The new year always brings talk of weight loss, getting our dream body, losing those last fifteen pounds. The refreshing clean slate of the new year has a dark side. The extreme resolutions and unachievable and unhealthy goals will appear again in 2021 as many of our bodies have held onto excess weight because of the stress of COVID-19. As more of us learn of the true horrors of diet culture and appreciate our bodies for providing us with an instrument to live our lives, it’s high time we ditch that New Year’s diet for good and commit to a healthier way of interacting with our bodies and with food. Keep reading to find out what it means to be anti-diet and get tips from a non-diet nutritionist on how to live your best life.
It’s always important to know who someone is and where they are coming from when reading their work, especially an article of this nature. I am using my own experience as well as research I have done to guide my understanding of the topic. In this article, I have compiled advice I have found helpful and information from experts.
Yucky Diet Culture
For anyone involved in any sort of recovery from disordered eating, diet culture is a yucky word, but you don’t have to have a history of disordered eating or body image issues to be harmed by diet culture. This culture is so ingrained in our society that to escape it requires a complete rewiring of thought patterns and behaviors. It exists in the same way gender dynamics and sexism do – when some realize its destructive nature and work to rectify it, we deem it radical and revolutionary.
It’s no coincidence that diet culture is particularly harmful and pressurizing to women. In a society where we, those of us who are not heterosexual cis men, are still working to make our voices heard, diet culture functions on superficiality, making us believe that our size and shape are more important than what we have to say. This is, but should never be the case.
They’re Scared of Us Loving Ourselves
Think about the money the diet industry makes on us hating ourselves in the new year. It’s impossible to escape the commercials and advertisements for diet programs – WW, Jenny Craig, South Beach Diet, etc. Even Noom who attempts to sell itself as “not a diet program” depends on the demand to live in a smaller body and the associate need to alter our diet. As someone who is trying to escape diet culture, seeing all of these advertisements never fails to trigger me. The before and after photos and testimonials attempt to trick us into wanting to lose weight thinking that that change on the scale will result in a happier life.
Let me let you in on a secret – if you’re not happy with yourself now, you’re not going to be happy with yourself 15 pounds thinner. Let’s work on living our best lives now, not being scared of weight gain, and healing our relationship with food so that our goal is to simply care for our bodies rather than control them.
Fat is not a dirty word.
As we as a society move towards body acceptance and embracing health at every size, it is imperative to remember where the body positivity movement came from. Not enough of us acknowledge the roots of this movement and go beyond body acceptance and into the idea of fat liberation.
“Body Positivity is nothing without its Fat Activist grandparents of all genders. It’s also nothing without the Black women and femmes who amplified the message at the beginning of the trend. The women who wrote the Fat Manifesto ended it by saying, ‘We commit ourselves to pursue these goals together.’ If together doesn’t include the fat people and Black people who made Body Positivity possible – as well as other marginalized bodies – it’s not Body Positivity at all.” (1)
Beyond body positivity is the idea of body neutrality. Try looking at yourself in the mirror and stating the simplest statements.
These are my arms.
This is my stomach.
These are my legs.
Try adding positive affirmations to your mirror!
Check out the #normalizenormalbodies on Instagram for normal body inspo.
Accounts to Follow to Encourage Your Anti-Diet Journey
Changing the way our feed looks is such an important step in acknowledging that diet culture doesn’t have to be the only way.
I used to follow fitness accounts to inspire me to workout. Then, one fitness account I followed, @mikzazon, transitioned into a self-love community as she began her recovery journey. When I see any of these accounts post on my feed, it puts me in a much better state of mind.
Your social media should be a supportive community for you. Don’t be afraid to hit that unfollow button.
Did you know…
Did you know you can say no to being weighed at the doctor?
Going to the doctor can be especially triggering for some who experience discomfort and anxiety about their body and weight. Just the thought of having to get weighed at the doctor has prevented me from going. When the pressure to exist in a smaller body gets in the way of getting appropriate medical care, that’s when you know something has to change. And until we make peace with our bodies or at least work on it and realize the number on the scale isn’t telling us anything about our worth, I truly encourage you to say no to the scale.
Let’s not let diet culture win and prevent us from getting medical care.
Let’s together make a commitment to schedule those necessary appointments and say no when they tell us to hop on the scale.
Tips from Anti-Diet Nutritionist, Natasha Ngindi
I asked Natasha a few questions on how we can nourish our bodies and souls during this difficult time. As a non-diet nutritionist, she gives helpful advice on accepting our bodies during a global pandemic and the changes our bodies need to survive such a time, how to find healthy eating without engaging in disordered behaviors, and how to make 2021 the year we run free from diet culture’s hold on us. Find her on Instagram @thethicknutritionist.
The pandemic has changed my patterns and caused disordered eating ideas to come back. How can we find calm and peace with ourselves and our bodies during this particularly stressful time?
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed about your body during this pandemic — take a step back, breathe, and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Your feelings are valid. As you sit with your feelings, notice your negative thoughts in these moments and challenge the mean girl voice trying to make you slip into old disordered eating habits. It’s important to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a loved one and give yourself a break. Your body has kept you alive during a global pandemic. That’s amazing! Celebrate the many ways your body supports you every single day, even though you don’t love the way it looks. If you need extra support at this very difficult time, please don’t be scared to talk to a trusted loved one or an expert to discuss your feelings.
