If December is the most wonderful time of the year, January has got to be the most confusing. If you celebrated the holidays, you probably shared more than a few meals with family and friends. If you like to bake, this was your time to shine (and frost and sprinkle). Making traditional foods brought you comfort. You may have even volunteered your time helping to feed people in your community.
Food represented love and abundance.
Now, the party is over. While just days ago food was a symbol of comfort, celebration, and tradition, today we need to restrict and reform. We’ve been naughty, but never fear! The billion-dollar wellness and diet industry will help you be good again!
See what I mean? Confusing.
One day food is virtuous, and the next it is something to count and judge.
Every year, the diet industry primes us throughout the holiday season with offers to transform our bodies, get healthy, and eat “clean.” New Year, New You! You’ll get back on track with the help of a cleanse, shake, nutrition program, or daily supplement to curb your hunger, keep you accountable, burn fat, and even improve your gut health. If you’re really successful, you might even make the cover of a popular magazine boasting that you are “half your size!” All you need to do is cut carbs or protein, or count macros, or calculate points, or fast intermittently, or cleanse, or eat like our ancestors, or put your body into a state of ketosis.
Why does the diet industry want us to change our bodies? Diet culture is a social construct, built on the notion of an ideal body. The diet industry takes this ideal and runs with it. They know the pressure that we feel to achieve a certain body shape and weight. I felt it. For most of my adult life, I bought into the hype. I counted points, followed a whole foods regimen, eliminated sugar, purchased meal plans, mixed shakes and powders, and participated in “diet bets” to name a few. I even signed on to sell wellness products for a brief time.
And then, like a child who asks, ‘Is Santa real?’ I started to wonder: Why are we being told that certain food groups are good or bad? Why is it commendable to restrict whole food groups from our plate? Why are we asked to be loyal to a specific diet plan but allowed to cheat on it once a week? It’s a baguette, not a boyfriend!
Once I started scrutinizing diet messaging, I found that they are all built on the same foundation of restriction in different packaging.
Complicating the whole matter is the fact that diet and nutrition studies are hard to validate. Companies rely on self-reported results, observational studies, and tricky language to hook us into the myth that this time will be different, this product will work. Their program, if you follow it strictly, will change your body and your life.
This year, I’m resolving to focus on my overall health.
Instead of spending money on another diet, I scheduled a physical. I am classified as obese, but also have excellent cholesterol levels, low blood pressure, a healthy thyroid, and am not at risk for diabetes. The only thing I’m cleansing is my social media feed of diet-industry influencers. I am studying intuitive eating to help me understand my internal food cues and learn to trust my body again.
I don’t need to restrict, count, assign value to, or deem “clean” any food or food group. I’m capable of preparing and enjoying a variety of food that fuels my body and feeds my family. I can use food to celebrate. I can eat something just because it tastes delicious. I can say that cauliflower is not a pizza crust, but it does taste delicious roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I can focus on my body and move every day because it helps my physical and mental health, not because the diet industry thinks I need transforming.
Happy New Year and Happy Healthy Bodies! What body-positive resolutions can you make this year?
Some of My Favorite Anti-Diet Resources
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch created Intuitive Eating, an evidence-based framework for intuitive eating, a weight-neutral, mind-body health approach.
Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN hosts Food Psych a podcast about making peace with food. Each week features a great guest with fascinating takes on diet culture and positive approaches to health. I just ordered her new book Anti-Diet and can’t wait to read it!
Health at Every Size
The Association for Size Diversity and Health trademarked their Health at Every Size (HAES) Principles and is a great resource and community.
Food and Body Freedom
One of my favorite people to follow on social media is Krista Murias of Food and Body Freedom.