I’m reading Intuitive Eating for like the upteenth time. I never tire of reading it, and I’m not kidding when I say, I pick up something new every single time. Today, I’m focusing on all the diet culture thoughts you may have had or been (be) exposed to. And how some masquerade as the wellness diet.
There’s so much information in there that is GOLD.
I’m in a few “mom” facebook groups, which are great. They are so helpful for teaching me so much. Whenever I have a question about motherhood/breastfeeding/sleep habits, etc., those ladies are the first people I go to. BUT, I’ve been noticing alot of diet talk in that group lately. Many of the women are posting about detoxes, juice cleanses and how to get their “pre-pregnancy” body back.
I get it. We live in a culture obsessed with thinness. The majority of people still think thinness equates to health. I understand this way of thinking, and to some degree, I used to be guilty of it too. I thought healthy meant eating less calories, eating mostly “clean” foods, and cutting things out. But, now I know that’s not true, and health is not being “hyperfocused.” And research agrees.
But, unless you work in the nutrition/healthcare field, you read HAES blogs or subscribe to that messaging, you’re probably not aware of the concepts of health at every size and intuitive eating. How would you be?
I don’t necessarily think it’s my place to play all dietitian on these ladies (who I don’t even know in real life), but alot of the time, I just want to blurt out, “those diets won’t work!” “They’re quick fixes!” “That won’t teach you anything – it’s taking you AWAY from your hunger and internal cues.” “That will ruin your metabolism.” “What if you just tried to accept the body you have right now and appreciate it for all it does? It birthed a baby! It’s keeping that baby alive. It’s providing nourishment and comfort.” “You’ve been through alot – give your body peace and time to recover.”
These are all thoughts I have and want to share. These are also things I talk through with clients.
Being exposed to diet culture and having a diet mentality isn’t just following a diet. Diet culture thoughts can pop up anywhere. There are other ways in which you may be stuck in the diet mentality, or for lack of a better word, brainwashed into thinking you’re following a “lifestyle” change.
Examples of Diet Culture Thoughts
Any external rules that determine what you eat.
Points, macros, pre-determined eating times – all of these take away from your internal cues and hunger. Hungry at 10 even though you ate breakfast at 8:30, but you won’t allow yourself to eat because it’s too early for lunch? That’s a diet culture thoughts mentality. Won’t eat anything after 8pm? Avoiding carbs for a whole day or engaging in some sort of carb cyling? That’s taking you away from being in the moment, when you might actually want a sandwich or piece of fruit with carbohydrates for energy.
Exercising longer because you ate dessert last night?
Any form of compulsive exercise or using exercise to compensate for food is a diet culture thought. We should do exercise because we want to – not because we have to. And not because we are punishing ourselves. Food and exercise, while often listed together to maintain a “healthy lifestyle,” are different. You shouldn’t turn to exercise because you’re not happy with your food choices. And it’s not really possible to outexercise your diet.
Turn to exercise because you want to – maybe you want to de-stress, you’re training for something (that you WANT to train for), you like the way it makes you feel, or you want to socially engage in a workout with a friend. All good reasons for exercise. On that note, I will say, if you are training vigorously and engaging in intense exercise, you do need to think about eating more food. I’d recommend meeting with a Registered Dietitian to see the best and most efficient way to work fueling enough into your lifestyle.
Skipping meals or replacing them with “shakes” or “juices?”
Replacing meals with substitutions is not a maintainable lifestyle. Sure, maybe you love smoothies in the summer and you put enough calories in there to make it a meal every now and then. Great! But, if you’re meticulously counting every gram that goes into your smoothie and trying to keep it under x calories to replace lunch every day, that’s borderline obsessive and an example of a diet culture mindset.
Furthermore, if you feel the need to eat everything organic, fear added sugars and saturated fats (because nutrition “experts” tell you these things are bad), you may be falling victim to the wellness diet.
Changing your food choices on the weekend?
Ask yourself why? Is it because you try to be “good” during the week? When we see foods as “neutral,” weekday vs. weekends don’t matter. When you’re in tune with your hunger and satisfaction needs, you intuitively know what you want or need each day. Dieting takes you away from those internal cues. Embracing food flexibility is an important concept, and while it is totally possible to be intuitive with your food choices when you really love food.
Labeling foods as good and bad.
Remember, food is food. Whether it’s a cupcake or an apple, it all breaks down the same way. Spinach and broccoli can be nourishing, and so can cookies and pie. You won’t feel great if you eat cookies all day. And, you’ll probably feel deprived if you eat spinach all day. How can you find that balance?
Thinking About Food All the Time
If you’re a slave to diet culture, you may find yourself thinking you should not be thinking about food all the time. Actually, thinking about food often is your body’s protective mechanism. It is our body’s way of trying to protect us from undereating. When we restrict food, our brains and bodies fixate on it more. Consider the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. They nearly halved men’s calories (from 3200 to 1600ish calories per day). These men became obsessed with food. They thought about it 24/7, and dreamt and talked about it. They also obviously experienced a lot of lethargy (food gives us energy!), loss of muscle strength and stamina, loss of sex drive and so much more. Restriction affects us physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
I hope this posts helps you realize that while these things are very common in our vernacular and in those around us, I think it’s important to be aware of them if you’re trying to separate yourself from diet culture.
More Intuitive Eating Posts?
- A comprehensive list of intuitive eating resources
- Common intuitive eating questions
- 5 ways to incorporate intuitive eating
- What is normal eating?
- How to eat intuitively while meal planning
- What is the wellness diet?
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