By Alex Raymond, RD, LD.
Did you know, March is National Nutrition Month or NNM for short. The theme this year is “Eat Right, Live Right, Feel Right.” I first saw that and 2 things went through my mind…
OMG what bullshit….
Well, sounds pretty on point for the culture we live in today.
As an anti-diet dietitian, I have a slightly (okay, very) different take on nutrition than what we hear in our everyday lives. The messages we get from the media, celebrities, instagram stars and even many health professionals can actually be harmful to our overall physical and emotional wellbeing.
Let me start out by describing a bit of what I believe “nutrition” actually means. Firstly, I follow a Health at Every Size © (HAES) and intuitive eating framework with my clients. I believe I should be supporting my clients in improving their relationship with food and body. Not shaming them about what they eat, how much they eat, and how their bodies look. HAES and intuitive eating are evidence based. So providers who practice this way, including myself, are not making these things up.
“Nutrition” actually has very little to do with WHAT we eat. Per the dictionary, nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” Interesting… I don’t see kale smoothies, quinoa black bean cookies or cauliflower pizza crust anywhere in there…
There’s a lot of layers to nutrition. But at its very core, it’s about nourishment AND enjoyment.
It’s about providing your body with the fuel it needs to survive. We all gotta eat to live. Equally as important, it’s remembering that food is so much more than just eating to survive. Eating food that you crave and food that tastes good is also an important and fun part of life. Nothing about nutrition has to do with deprivation and restriction*. Having a positive relationship with food and body is SO much more important than eating solely by what our culture deems “healthy.” (and since when did media and celebrities get a degree in nutrition or medicine? Why do they have the right to tell us what is “healthy”).
*Please note: I do recognize that having access to food is a privilege. So sometimes, people may be deprived and restricted unintentionally.
We are only on this earth for so long. Food should NOT take up more time and energy than spending time with friends and family, traveling, learning, reading, sleeping, working, watching Netflix, laughing….*insert any other thing you enjoy doing*
So, during NNM, I decided I wanted to rally up some anti-diet messaging and help my clients and other blog/social media followers unlearn diet culture. I was inspired to do this from conversations with clients, health care providers and my friends and family. Shout out to the amazing members of Christy Harrison’s Master Your Anti-Diet Facebook Group for helping me out with some of these ideas!! (If you want access to the group, take Christy’s “master your anti-diet message course :))
Clients are frustrated and confused from continuously hearing messages that reinforce their EDs. If you didn’t know, diet culture talk reinforces eating disordered and disordered eating beliefs.
To take it a step further, dieting is actually disordered eating. The diet talk is fuel to the fire. And the ED voice many times sounds eerily similar to messages we hear on TV, from celebs, from magazines, and again, sadly, from health professionals who are uninformed about HAES and anti-dieting. I feel that my social media accounts, as well as some of my favorite RD, HAES role models, are a safe space for my clients to go to reinforce the recovery thoughts.
Health care providers who align themselves with the anti-diet mentality work double time to undo harm from practitioners who collude with eating disordered and dieting behaviors. I do understand how this can happen though. Providers are not immune to messages we get from diet culture. Unfortunately, much of what we learn in school is extremely weight normative. HAES often isn’t even mentioned. And providers within the medical community need to do our own work to wake up and smell the weight stigma. What weight bias do we exhibit, both internal and external? The messages we put out about the importance of body changes and weight loss is not and never will be helpful.
So, as you have probably noticed, we are bombarded with dieting messages EVERYWHERE… again, even from trusted health professionals.
Some of it isn’t always outright “you should restrict your intake and cut out this food to lose weight.” Most of the messaging we get is actually hidden in messaging that ~sounds~ positive, but it’s actually laced with diet mentality. Some examples include.
Everything in moderation
It’s fine to eat _____…. if you control your portions
Are you sure you’re really hungry? Maybe you’re just bored?
It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.
Again, at first, it might sound like it’s just helpful “nutrition advice,” but really, these messages hint that we need to control our eating, our weight and our bodies. The secret to a long, healthy and happy life actually does not include micromanaging our bodies and our food intake, despite what diet culture wants us to believe.
So this NNM, let’s reclaim what “nutrition” actually means. Let’s start letting go of the shame and guilt that often surrounds eating. Let’s eat enough (or MORE than “enough”) to fuel our bodies and enjoy our eating. We can do this by calling out diet culture and reminding ourselves that we have the strength to tune out those messages. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, it can happen.
Follow along on my Instagram and Twitter this month.
I’ll be posting an anti-diet “tip” each day to help you either begin or continue your journey in unlearning diet culture and ED rules. These “tips” were inspired diet-y messages that I’ve heard throughout the last couple of months (and probably my whole life). So, when you hear the diet message, you can remember the anti-diet comeback to challenge the thinking. In the captions, I’ll explain why the phrase we typically hear might be diet-y.
Not only that! But I’m also giving away 3 sets of my Recovery Cards this month! If you engage by sharing, reposting or commenting (tag #unlearndietculture !!) on my posts you’ll get entered to win. Let’s tackle diet culture together.