Each May 6th, International No Diet Day offers an opportunity to say a wholehearted “no” to diets and diet culture. Beyond a yearly observance, we each have an opportunity to reject dieting and the culture beneath it every day. How do we start? In a world dominated by news, TV, ads, social media, and conversations about diets, how do we advocate for an Anti-Diet mindset? We wanted to share a few ways you can support the shift for yourself and for others.
Knowledge is Power
The more you know, the more you can see past the fabricated value of diet culture. Consider these facts:
- The dieting industry is a 70-billion-dollar industry
- 95% of diets fail
- Most dieters regain lost weight within one to five years
- 25% of pathological dieters progress to developing an eating disorder
The diet industry knows these facts, too; the dieting industry knows that most diets fail. In fact, the industry profits from that failure. The more dieters “fail” their diets, the more they seek new dieting solutions, perpetuating a harmful cycle. Weight cycling, commonly understood as a “yo-yo effect” in someone’s weight, is a direct bi-product of dieting, and can cause significant fluctuations in one’s health, putting undue stress on the cardiovascular system and, in some cases, increasing risk of death. Furthermore, those who pathologically engage in dieting are at increased risk of an eating disorder. Though other factors like genetics and trauma (to name just a few) can influence the development of an eating disorder, dieting does not help.
Separating Dieting from Dietetics (Nutrition)
An anti-diet mindset doesn’t have to ignore nutrition. Dietetics provides a key foundation for nourishing your physical health and wellness.
Typically, diets imply there are “good foods” and “bad foods.” This is false. There are just foods. All food consists of the three basic macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Often, diets focus on removing or minimizing certain macronutrients, but we need all three types of macronutrients to survive. Moving toward an anti-diet mindset includes neutralizing food, and removing judgmental labels associated with different foods. In the context of eating disorder treatment, we focus on supporting patients in separating nutrition from dieting. This learning process often results in a more holistic, joyful, non-restrictive perspective on what we eat.
Beyond re-framing what we eat, we can also re-frame how we eat. The act of eating itself can transform as part of a non-dieting perspective. At Reasons, we focus on cultivating an intuitive approach to eating, highly informed by the ten key principles defined by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise — Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health — Gentle Nutrition
During the initial phases of eating disorder treatment, a treatment team might choose a more structured approach to eating for the patient at first. Over time, though, as patients connect with hunger and fullness cues, an intuitive eating approach can serve as a next step in the recovery journey. A dietitian will work closely with a patient throughout eating disorder treatment to determine the right steps and approach for that individual’s specific needs.
Address Weight Stigma
Weight- or size-based discrimination permeates many medical and social settings and is often accompanied by unhelpful and unfounded recommendations on dieting for people in larger bodies.
In a medical environment, for example, weight stigma might appear when a provider focuses on weight during an appointment about a common cold. In this type of scenario, advocate for yourself by asking probing questions like, “How do these symptoms relate to my weight?” or “What advice would you give someone in a thin body? I’d like the same treatment and testing.” If you don’t feel your medical providers offer you equal consideration regardless of your size, consider seeking out providers with modern and progressive understandings of body types.
From a social perspective, body talk is one of ways in which society perpetuates weight stigma. Questions like, “Have you lost weight?” are typically framed as compliments. Combat this type of behavior by offering non-body compliments to others, or by asking to remove body talk from the conversation. This approach can open a door to educate others on the harmful effects of body talk.
Health at Every Size (HAES)
Founded by Sonya Renee Taylor, the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement is a fat-positive, anti-diet movement that upholds five key principles associated with wellbeing, irrespective of weight:
- Weight Inclusivity
- Health Enhancement
- Eating for Wellbeing
- Respectful Care
- Life-Enhancing Movement
Learn more about these principles and use them in your own mindset and your conversations with others.
Practical Next Steps
Beyond the broader concepts we’ve covered in this blog, what can you do in your day-to-day life to cultivate an anti-diet mindset? Here are a few ideas:
- Change your media feed. Remove harmful dieting messages and fill your feed with imagery and thought leaders that embrace a progressive view of the body.
- Remove body talk the conversation. If this is hard to do, consider telling your friends that it’s something you’re working on. Encourage them to do the same.
- Reconsider how you view your body. Think about how diet culture has influenced the way you see your body. Commit to the shifts you’d like to make in your mindset, and the tools that will help you make that shift, such as meditation, mantra, art, journaling, therapy or conversation.
- Move your body. Connect with your body through movement. Discover what types of movement bring you joy and celebrate the aspects of your body you appreciate.
- Cultivate a community. Find and connect with others who promote an anti-diet mindset and lean on that community for support when you need it.
- Practice compassion. Know that big changes in mindset don’t occur rapidly. Offer yourself some grace and know that some days will be easier than others.
Cultivating an anti-diet mindset takes time and intentionality, especially in the face of modern diet culture and weight stigma. But, you have the power to change the lens through which you view your body, and the power to change the mindset of others, too! Start with a few small steps today and know that every step brings you closer to lasting change – for yourself and for others.