Posts tagged Clean Eating
It's Not About Giving Up, It's About Moving On: Why All Diets Make Us Feel Crazy Around Food
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.
— Cheryl Strayed
Intuitive eating, body positive, Health at Every Size, HAES, flexible eating, emotional eating, stress eating, diets, anti-diet, anti-diet project, anti-diet movement. It's not about giving up, it's about moving on: why all diets make us feel crazy around food.
Eating when you’re hungry won’t make you fat. In fact, the opposite is true: eating when you’re hungry helps maintain your setpoint and keep you at the weight that’s right for you, and denying your hunger leads to compensatory mechanisms that trigger fat storage and weight gain.
— Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size

CAN YOU ACTUALLY CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT? WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS

From what we've gathered so far, the answer to this is no. While there may be certain habits and behaviours that keep us at the lower end of our setpoint, the setpoint itself is largely outside of our control and extremely difficult to manipulate without your body seriously rebelling in response. 

For one thing, weight is regulated by the following main control centres, including things like the hypothalamus, an almond-sized bit of your brain. It's divided into the lateral hypothalamus or LH, considered the "hunger centre" and the ventromedial hypothalamus or VMH, considered the "fullness centre."

 

  1. How Sweet It [Was]:Pre-Diet Culture

  2. The Myth of Diets and Weight Loss

  3. 3 Reasons Why Diets Make Us Feel Crazy Around Food

  4. Can You Actually Control Your Weight? What the Science Says

  5. Solutions for a Post-Diet Culture: The Importance of Self-Care

HOW SWEET IT [WAS]: PRE-DIET CULTURE

Dieting — whether we call it by name or one of its other names, such as “being good” or “watching our weight” — has been rendered so normalized that it’s nearly impossible for most of us to think of food without it. What would life look lies if we were all normal eaters who moved because we enjoyed it, never said “I shouldn’t” in response to a slice of chocolate cake, and associated food with joy?

The truth is, we did live without diets. And we remained relatively healthy. We ate steak piled high with mushrooms and onions, served beside a baked potato and sour cream. Apple pie with cheese. Eggs and bacon, cooked in animal fats; pancakes soaked in sweet maple syrup. And we mostly maintained our weight without obsessing over any of it. 

In fact, a 1970s research study shows that the average weight of a sixty-year-old man was only four to five pounds higher than the average thirty-year-old man (1). So not only were we not dieting, but we were typically maintaining our size throughout life — all the while enjoying a variety of foods and beverages. 

Oh, and all without access to the gyms and fitness studios we’re now privy to. 

So what gives? 

THE MYTH OF DIETS AND WEIGHT LOSS

Many of us have been marketed to all of our lives. We’re taught a) our weight is our responsibility b) our weight can be controlled c) everyone is capable of being thin or at a “healthy weight” d) if we’re not thin, it’s because we have weak willpower or lack self-discipline. 

In my experience, we’re also unsure of how to be healthy —and to make healthy choices — without a diet, eating style, or the diet hangover haunting us. If left to our own devices, wouldn’t we just subsist on ice cream, pizza, and hamburgers?Don’t we need rules to reign us in? 

Yes. And no. 

While restrained eaters — people who restrict in some way — feel they need rules, unrestrained or intuitive eaters do not. When you don’t deprive yourself of any food and allow yourself complete and unconditional permission to eat, you don’t need rules because this very act neutralizes our emotional attachment to shiny objects like cookies and potato chips. 

If we want something, we just have to work at it, right? If we just wanted to be thin enough, we would be. If we just tried. Maybe you worked your way up through the ranks to become partner at your law firm, or completed additional training to teach ESL. 

Maybe you ran the Boston marathon or climbed Mount Everest or opened a yoga studio on your own or studied your way to Harvard or painted your way to a star-studded exhibit or take gorgeous photos for the hell of it. 

Maybe you moved cross-country with your significant other and had three beautiful children who brought more joy to your life than you could have ever imagined. Or you built an empire, never married, and lived happily ever after. 

If we want something enough, we can have it. Except dieting doesn’t really work like that. 

In the end, your need to feed yourself — to not go hungry — will always override your desire to be thin. Survival has an energy requirement, not a size preference. 

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether the aesthetic ideal is Rubenesque or curvy or some weird thigh gap, bootylicious, ripped abs mashup. Because the body you end up with, while modified in part by factors such as food and exercise and environment, is largely determined by your genetics and likely a whole slew of things we’re still discovering.

