How to avoid diet culture around the New Year
The holidays have come and gone...
Relatives are back in their respective homes and all the tempting, potentially forbidden foods are officially consumed or in the trash bin. Now, you are thinking one of two things…
You are thinking this year you are going to do something different than in all the years past, but you’re not fully sure how to do that.
If you’ve already started on your intuitive eating journey, you are thinking that you can move peacefully back onto your intuitive eating journey after a few ups and downs, but no.
Around the beginning of the year weight-loss coaches, supplement companies, and diet gurus take the stage offering you VERY tempting ways to fix yourself and change your body.
They offer compelling reasons to "detox", reset, or get off that extra holiday 10 pounds.
They tell you food is the enemy and by just following their plan, you'll be on your way to success, thinness, and you can FINALLY feel worthy.
In some ways, we are used to this messaging and there is a small part of us that knows better...
It never worked before. Why would it work now?
But there is just something about the lure of dieting, just for a few days or weeks, that can feel so right!
And that makes sense. "Let me just lose 10# THEN I can get back into intuitive eating or be more mindful, " we might think.
Have you ever felt that way?
For years or decades, diets and food plans have helped us feel safe and in control.
With a plan or pill, we don't have to think or feel into our own body.
We don't have to take personal responsibility for our emotions or face the actual reasons we over-nourish or under-nourish.
Staying stuck in self-deception feels easier than going to the root of the issue. Am I right?
It doesn't have to be this way...
You can live in a world FULL of diet culture temptations and never feel the urge to diet or restrict again!
What does it take?
In our experience, it takes empowered knowledge, application, and practice. And it also helps to be surrounded by a community who "gets it".
Together, let's discover how to avoid stepping back into diet culture at a time of year when the temptations are at their highest…
Where do you see diet culture coming into your world?
How about on TV ads (does anyone watch regular TV anymore, lol)? So maybe more so ads on a variety of streaming services? OR Radio? YouTube? Magazines? At the stores? Etc…
Others have told me they see it in their Instagram or Facebook feed. And not just from ads, but from loved ones, and maybe even themselves. They are reminded through the “memories” of their old selves popping up on their newsfeed. Has this happened to you?
Other places it could sneak up on you, is through your own phone depending on what apps you have installed on your phone or maybe from the pile of diet books lurking somewhere in your house.
Lastly and most notably… it seems everyone you know is talking about it! Family, friends, co-workers, and maybe even your cashier at the grocery store.
IT IS SERIOUSLY EVERYWHERE! ARGHHHH!
So what are you to do?
Run for the hills? Put your head in the sand? Stop talking to everyone, throw your electronics in the fire, and become a complete hermit with no socialization at all? That will solve it, won’t it?
Here is what you CAN do…
1. Retrain Your Social Platforms
What's beautiful about social media is that we can intentionally start to tell Facebook, Instagram, or Tiktok “I don't wanna see this ad”. “I don't wanna see this ad”. “I don't wanna see this ad”. You may have to do this over and over until those social platforms pick up your desired algorithm, but nevertheless… you CAN do that. And they want to listen to you because they want you to come back.
I also recommend deleting any and all apps that may be related to diet culture. I know it will be scary because you will be thinking… “but what if this new way of eating and living doesn't work out for me? I may need it to fall back on.” First off… you won’t need to go back and secondly, even if you did, you could always download it again. Sadly, they are likely not going anywhere. But more importantly, do you really want to go back to something that has failed you over and over again? Ask yourself, how is holding onto that false hope helping you? And what is it costing you to completely let go of those electronic chains?
As you can see, avoiding stepping back into diet culture is not about those who tempt you. It is actually about you and what you can (or are willing to) do.
Your stepping away from diet culture will come from what you chose to do moment by moment….
2. “Detox” Your Home Of Diet Messaging
Next up, get rid of all those diet books, magazines, apps, or anything else in your home that may be tempting your subconscious brain to continue in the diet world. Don't give them to anyone because no one benefits from that junk. Yes, I called it junk. That terminology may or may not resonate with you but I invite you to tap into how you're feeling about throwing these publications away.
Can you take this step for your freedom?
If you find yourself hesitating, take a breath and then decide to either pitch that stuff, (the stuff which once served you but no longer does), in the trash or the fire OR decide to continue circling where you have been for so long.
Even if you read this article mid-year. It is NEVER TOO LATE to start! You do not have to do this at the beginning of a year. Every moment is the opportunity for a different experience!
3. Filter What You Hear and See
Now, what to do... when you see stuff in a store or hear it on the radio? You have two options… First, you can avoid it by walking in a different direction or turning the station. Or second, you can lean into the awareness that it is there and choose to not let it impact you because it no longer serves you. What do you think would work best for you?
Let's face it, all of these suggestions may feel easier said than done. If you're like me, the pull to diet culture rhetoric early on was mesmerizing and filled me with hope. It felt more natural to lean into the false hope of diet culture than to tune it out and rely on my own personal power. You might be feeling this way too and that's completely fine.
Let's back up the argument to ditch diet culture with a few research-based statistics you won't be able to ignore. When I recognized these as the truth, ditching diets at the beginning of the year became WAY more natural.
What if I told you a few facts like…
The diet industry is a $2.7 billion dollar industry in 2021 and is expected to continue to grow 4-8% per year?
There is a direct correlation between dieting and rebound weight gain. Meaning… 97% of people who lose weight from dieting regain it back PLUS MORE! Aka: dieting = weight gain (period).
Rebound weight gain has a negative impact on our metabolism and is an endocrine disruptor (our endocrine system is our hormone conductor system that drives almost every process in our body).
