. This is because diet culture can often be difficult to see. It can often be difficult to understand the ways it can shapeshift and insert itself into a “non-dieting approach” (making it non-non-dieting). Once you see it, and are able to point it out. It gets WAY easier to un-see.
Please keep in mind: some of these below terms may seem harmless, so you may be a bit confused. That’s okay! I encourage you to keep an open mind and reach out if you have questions.
Beware of these diet culture terms!
“Healthy” weight loss
“Intuitive/mindful eating to lose weight”
Firstly, I can empathize and understand why someone would want to lose weight. We get this messages ALL THE TIME that being smaller is better. And that you will be happier and healthier living life in a smaller body. We all have internalized weight stigma. I’d recommend you read more about weight stigma and diet culture by listening to Christy Harrison’s podcast, Food Psych. We are often taught that if we are not working on our bodies and making them “better” there is something wrong with us.
The reality is… any kind of intentional weight loss is harmful to our bodies, both physically and emotionally.
Not to mention, that 95% of weight loss is not sustainable. This means weight loss, not matter if it’s “healthy” or not, has a 5% success rate. That’s pretty darn low. Our bodies, evolutionarily, do not like to be smaller than they were genetically programmed to be. Weight loss almost always involves some form of restriction. Whether that’s “portion control,” cutting out foods or food groups or using behaviors as a way to compensate for eating. This then demonizes certain foods and put others on a pedestal, which in turn, makes eating way too confusing and brings us further away from the ability to listen to our bodies signals.
This intentional weight loss also then tells us that our bodies were “wrong” or “unworthy” in the first place.
Any human being, no matter their shape, size, gender, race…etc, is worthy of love and belonging. And it’s SO important for us to believe that for ourselves as well as other people.
Additionally, to comment on the intuitive eating piece, the majority of people who begin an intuitive eating journey, do not lose weight. Intuitive eating is a method to learn how to trust your body’s signals, nourish yourself properly and a journey in healing your relationship with food and body. Regardless of whether or not you lose weight. Working with an intuitive eating dietitian is so important along this journey. They can guide you along each of the steps.
I wrote a blog about clean eating and it will have more information about my opinions of “eating clean” on there!
“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change”
Okay, so the diet industry is about a 70 billion dollar industry. Diet manufacturers, picked up on the fact that people don’t want “traditional diets” anymore. (Think: Weight Watchers changed its name to WW). So what did the diet industry do? It shapeshifted into something that seemed more like a “wellness” and “overall health” program.
But, if a “lifestyle change” involves some type of restriction, the pursuit of weight loss or changing your body, or feels like a “magic fix” it’s a diet. I’ve been there myself and have used these words with clients.
There is nothing wrong with making positive changes in your life, however we really have to take a look at what is going to benefit us in the long term. Because many times these “lifestyle changes” actually don’t last. And they can result in weight cycling (yo-yo dieting), frustration and disappointment as well as disordered eating and eating disorders. But, like any diet, it’s not your fault if it doesn’t “work” or you go back to “old habits.” Diets are set up to fail from the beginning, and then we go back and spend money on different diets.
So what to do instead?
1.Learn to appreciate your body
You don’t have to fall in love with your body and the way it looks to learn how to appreciate and respect it. This can be extremely difficult in a culture that has a narrow view of what bodies should look like. But what would it be like to take a radical move and start enjoying what your body can do? I’d recommend reading the books Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. As well as Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield.
2.Read Intuitive Eating
Have you heard of the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch? This book is all about learning how to listen to your body.
3.Listen to Non-Diet Podcasts.
Non-diet podcasts let you know that you’re not alone in this and there is a whole community out there who are against diet culture. Here are some recommendations: Food Psych with Christy Harrison, Body Kindness with Rebecca Scritchfield and The Love Food Podcast with Julie Duffy Dillon.
4.Work with a HAES © and anti-diet dietitian and therapist
Doing this work is not easy and you don’t have to do it alone. I so very much admire other non- and anti-diet dietitians who support their clients in finding that positive food and body relationship. Instead of taking advice from people who are trying to tell you what to eat, I recommend finding someone who is going to guide you in getting more in touch with your body’s signals.
To Wrap It All Up……
Unfortunately, we are going to see plenty of New Years resolution centered Diet Culture. I want you to remember that its the culture that’s the problem, NOT you or your body. Diet culture profits off of encouraging people to strive to reach unattainable standards. Diets are damaging to us, both physically and mentally. Instead, use this post and other resources to develop other types of goals for the new year. A few suggestions I have are 1) Take 10 minutes for yourself at the end of everyday to journal or draw ( or anything) to unwind. 2) Give a compliment everyday 3) Start a new hobby.
Talk to one of our amazing dietitians about ways to combat diet culture! To set up a phone call or an appointment email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.