Not to mention the fact that weight has very little to do with health. While critics of the Health at Every Size® movement are quick to question whether an individual really can be healthy at any size — what about those who are bedridden due to weight? —these black-and-white questions too easily dismiss the movement’s core purpose. 

I don’t believe size is irrelevant; clearly it’s an emotionally-fraught issue. But knowing what we know about diets, diet culture, and the pursuit of weight loss (see below), the most effective and compassionate way to help people to experience authentic health hinges on self-care rather than self-control. 

Basically: instead of prescribing weight loss as the antidote to all things, maybe we could spend a few minutes chatting about sleep, relationship to food, hobbies and interests, enjoyable activity, and so on. 

Ultimately, you didn’t fail the diet; the diet failed you.

SOME BIG PROBLEMS WITH DIETS

1. Diets usually ask us to go hungry (restrict calories) or restrict foods or food groups, which lead us to behave anxiously around food. The former are typically what we consider “real diets” or what I term “Wave I diets” such as mono food diets (i.e. grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, Master Cleanse) or diets such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, If It Fits Your Macros/IIFYM, and so on. 

The latter are non-diet diets such as Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Paleo, veganism or vegetarianism (when approached for weight loss), clean eating, and so on. I refer to these as “Wave II”. 

Food restriction, from my professional experience and research, rarely if ever leads to positive outcomes over the short- and long-term when pursued for weight loss. “If you are a restrained eater,” Linda Bacon writes, “you try to control your body weight and don’t trust your body to do it for you” (40). 

When food is advertised or presented, restrained eaters (people who restrict) are more apt to eat it or overeat it, while unrestrained eaters (intuitive eaters) statistically do not. Over 75 studies actually yield pretty consistent results: “restrained eaters react to emotions and external cues in a nearly totally opposite manner of unrestrained eaters” (Bacon, 41.) 

Just by saying this one line — “you can have this again whenever you want” — I’ve found so much peace around food.

2. Diets have never been proven to work, but our failure in achieving or maintaining their broken promises is often used as a weapon against us. 

Not a single study has even shown that diets work in the long-term save for a teeny tiny number of people. As Bacon details in Health at Every Size, the Women’s Health Initiative — the longest, largest, and arguably most expensive randomized, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial (considered the gold standard in research) — tested whether the calories in, calories out approach actually works. 

20, 000 women were placed on a low-fat diet with calories reduced, on average, by about 360 per day. After 8 years on the diet, there was no change reported in weight from starting point, and average waist circumference had actually increased (3). 

Research conducted on thousands of other diets is consistent with these findings. People may lose weight initially — but nearly always gain it back. Oh, and did I mention these camps were also exercising? They were. (4) In fact, while exercise is great for many things, like improving cardiovascular and bone health, it's not a terrific tool for weight loss. Just ask Julia Belluz, who did the work here and here

And about willpower and self-discipline? As Linda Bacon states, "if you're losing weight and you are below your setpoint, your hypothalamus might direct other body systems to regulate your eating and activity levels as well as your metabolic efficiency, the rate at which you burn calories, to get you to regain the weight" (Bacon, 15.)

FYI: Setpoint theory suggests we each have a ‘natural weight’ our bodies run best at and that our bodies fight tooth and nail to maintain. It’s the weight we’re at when we honour our hunger and fullness cues, aren’t obsessing over weight or food habits, and the one we find ourselves at between diets. Contrary to what some believe, your “setpoint” is not a specific weight, but represents a ten-to-twenty-pound-range, so losing or gaining small amounts of weight may, in the words of Linda Bacon, “won’t be met by compensatory actions.” But there’s no scientific way to determine setpoint; the only way to know is to listen to your body, eat normally, and practice self-care to see where you end up.  

3. Diets rob us of the energy we need to “take up space” in the world and build empires. 

While many of us are concerned with eating less -- or at least not eating too much -- two important aspects of food are so often forgotten in the process. One, that food is pleasure. And two, that we need food -- energy -- to do all of the important work we're here to do.

While dieting makes us mood, lethargic, tired, hungry, and generally unhappy to be around, the opposite of dieting -- intuitive eating -- allows us to get our fill so we're satisfied and able to care for others in addition to ourselves. 

There's also insulin, which regulates blood sugar and is more or less the hypothalamus messenger, delivering energy requests as needed, and gherkin, discovered only in 1999, which operates as an appetite trigger. On top of that, more than 20 chemical messengers have been found to stimulate eating and a similar number suppress appetite (Bacon, 23), which basically means you are up against an army of very hard-working and precise appetite soldiers. 