Sometimes I know I need to fuel my body better, but am confused as to if that feeling is coming from a history of disordered eating. How can we balance food that makes our bodies feel good and not restricting?
When looking for ways to balance food that fuels your body without engaging in disordered eating, it’s important to ask yourself — am I eating this because I enjoy it, it also fuels my body, and it makes me feel good? Or am I eating this, regardless of taste or preference — and ONLY because I “heard” it’s healthy? If you find yourself making a decision to eat something, simply because of the nutrition facts, it’s a sign that your relationship with food may be disordered. You will know your decisions are not coming from disordered eating thoughts, when you get to the point where you eat a variety of nutritious foods that you genuinely enjoy. Learn to trust your body’s innate hunger and fullness cues, and give yourself permission to eat for satisfaction. And also allow yourself to satisfy your cravings without feeling guilt or shame. As you start listening to your body — with time, you will naturally start to incorporate more nutritious foods that fuel your body like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, etc. You may find the lack of restriction removes the power of food, making previously binge-worthy foods lose their allure. To gain true health without obsession, it’s important to nourish your body from a place of self care and enjoyment, not restriction.
Holidays feel so focused around enjoying food. It can bring about a lot of guilt in the new year. How can we start the new year on the right foot in order to develop a positive relationship with our bodies and with our food?
In order to develop a positive relationship with food and our bodies as we step into the new year, make sure to:
Do not compare yourself to others — especially Instagram influencers, models, and celebrities. Comparison is truly the thief of joy, and the social media content we take in can either hurt us or help us. Look at who you follow, and unfollow, or mute accounts that makes you feel bad about your body or promote dieting. Replace toxic accounts with body positive, anti-diet accounts. Surrounding yourself in a community of like-minded women going through similar challenges and struggles will help you stay on track if/when you slip back into diet culture traps. Social support is essential when you’re feeling down about yourself or experiencing disordered eating thoughts.
When it comes to your food choices, remember that diets don’t work. Give yourself unconditional permission to have all kinds of foods because restriction never works. Instead of thinking about all the foods you want to restrict yourself from, brainstorm how you can ADD more nutritious foods you ENJOY to your diet. Contrary to popular belief — it’s possible to enjoy the food you eat AND nourish your body adequately. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. If you’re having a hard time becoming an intuitive eater, don’t be discouraged. Intuitive eating is a life-long journey without a destination. Being a perfect eater and/or completely losing the desire to lose weight is almost impossible, that’s why intuitive eating is a beautiful way of eating. You can’t make mistakes. Be gentle on yourself when it comes to nourishing your body, food is meant to be enjoyed.
Engage in regular self-care and explore different forms of movement to show appreciation for your body. Explore different exercises and see what you genuinely enjoy doing and can see yourself doing consistently. Ignore what fitness influencers tell you about exercise. It’s not all about burning the maximum amount of calories, and “no pain, no gain” is simply untrue. Movement is supposed to be a celebration of what your body can do — not a punishment for what you ate. It’s not all about focus on weight loss, or just to burn the maximum amount of calories in a session. Solely working out for reasons, like weight loss, will make it difficult for you to be consistent when you don’t see the results you want. When you do workouts you actually enjoy, it’s easy to keep moving because it feels good. It’s important not to force yourself to workout. Don’t feel guilty when taking rest days. You’re not being lazy. Your body needs time to recover!
Educate yourself on anti-diet literature by reading books and listening to podcasts about intuitive eating, health at every size, mindful eating, and body acceptance. Having knowledge of these topics helps you to build a strong foundation of WHY exactly you believe in anti-diet nutrition and body positivity. Journal out your feelings and reflect on all the amazing things your body does for you every day, even if it doesn’t look the way you want it to. Write daily affirmations on sticky notes and put them on mirrors or any other places you see everyday. This will help you remember that you are a bad-ass babe that deserves to live a full life without the pressures of diet culture.
Find trusted loved ones that you can talk to about your struggles and challenges with food and your body. Whenever possible, distance yourself from people that bring you down; and establish firm boundaries with the people you choose to spend your time with. It’s not always possible to avoid diet talk, but you can let your loved ones know what triggers you. When diet talk arises, repeat that you don’t want to talk about it, or leave the situation whenever possible. When you can’t escape a situation, visualize yourself wearing a raincoat that shields you from the effects of diet talk. You might be around the diet talk, but try to let it bounce off of you, and not affect you as much. This is difficult to do but it gets easier with time.
If you need extra support, don’t hesitate to confide in a loved one and/or seek professional help. You deserve to eat without feeling guilt and shame.
Natasha’s Anti-Diet Book Recommendations:
The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison
May this new year bring with it the courage to break free from old habits and the willingness to embrace our entire selves for who we are. Life isn’t going to wait around for us to have the perfect body. Our bodies are perfect now, just as they are because they’re ours.
Please share with us what you are doing to be anti-diet this new year, by tagging us at @cookandculture in your posts of delicious and artful food.
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