A smaller body DOES NOT mean a happier self… often it leads to a more obsessed, less socially connected self!
And to add… a smaller body does NOT mean a healthier body.
Yo-yo dieting or weight cycling is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
Now that you cognitively know these facts, does this help you to step away from diet culture once and for all?
Additionally, can you imagine if we spent all that money actually investing in our communities and things that actually improve our health?!
Another thing dieting does is this and it’s not something you hear many people talk about. And marketers are genius for capitalizing on it. They market to us that if we change our body size we will also get what it is we are truly desiring on a much deeper level. This is why we are so tantalized by marketing. However, dieting and changing our body really only gets us to the surface level of what it is we are truly desiring. I know when I wished my body was different, it was because I truly wanted something else. I wanted more strength or I wanted more mobility or I wanted less inflammation or I wanted to be accepted or I wanted to be sexier or a whole other host of things. For each person, this deeper desire will be very unique, but more often than not, the size of our body either is keeping us safe in this world or we feel we need to control our body to be safer, accepted, or worthy of something.
Before continuing on, I would like to invite you to take a moment to reflect. But first, breathe. Breathe in for 4 seconds, pause for 7 seconds, and breath out for 8 seconds.
Now, ask yourself…
When I think about changing my body, what is it that I am truly desiring?
We can't talk about diet culture without talking about what we think about the size of our body. They are intimately tied together.
If you are thinking, I want to have less pain or inflammation in my body, it is so normal to jump to the solution of weight loss. Right? This has become the solution to basically every ailment (physical or mental). But that is a broken strategy (and isn’t research-based)!
The desire for weight loss puts our attention into the future, and takes us out of being attuned to our here and now body. Our attention cannot be in two places at once (brain science confirms this). In other words, you cannot be thinking about your future body and your current body. I could tell you about how when you think of your future body, you are not able to attune to your current body, but I encourage you to discover that for yourself.
If you are ever tempted to jump back into diet culture again, I invite you to lean into your newfound awareness that now sees the link between the desire to jump back into diet culture and the desire for body control. They completely go hand in hand, can you see? Then, circle back again to remember that when you think about weight loss, it puts you in the future. And you’re basically trying to support a body of your future, but really you need to come into the present moment and decide what you can do to support your body right NOW.
Think of your body as a WHOLE, not as if you have a HOLE that needs fixing. This is why my tag line includes “Love Yourself”. It does NOT say, love your body. We are not our bodies and our bodies are not meant to be loved. They can be shown love, taken care of, respected, etc. But we find joy and love more easily when we love our whole selves.
Sounds good, but how do I make a New Years' resolution or a health goal?
The answer is simple… DON’T!
This will be the first way you do something different this year than what you've done in the past. If you've always been somebody who sets up goals, now is the time to change.
Alternatively, set up little micro habits to add or simply choose an intention.
A micro-habit is a small habit that you know can be done regardless of what life experiences may arise. It is something that is easily non-negotiable and improves what it is you are desiring. It’s bite-size and completely achievable. Let’s go back to the desire for reduced inflammation. There is a list of at least 10 things you could do every day to reduce inflammation, but what is one that you feel at least 90% confident implementing into your life? Could it be stretching for 5 minutes every day? Meditating for 1 minute per day? What would have a proven impact on your life?
If this piques your interest, stay tuned because we will talk more about habits in the next few weeks to come.
A lot of the clients that I work with find it really powerful to set up a one-word intention for the year, something where you really take some time to reflect on your last year. You reflect a little bit about where you are and where it is that you want to be. Through this process, you determine what you'd like your focus or intention for the year to be for the year to come.
You can consider words like… joy, attunement, peace, growth, balance, calmness, strength, connection, etc. Once you determine your one-word focus, write it down in several places to remind yourself. Then when you are experiencing a challenge, connect to that one word for direction through that challenge.
This all sounds great, but also super scary…
Doing this alone can feel daunting and overwhelming - especially with all the temptations discussed in this article. Fortunately, you don’t have to! If you’re tired of the rollercoaster but cannot figure out how to climb off it safely by yourself, apply to Peace with Food & Soul, a unique coaching program & diet culture solution that combines the power of Intuitive Eating with Neuroscience and Community. You get the support of not only professionals who have walked the same path, but an intimate community of other women who “get you” and the struggle.
“There is nothing else out there like it” says Diana, a current client.
We won’t tell you it’s a one-of-a-kind, life-changing experience, however… we will let you discover that for yourself by applying and booking a call with the Peace with Food & Soul team.
What else can I do when I am not in a loving community like that?
In the interim, give yourself the gift of taking time for self-reflection. Here are some journal prompts that will help keep you from wanting to jump back into diet culture.
When I was dieting or when I diet, what often goes through my mind?
How old was I when I went on my first diet? What prompted me to start?
How did dieting serve me at that moment? And does it still serve me? (note: it had to have served you in some way otherwise you would not have done it, even if you can see the cost now). So what was it helping you with? What did it give you?
What else can I give myself to serve me?
What are the pros and cons of dieting?
What are the pros and cons of intuitive eating?
How am I currently allowing external factors to drive my decisions? And where can I let that go a little bit?
As you start and continue on your journey of becoming an empowered, attuned, & intuitive eater, you will want to take a little bit of time to notice where diet culture may have infiltrated your life because you'll think.. “I broke up with diets. I don't wanna do it. I'm so done. I'm looking for the better way.” And you'll start caring forward. But then, all of a sudden, there will be this little diet culture crack that comes up and says, hello, knock, knock, knock.
At this point, you will have cultivated self-awareness to be able to recognize it, be compassionate with yourself that it's coming up because you're human and now you will know how to respond to it.