This system is influenced by many factors, including your emotions and sleep patterns. 

When leptin is working naturally, appetite reduces (we feel our fullness), we feel like moving (hello energy!), and our metabolisms rev up. It appears the role of leptin, at least originally, was to protect fat stores during times of food scarcity. When we stop eating normally, leptin production shrinks along with our fat cells. As a result, appetite increases (alert, alert!), metabolism decreases (quick, we’re losing fat!), and the weight gain comes back.

And then we blame ourselves, when the whole thing was a complex emergency effort coordinated by our bodies and actually had nothing to do with lack of willpower or self-discipline. The opposite is not true, probably because weight gain makes good sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Leptin goes offline and isn’t as easily heard. Why would you want to get rid of the very energy you might need to keep yourself alive? It would be like throwing the money in your savings account down the drain because you don’t need it at this very minute.

Keep in mind that those who are constantly weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) produce less leptin than they did before they started dieting. The reason it gets harder and harder to lose weight with each attempt may be due to age (our metabolisms lower, our muscle mass decreases) but I’d put my money on diets. The more we diet, the harder it is to lose weight. We certainly don’t diet to gain weight, but that’s exactly what happens — because historically that’s what has always happened. And why it’s impossible for diets to deliver on their promises, no matter how many generations perpetuate a myth their ancestors would have ridiculed. 

All of this is to say the human body is not hardwired for weight loss. 

SOLUTIONS FOR A POST-DIET CULTURE: THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE

Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.
— Cheryl Strayed

Alright then, Sarah, if weight loss and dieting don't work, then how do we improve health? So glad you asked.

#1. Eat for pleasure and satisfaction. Let these two lead the way for you. 

#2. Chew and eat slowly. Savour your food. Pay attention to the textures, aromas, flavours. 

#3. Eat a variety of foods and try new-to-you foods. One of the things most experts can agree on is the importance of variety to our diets. Like broccoli? Try cauliflower next week. Have never tried rapini? Great time to try it! Make chana masala for the first time, or seek out a recipe for delicious roasted chicken. 

#4. Eat with total and unconditional permission. You are allowed to eat when you are hungry.  

#5. Eat without guilt, shame, or remorse. We're not burning down a schoolhouse or committing murder, we're just eating. It's okay to enjoy ice cream. It's okay to enjoy potato chips. It's okay to enjoy green juice or kale salad. It's okay to enjoy whatever it is you enjoy. 

#6. Honour your hunger and fullness. Intuitive eating isn't a diet, so there aren't any rules. You're allowed taste hunger. You can eat something just because you feel like it and it tastes good. But it may not feel good if you do this all the time. 

#7. Show yourself compassion. We say, do, think, and act in ways we don't always like. It's part of the learning experience, and I'd say part of being human and making mistakes. It's okay. Be kind. Be gentle. 

    “Decades of research — and probably your own personal experience — show that the pursuit of weight loss rarely produces the thin, happy life you dream of. Dropping the pursuit of weight loss isn’t about giving up, it’s about moving on. When you make choices because they help you feel better, not because of their presumed effect on your weight, you maintain them over the long run. You do it because you want to, not because you believe you should.” -Linda Bacon (5).

Our bodies crave homeostasis. Nutrition — eating — included. 

Not sure how to ditch the diet and make peace with food? I created a Habits & Behaviour Audit to help you to do exactly that

Related:

Our Healthy Weight Obsession: Why Sizeism is a Problem 

Intuitive Eating Principles: Reject the Diet Mentality

"Feeling Fat": How to Move on From Using Diets as Coping Mechanisms

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten-State Nutrition Survey 1968-1970. U.S. DHEW Publication No. (HSM) 72-8131.

  2. Leibel, Rudolph L., Michael Rosenbaum, and Jules Hirsch. “Changes in Energy Expenditure Resulting from Altered Body Weight,” New England Journal of Medicine 332 (1995): 621-28.

  3. Howard, Barbara V., et al., “Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Weight Change over 7 Years: The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association 295, no. 1 (2006): 39-49.

  4. Gardner, Christopher D., et al., “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and Learn Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors among Overweight Premenopausal Women: The A to Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association 297, no. 9 (2007): 969-77.

  5. Bacon, Linda. Health at Every Size.

Our Healthy Weight Obsession: Why Sizeism is a Problem

 

THE ISSUE WITH THE WEIGHT ISSUE

I’m just going to go ahead and call out the elephant in the room: I have an issue with the weight issue. 

