Ditching Diet Culture in the New Year

by | Eating Disorder Recovery

One of the most common resolutions for the New Year is losing weight or changing one’s body. This is (very likely) due to diet culture and our society’s obsession with thinness. We know of the advertisements, deals and promotions about joining a gym or downloading the latest diet app for the New Year. And most of us are fully aware of the increased pressure we feel to jump on the diet bandwagon.  But, what these diet ads fail to do is discuss the “downside” to dieting. These downsides include increasing risk for an eating disorder, harming one’s relationship with food, causing feelings of failure and guilt, and lowering self-esteem. 

Moreover, diet culture can lead us to believe that health has a “look.” And that being “healthy” puts people on a moral pedestal and that we are not worthy unless we look a certain way or adopt a certain lifestyle.

We do not have to diet or change our bodies for them to be “worthy.” You deserve respect and love because you are a human being. 

In 2021, what if you made a resolution or an intention to “ditch diet culture” in the New Year? Here are some reasons as to why diets are harmful and why you should reconsider what you think you know about them:

1. Diets do not “work”

First, the reality is diets are designed to fail. Only 5-10% of people who lose weight are able to “keep the weight off” long term (aka more than 5 years). Would you take a medication that *only* had a 5-10% effectiveness? Probably not. 

There’s a reason why this industry is worth $70+ billion. What many of us fail to realize is that it’s a perfect (yet arguably unethical) marketing scheme. It causes us to think they didn’t work “hard enough” at a diet. Moreover, it suggests that if we just find the “perfect” diet and work harder, we will finally be successful at changing our bodies. Along with society’s fat-phobic influence, it is easy to see why we keep going back for more. They’re designed-to-fail.

While we are on this topic, dieting actually leads to “unhealthy” outcomes, like weight cycling, eating disorders, increased weight stigma… Check out our HAES blog to learn about HAES myths and how to reframe diet cultures version of “health.”

 

2. Food Freedom

Do you ever get food cravings?? Congratulations! You are a human.

When we restrict ourselves from enjoying our favorite foods, we actually crave those foods more. Food cravings are 100% normal. Intuitive eaters get cravings and so do those who diet. Problem with diet culture is that it makes us feel guilty about craving and eating the foods we love. Giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat, opens the door to find peace in our relationship with food and our bodies. This process can take some time, but it is possible and totally worth it.

 

3. Our bodies need variety

Lastly, it is a common pattern in a diet to eliminate foods or even a whole food group. But, it is important to keep in mind that each food group provides us with important nutrition for our bodies. For example, the dairy food group has calcium and vitamin D. Grains are often fortified with B vitamins and contain fiber. Lastly, fats provide our bodies with energy and “essential” fatty acids. Dieting not only deprives us of finding food freedom. It also deprives us of important nutrients our bodies need in order to function.

 

So, how can you ditch diet culture in the New Year? Here are some ideas on other resolutions for the New Year:

 

1. Mindful Activities

The first idea is to engage your brain this New Year by learning a new hobby! Recently I took a hand-knitting class. I never thought I would be one to enjoy knitting but it was actually quite fun and relaxing. Another thing that I found to enjoy was tennis. I’m not very good at the sport, but I really enjoyed spending time outdoors. 

This year you could try to commit to learning something new each month. That might include knitting, water coloring, a sport. Or try to include one activity a month that uplifts you. For example, going for a nature walk, journaling, or taking a long hot bubble bath. Making self-care a priority in your routine can help you slow down your busy schedule and de-stress.

 

2. Give Back (if you can)

Allowing yourself to step outside of your own world can open up your view and shift your perspective on things that may be going on in your life. Giving back is a way to promote gratitude for yourself and others. If you can, try to find volunteer opportunities that are local and safe. You could volunteer at a food pantry creating boxes for families in need. If you love animals, you can ask to volunteer at your local animal shelter to help walk the dogs or fulfill other needs they may have. Another idea is donating if you have the means. Many local food banks accept food donations year round (especially canned goods). You can also donate clothes that you don’t like anymore to a women’s shelter or your local thrift store. Giving back can help you feel like you’ve contributed towards the common good, so go for it!

3. Practice Positive Social Media Use

It is very easy for your social media to turn into a negative experience rather than a tool to aid in recovery or a tool to help your wellbeing in general. Taking the time to clean up your account can have a long lasting effect on your relationship with social media. Cleaning up your account means unfollowing any unhelpful social media accounts. Like pressing unfollow on accounts that make you feel badly about yourself or trigger ED thoughts. Fill your feed with accounts that are positive and reflect your goals and morals. You can start by checking out our resources page for accounts to follow and you can also follow me! @courage.to.nourish.

 

4. Set boundaries

It can be extremely frustrating to be surrounded by friends or family members who are entrenched in diet culture. We love our friends and family. However, we can also recognize they are in diet culture too and hear the same diet, fat phobic messages that we do. It is okay to set boundaries with the people you love about what they can talk with you about. It’s totally fine to change the topic when diet talk is introduced. There are more interesting conversations to be had. And, if you feel comfortable, let them know you’re working on “ditching” diet culture.

Hopefully these ideas will help you to create a better New Years resolution! One that aligns with your values and helps you to be a better you by expressing gratitude, mindfulness, and focusing on what matters to you. If you are looking for more support, we’re accepting new clients and would love to work with you along this journey! Contact us for how you can get started.

 

Alex Raymond, RD, LD, CEDRD

Alex Raymond, RD, LD, CEDRD-S

Helping my clients cultivate meaningful connections and interests outside of their eating disorder is a true passion of mine. I like to think my clients and I are on a team to navigate recovery. I love working with high school and college students as well as athletes seeking to have a better relationship with exercise. I am a proud anti-diet dietitian and work with my clients through a Health At Every Size © and intuitive eating framework.

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