Remember the running joke in the ’90s about, “You might be a redneck IF….”? It’s had a million reincarnations, but I thought I’d change things up on the blog today and do a version that illustrates a few experiences I’ve had recently.
Diet culture is all around us. It permeates everything, from the media we see to the environments we live and work in, to our family dynamics and conversations with friends and family. With diets being such an accepted form of self-inflicted stress, it’s no wonder we often aren’t aware of how pervasive the diet mentality really is.
I’d be the first to raise my hand and say I was guilty of buying into this at one time. I used language and phrases that I heard, repeated, and believed. Looking back, I cringe to think that the entire time I was beating myself up about things I didn’t need to stress about. There was another way.
So without further adieu, let’s get into things! This post is meant to be lighthearted, but honest.
In no particular order:
You Might Be Sick Of Diet Culture If…
You’re tired of hearing the person in the booth behind you in a restaurant going on and on about her new diet.
You know…can’t eat this, can’t eat that, can’t eat anything after 8 pm, can’t Can’t CAN’T. If you’ve stopped and wondered, “Well, why the hell can’t you?!” you might be sick of diet culture. I often wish I could just enjoy my meal and savor some silence without that distraction.
You’re about to donate or toss clothes that don’t fit, aren’t comfortable to wear, or make you to feel unhappy about your body shape or size (or you already have).
Fashionistas out there, I’m kind of sorry but not really sorry. I’m not stylish enough to follow those trends in clothing, and I certainly don’t follow the trends with diets. It’s perfectly OK to remove clothes from your closet that leave you feeling unnecessarily unhappy. Those jeans that are a little too snug right now? Toss ’em. They’ll only leave you hoping for weight loss and wishing your body was something other than it is. Your body is acceptable, valid, and worthy of compassion just the way it is.
Plus, it’s a lot easier to tune into hunger and fullness signals when you’re comfortable in an outfit. AKA, the reason I love my pants with elastic (anyone else?)
Exercise is less like a chore and more like mindful movement that you genuinely look forward to.
What’s your idea of mindful, joyful movement that leaves your body feeling better than it did before?
For most of us, that isn’t going to be slogging away on a treadmill or dragging our butts to the gym at the crack of dawn or late at night just to squeeze in a calorie burn. When you start viewing movement as something that’s serving your body in a positive way, and not a means of justifying the food you ate, yep, you’re probably ready to reject what diet culture tells you.
Calories lose their importance and you start making food choices for other reasons.
At this point I’m like, “Calories? What are those?” Someone asked me the other day how many calories I thought were in something and I could honestly (and a little proudly) say I didn’t have the slightest idea. And more importantly, I didn’t care.
If you’re started paying more attention to how foods make you feel, how your body responds to them, how they taste, look, and smell, and paying less attention to the number of calories in them, you’re turning the corner into food freedom territory.
You deleted MyFitnessPal, stopped wearing your FitBit, and look inward to gauge how you’re doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think journaling and tracking certain things absolutely have a time and a place. It can be a really useful tool to identify patterns and find opportunities for lifestyle changes.
But if you’re still obsessively counting every macro in every bite you take, glancing at your FitBit to see how many steps you’ve taken, or using a fitness tracker to estimate calories burned, you’re relying on external cues for fullness and movement. When you let those things go and look to how your body feels, you might discover that your own intuition is a better guide than those devices ever could be.
You wish people would compliment you on your character, accomplishments, mood…literally anything other than your appearance.
Aren’t we so much more than what we look like?!
But it’s a common compliment to say, “OMG you look great, have you lost weight?” or “Wow, you look so good in that top, have you slimmed down?” Nope, not what I want to hear. Diet culture tells us our worth is entangled with our appearance and attractiveness. If you know that’s a lie, you’re ready to be done with diet culture.
You reject the judgement you receive and catch yourself before you judge others.
You know the kind…”Are you really going to order that?” Um, yes, I am, and I really don’t want to share. (See, The Truffle Fries Incident of 2017)
Judgement, shame, guilt, or remorse have no place around food. That goes for yours and anyone else’s. If there’s one major pet peeve of mine, it’s that many people assume as a dietitian, I’m going to be judging what’s on their plate and they’ll (usually) immediately try to qualify it. I want to stop them and say, “I literally could not care less what you’re putting in your mouth right now.” I’ve been on the receiving end too, where someone who knows I’m a dietitian sees me eating something they wouldn’t consider healthy and they make a comment.
Here’s the truth: Intuitive eating allows permission to eat any food you desire. It doesn’t need to be qualified or validated or earned. And you don’t have to justify your decision to yourself or anyone else. And we don’t need to question someone else’s food choice either.
I’m curious, was there a time you realized you were ready to be done with diet culture? It’s not an easy road and it takes time, but I’m so thankful I’ve discovered how I can embrace and celebrate my health and my body while feeling less stressed about food. It doesn’t mean I don’t have those thoughts at times – it simply means I acknowledge them, accept them, and respond to them differently than I would have in the past.
If you’re struggling with these things and could use some support, reach out to me! My “Ditch the Diet” Intuitive Eating Program is designed to help you get started with the principles of intuitive eating with the support and compassion of a registered dietitian. I’ve offered it locally in Kansas City for a while now but am opening it up for virtual clients, too.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about it.