Since about birth, we — especially women — are told we must be thin. And secondly, we must always be dieting. Non-fat yogurt dessert commercials featuring lithe, lovely women tell us this. “What will you gain if you lose?” asks Special K, as the company encourages us to eat the fortified cereal twice per day to lose unwanted pounds. Instead of eating chocolate — real, dark, amazing chocolate — we are encouraged to opt for “slims”, and because we can’t control ourselves around food and should monitor our portions, we can choose from a dazzling array of colourful 100-calorie snack pack options. 

As Evelyn Tribole smartly pointed out during a podcast with RD and intuitive eating counsellor Christy Harrison, women’s first taste of power emerged accompanied by Twiggy’s rise to the top. Not only should women aim for invisibility, to whittle ourselves down to matchsticks, but if we’re interested in success, achievement, and Prince Charming — since only thin women can kiss the frog, Hollywood is quick to remind us — we better second think our penchant for seconds. 

And though correlations exist between weight and health, none of these show causation, which is what we’re really after if we’re going to take an evidence-based, scientific approach to health (the one I’m most interested in), the one so many claim to adhere to yet don't professionally espouse.

FAT, THIN, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN: HEALTH COMES AT EVERY SIZE 

In Body Respect, Linda Bacon overturns seven myths related to fatness (and yes, the term ‘fat’ is preferred because overweight is an arbitrary and meaningless term, and the etymology of the word obesity implies a large appetite is the root cause.)

These myths include:

a) fatness leads to decreased longevity (false)

b) BMI is a valuable and accurate health measure (false)

c) fat plays a substantive role in causing disease (false)

d) exercise and dietary restriction are effective weight-loss techniques (false)

e) we actually have evidence of weight loss improving health (false)

f) health is largely determined by health behaviours (false)

g) science is value-free (false). 

So why all of the focus on size? Why encourage women to stay or become teeny tiny? Why are so many dismissive of women who choose to strengthen their bodies and add muscle through weight training? Or on the opposite end, what about all of those voices out there asking us why we're not Shape magazine shredded with those fertility killing six-pack-abs and biceps that pop? As a friend of mine mentioned in passing, we’re either not small enough or not big enough, so you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. And basically, you’re not allowed to ever like your body, or ever say you like your body, because where would we be if we didn’t hate ourselves? 

Here is the truth: each one of us has a different frame. Some of us are genetically programmed for thinness, while others are bigger. Some of us carry large rib cages, have booties our mammas gave us, or hips that don’t lie. Some of us are short and some of us are tall. Some of us are blonde and blue-eyed, or dark-haired with dark features. Racism, homophobia, sexism — these forms of prejudice horrify a large percentage of us. But sizeism? How often have we considered this? How often do shameful things emerge from our mouths, born more from conditioning and history than reality and "science"? 

Why do we feel the need to shame others at all?

THE MOVE TOWARD NON-DIET DIETING

Many people tell me they are not on a diet. They eschew gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, conventionally grown produce, tap water, grains, most beans, canned goods, processed foods, and foods high on the glycemic index. 

I tell them this sounds like a diet. 

“It’s not, though, it’s a lifestyle change.”

I ask how their lifestyles have actually changed. How’s your sleep? Is it better? Are you falling asleep easily? Waking up throughout the night? Feeling well-rested when you awaken, ready to bounce out of bed and get on with the day? Do you spend more or less time with friends? Are you happy? Are you supplementing consistently? Are you taking time out for self-care, for hobbies and interests? Do you move for fun? 

It’s not a lifestyle change if nothing about your lifestyle actually changes — if you are just subbing new rules for old rules. The problem isn’t with the food. It’s with the rules. The problem with non-diet diets is this: while many health pros promote them for their health-promoting benefits, these eating styles are often discussed in terms of their weight loss potential, not their ability to positively affect long-term health. We can't remove weight loss from the equation because size is still so engrained in health, even though the two are scientifically unrelated. 

CLEAN EATING AND DIRTY LIVING 

The problem is not with cookies. Cookies are benign little things sold at coffee shops. But if you never eat cookies, deny yourself cookies, tell people you will never again eat a cookie, fear a single cookie will lead to a five pound weight gain, and have no sense of ownership around cookies — well, this is a problem. 

