In social settings, do you catch the conversation sometimes centering dieting, weight loss, bodies (thinness/fatness), or what foods are “good” or “bad”? If you haven’t experienced this, I can almost be certain you have heard or seen an advertisement for a new diet or dietary supplement guaranteeing to “BLAST fat in only 30 seconds!”. How about Flat Tummy Tea that rampages through celebrity social media accounts? Did you know they are just glorified laxatives? Swear.
This is diet culture: promising a quick, easy solution to weight loss and a “fix” to your body woes when science proves the exact opposite: intentional pursuit of weight loss does not work long-term.
The first principle of Intuitive Eating is “Reject the Diet Mentality”. This modality calls you to explore the lens through which you view your relationship to food and eating. Does it instill fear surrounding your food choices under the guise of “healthy dieting”?
When we put our bodies on a diet, our bodies are so smart that they perceive this as restriction or famine (even though it’s intentional - they don’t know the difference).
The Diet Cycle
The diet cycle goes something like this:
Desire to be thin. A thought pops into our head that we need to achieve a smaller body type to feel accepted, validated, happier or “healthier”. A new diet starts here and we’re excited!
Dieting/restriction. The new diet we go on restricts intake of calories or carbohydrates. It instills rules that mark what foods are allowed or forbidden. The diet may also tell us when we can or can not eat, how often we should eat or how long we should go without eating. We usually feel successful when we stick to the rules, but this certainly does not last long.
Deprivation. This usually happens around the two week mark of our new diet. We feel an increased desire to eat. We may be experiencing cravings, food preoccupied thoughts and reduced self-control. We may even start to feel obsessed with foods, constantly thinking or talking about eating what is on our “forbidden foods” list.
Loss of control. We “break” our diet. The deprivation was too much. We lose control and either binge or overeat past the point of fullness. While we want to blame our lack of willpower, this is our body’s biological and psychological reactions to energetic restriction or deprivation.
Guilt/shame. We resent ourselves for breaking our diet, we feel as though we’ve “failed”. We attribute the diet fail to lack of willpower, that we just didn’t try hard enough.
Regain of lost weight. After we “break” our diet rules, a lot of the times the “F-it” button gets pressed. This can lead to continual bingeing or overeating. We eat in heavy quantities without checking in with or respecting our fullness cues. There can also be a “Last Supper” mentality, where we eat and binge knowing we can always start a nice new diet the following day. Our weight is restored.
Then, We’re back at number one again: desire to be in a smaller body.
When your body perceives a shortage of food, it does what it does best: it wires you into survival mode. Increased cravings kick in, increased need for food/drive for eating happens, extreme hunger cues increase. Eventually this leads to lapsing in your diet at which point you are more likely to either binge, overeat and/or eat past the point of fullness. You typically feel guilty/shameful for this lapse in dieting or “lack of willpower” as most people attribute it to. But, in reality, your body is just rejecting the intentional restrictive diet you are placing it on. Diets are hardwired to FAIL. We can reject this rigid way of thinking within ourselves and in society.
Instead of hopping on the latest juice detox, detox your LIFE from anything that screams diet culture. This includes any social media pages, blogs, websites, magazines, or TV shows that try to sell you the idea that your body needs to look different, that your body should be smaller or that you need to eat/drink anything to be “slim, fit and trim”. Ugh!
Reject the diet mentality.
How to reject the diet mentality? Quit the dieting lifestyle. Give up going on the next diet for good. Diet culture is almost a $70 billion industry that profits off our internalized perceived thin body idealization. The most radical act we can do to “Reject the Diet Mentality” is to accept and respect our bodies, exactly the way they are, and to nourish our bodies in a way that makes us feel good.
Authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resche spell out “Reject the Diet Mentality” as a call to action:
“Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.”
Instead of placing our trust and hope outside of our bodies in the latest nutrition fad or diet promise, place that same trust and hope in your own self; trust that your body knows the right answers, just listen to it. Be patient. Intuitive Eating is a practice, a tool to use. Recognize the futility of your previous diet attempts. What can the next steps be if we were to look at your eating relationship through a lens of nourishment, curiosity and compassion instead?
Want to learn more about INTUITIVE Eating?
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