Give Diets the Cold Shoulder
The rise and spread of diet culture, and its associated weight bias, is pervasive and permeating all aspects of our life. Water cooler talk at work is often about new diet trends, social media perpetuates what “new” way of eating is healthy, and even our children are often learning fad diet rules that unassuming indoctrinated teachers and lunch monitors are enforcing now at school. Today our clients often don’t even realize they’re following a diet trend as they have become so mainstream.
Diet culture perpetuates the opposite of what it promises people about their health. Diet producers are using new language such as “wellness” as a cover up for these “same old, same old” restrictive ways of eating. The pressures to conform to these phenomena from a young age are rooted in fear of isolation, of perceived laziness and failure. Additionally, it harnesses feelings of disgust as a result of low self esteem and body negativity. They are masked by cultural and consumerist labels of “normalcy” and “health,” but truthfully, they are pushing people toward unhealthy relationships with food and potentially eating disorders.
★ 14% of “normal weight” youth in grades 9 to 12 perceive themselves as “overweight.”
★ Approximately 50% of “normal weight” adolescent girls are trying to lose weight.
When was the last time you heard someone make a negative comment about their weight or body size? Or discuss a diet they’ve started or have been meaning to start? Or feel the need to justify a snack as a “cheat meal” or “cheat day”?
When was the last time a relative or someone you loved made an unsolicited comment about the way you looked? How often was that comment related to your weight or body shape?
Our culture is one that still idealizes thin bodies and indoctrinates young minds with the belief that thin bodies equate to success, happiness, and health. But this is a lie. Happiness, success, and health does not hinge on how well we fit into the ostracizing stencil of the “thin ideal.” We easily understand this truth as a fact in our minds, all the while still remaining as subconscious carriers of these philosophies. We can very well say to friends of a larger body type that they are healthy and that their weight is not an indicator of their success or worth, and certainly we can mean every word of it. The hypocrisy may be found later in the night when we gaze at ourselves in front of our bathroom mirror and allow unregulated thoughts of wanting to lose weight or cut and restrict foods to flood our minds. Left unchecked, it tricks us into believing our worth and value can depend (even solely) on a number on a scale.
But the truth is...
Your weight won’t tell you how steady your heart beats, how strong your lungs breathe, how agile your legs run, how sharp your mind focuses, how reliable your memory is, how energetic you feel as you go about your day, or how soundly you sleep.
When was the last time you took a step away from that scale, away from food rules, and just applauded the different parts of your body for their hard work in getting you through the day?
It sounds like an odd thing to do, but if you haven’t done it before, try!
Even if just for a moment, shift your focus away from how your body looks and tune into what your body does. Give it that long overdue appreciation for its strengths and abilities.
Each person has a genetic set-point for weight that our bodies prefer to fall in. Seeking drastic measures to tip our bodies outside of its set-point is inviting our own bodies to resist against our efforts. If we have to go to extremes to achieve a certain weight goal, our body is not healthiest at that goal. It’s easy to lose weight on a diet, and it’s even easier to gain it all back a year down the road. A beautiful thing about diversity is that the human body comes naturally in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and there is potential to be healthy and engage in healthful behaviours and thoughts at any shape and size.
★ Diets force people to think and talk about food constantly.
★ Diets make people see food as an enemy.
★ Diets can actually cause health problems.
★ Diets put you at risk of an eating disorder.
The promises of success, beauty, and even health are not found through dieting and reaching weight targets. It comes from accepting yourself and living your life to the fullest. It’s difficult to reap joy out of your everyday life when food is a constant worry on your mind and when social gatherings that often take place around food become a source of anxiety and stress.
Are you ready to give diets the cold shoulder?
★ Nourish your body with a variety of foods
★ Eat regularly, at least three meals a day
★ Listen to your body for when it’s hungry or full
★ Be patient and flexible, new habits take time
★ Add physical activity that you enjoy into your routine
★ Stand up against weight bias and diet culture