Macaroni and cheese, pizza, bacon cheeseburgers, salt and vinegar potato chips, chocolate cake, cheese, wine, and soda pop (yes, I went there) are not problems. These might be foods to enjoy more moderately, if moderation meant anything other than restriction, as Kelsey Miller points out here. But the problem, again, is not the food. “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it,” we’re told, re-affirming, as Miller mentions, that nutrition is very much “a weapon to be used for or against yourself,” instead of a helpful tool for self-care and optimal wellness. A tool to keep us obsessed with being or achieving a so-called healthy weight, a term so amorphous I'm not sure where to begin. 

Don’t get me wrong. I believe vegetables, fruit, quality protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates are deeply nourishing. I’ve built my career on this foundation. I’ve coached people using this foundation. I’ve given talks around health, discussing these very foods. But choosing health shouldn’t mean having lists of “yes” and “no” foods (unless they truly do not sit well with us -- allergies and food sensitivities do exist, after all).

Nutrition is about the act of nourishment. That's it. It shouldn’t mean hopping on Instagram to proclaim you’ll never eat pizza, or shaming your readership by asking rhetorical questions such as, “You’re not still eating potato chips, are you?” Not regularly, no, but if the mood strikes, why the heck not?

Why are we giving potato chips more power than we as women have ever given ourselves?

You will not die from a cookie, develop cancer from a serving of French fries, or experience a heart attack from a single cheeseburger (no relationship there either, if you're interested). Yes, eat your vegetables -- which might actually be more appealing when you give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever the frig you want -- but aim for balance. Relax. Listen to your body. Learn to connect with it. Get to know it. Acquaint yourself with its cues. And eat the cake (ideally sitting down, with a napkin, and slowly, so you can enjoy it fully.)

You will learn sometimes you are unfathomably hungry, so hungry you can’t stop eating, so hungry you can’t get full. You will mistake a hunger for love with a hunger for food, and that's okay, but try to recognize it when it happens. Sometimes you won’t have much of an appetite and a simple bowl of soup will do. Sometimes you will want a full brunch; other times, a coffee and a couple of hard-boiled eggs. This is all part of normal eating. 

You will learn you love salads because they energize you. You will learn you need more protein than you're eating (or not). You will learn all kinds of things about yourself when you trust yourself. 

WE ARE NOT PREPARED FOR NON-DIET DIETS

Another thing. Most of us aren’t ready for lifestyle changes, or non-diet diets. Many of us have been dieting for so long that the diet mentality informs all of our eating decisions. We may not count calories, but we know the amount in all of the foods we eat. We may know bananas are healthy, but worry about the sugar content. I’ve had Paleo clients who fear carbs, and chronic low-fat dieters who worry about eating a quarter of a large avocado or a serving of full-fat yogurt, girls who are scared of adding more protein for fear of unwanted weight gain or bulking up. 

I fully support anyone interested in improving their health, whatever that means to them, whatever avenue they may take. I understand the role non-diet dieting has played. I've recommended a Paleo autoimmune approach to numerous people, mostly because it offers an answer to some pretty serious health concerns. 

But until an individual amends the diet mentality — until an individual feels comfortable eating food, all food, and has developed a healthy, emotionally-neutral relationship with it — it is unethical to recommend an eating style or non-diet diet, because said individual will carry the same shame and ideology into it with them. They will carry their healthy weight obsession into it, like unrequited love or heartbreak or the shit people tell you that you'll spend years recovering from or running from or fighting unnecessary battles for. 

I know I did it. I was on Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, the Zone. Low-fat, no-fat, low-carb, ketosis. I went plant-based for ethical purposes, but also to lose weight. And then I decided to eat only foods grown within a 100 km radius of me while sticking to a plant-based approach, until I was left with almost nothing. I ate Paleo and later followed The Perfect Health Diet protocols, until I gained weight because my body — an active, fit, healthy body — happens to need more carbohydrate, imagine that, to function at its best. I've been there, done that, more times than I can count on my two child-like hands. 

Nutritionists and health enthusiasts alike are guilty of cherry picking from the cherry pickers, says Megan over at Health Bent. A phrase so amazing because it's so true. 

My advice? Get down with the research. Read opposing views. Consider them. And eat some cherries while you do it, because they’re delicious, especially when the juices run down your face. 

THE WEIGHT OBSESSION IS DRIVING DISORDERED EATING

Let’s take a break and examine another elephant. 

1) Eating disorders are on the rise. One of the issues: we believe there is a specific eating disorder body type, even though people of all shapes and sizes battle eating disorders. Underfat,  “normal” weight, fat. All types. Just because someone isn’t under 100lbs doesn’t mean they’re not struggling with an eating disorder (and just because someone is under 100lbs doesn’t mean they are.)

Who can forget the section in Unbearable Lightness where Portia de Rossi writes of eating tuna and crackers in such a performative manner? We would never not admit a cancer patient because they didn’t look sick enough, but that’s exactly how we treat eating disorders because weight or eating style are given precedence over eating psychology. 

2) Eating disorders are getting masked. Katie Daleabout has spoken and written about this a few times, but here’s the deal. Because eating “clean” and living a healthy lifestyle is encouraged and being very thin is valorized, many individuals go undiagnosed for years. As Katie mentions here, few people outside of her inner circle were aware of her disordered behaviour around food. 

By the way, I have no idea what eating clean means. All foods contain chemicals, and the last time I checked vegetables grew in the dirt. Clean eating = eating and having the common decency to wash your plate and silverware after you’re finished.  

SYMPTOMS OF DISORDERED EATING

But how do you know if your eating is disordered? How do you know if you must go back to the beginning? 

Here’s a few signs you're struggling with disordered eating: 

  • You have “yes” and “no” foods

  • You restrict and deprive yourself of foods you once enjoyed due to their “unhealthiness” instead of eating them and enjoying them when you feel like it

  • You’re on a strict 1200 calorie diet

  • You can’t stop thinking about food; if you were to really think about it, you’re always hungry or monitoring food intake in some way

  • You avoid carbs or fat, or say things like “there’s so many carbs in this!” or “this food is too high in fat”

  • You can’t stop at just one serving of a forbidden food, or won’t keep something in the house for fear of overeating it

  • You won’t eat anything that isn’t "clean"

  • You are inflexible with your eating style, even when on vacation or at a friend’s house

  • Obsessing over recipes and what to make next (see the Ancel Keys starvation study)

  • You fear weight gain, hate your body, or obsess over the scale/measurements

  • Limiting portions based on what you should eat, instead of listening to your body and eating until you are full

  • Knowing in your heart you have a shitty relationship with food

  • Following a plan, eating style, or diet for the main purpose of weight loss

  • Declining social outings for fear of eating “bad food”

  • Declining dinner parties for fear you will overeat or eat foods that are “not clean”

  • Choosing foods because you feel “you should” rather than because you want to

  • Filling up on diet soda and/or coffee to suppress appetite

  • Not exercising to avoid becoming hungry

  • Not eating when hungry

  • Not eating because you feel as though you’ve already eaten enough, even though your stomach is still growling

  • Calorie counting or tracking

  • Deciding whether to eat a food or not based on the calories

  • Binging on food (eating a lot of food in one sitting, very rapidly, without regard for hunger) regardless of whether it’s bananas or cheeseburgers

  • Purging

  • Not eating or purposefully under-eating

  • Being preoccupied with whether a food or food group is healthy

  • Nixing an entire macronutrient category (ie. fat, carbs) for reasons unrelated to health, such as weight loss or social pressure

  • Replacing meals with shakes or other liquid for weight loss-related purposes

  • Avoiding protein because you feel it makes you gain weight

  • Food journaling over the long-term

  • Going all day without eating to “save your calories” so you can binge on food later

  • Exercising to punish yourself or because you need to “wear off the calories”

WHERE CAN WE GO FROM HERE? 

Please, please, please try to focus on something other than weight loss. Try to turn inward, to yourself and your values and the things you'd like to work through. It won't happen overnight. It may take months, years. But if we don't start to embrace health at every size and take a more inclusive approach to wellness, we have to accept we're condemning millions of people to shame, self-hatred, and disordered eating. 

Consume turmeric for the purpose of taming inflammation, or chia seeds to help digestion. Eat food because you love it. Eat food because it fuels you, because it’s good for you, because it makes you happy.

And here’s something few people will tell you, but I will, because I know going out there into the world with the body you were given, and loving it for what it is and isn’t, is brave: 

You are perfect. You are perfect, you are beautiful, and you are loved. You are a whole person just as you are. You are smart enough. You are gifted enough. Be kind. Choose compassion. Riot for empathy. Be good to people and speak good thoughts, especially to yourself. Love people. Tell them they are attractive. Help people to become more confident and less ashamed. Tell your story. Encourage others to tell theirs. Remind them we are all works in progress, exactly as it ought to be. Know that this is a process. It take months. Years. It doesn’t matter. Choose to follow the course. 

Good food is one of the highlights of the human experience. 

Let eating it light up your life.