“I started tracking my calories and macros, and I noticed becoming overly focused on food, I started feeling more anxious and I sensed this wasn’t healthy”
Recently I’ve had several new clients who’ve said something along these lines as their reason for seeking help. They started the tracking with the belief that this was necessary to manage their eating and body weight, especially during the Covid lockdowns where there is so much talk around how this is affecting our eating (eg comfort eating) and resulting in weight gain.
My motivation for writing this, is how quickly these particular clients were able to drop the diet behaviour, food restriction and diet mentality and instead tune back into their bodies and appetites and eat freely without any guilt through understanding intuitive eating concepts. They expressed immense relief at not having to monitor or restrict their food, and they made the point that this way of thinking about food made so much more sense and why isn’t this the mainstream advice?
A key reason is just how pervasive diet culture has become, to the point it is everywhere – it’s hard to watch a TV series that doesn’t make some comment food and weight. A wonderful novel I just read which focused on some of the racial issues in America, still had a dose of diet culture with the numerous references to fat being undesirable and a problem. There are ads on TV, the radio and a trip to the doctors office where your weight may be brought up even if your complaint is a sore throat.
These days, diet culture is very often disguised as improving health. Public health messages suggest the relationship with health and weight is clear. It’s not. Fat bodies can be healthy and thin bodies can be unhealthy. Gaining weight does not mean you will develop health issues and losing weight does not guarantee health. If you would like to understand more about this, read Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth or at least this article.
But because of this oversimplification of the relationship between weight and health, the medical profession and many other health professionals, usually without meaning to be, are complicit with diet culture thinking and perpetuate dieting behaviours. Recommending weight loss will ultimately send most people down the path of food restriction or and into diet culture thinking and behaviours.
What do I mean by diet culture thinking and behaviours?
- The good food, bad food dichotomy
- Food is either healthy or unhealthy
- Food will either heal you or harm you
- You need to restrict certain food, especially sugary food, fried food and even some food groups such as carbs, to be eating well and managing your weight
- Tracking food, calories, macros with apps like my fitness pal
- Cutting out sugar or carbs
- Following a pattern of eating that isn’t practical with your lifestyle, that you don’t really enjoy or that leaves you feeling hungry and struggling to concentrate at times
None of this is true or necessary, you can read more about that in these two blogs:
It seems the pervasiveness of diet culture has reached a point that people with a previously healthy relationship with food and who’ve never engaged in diet behaviours before, are now starting to engage in them and this is starting to damage their relationship with food.
It’s important to mention that what was a quick turn around for these clients is not usually so straightforward for the majority of my clients. These people hadn’t dieted much (or at all) in the past, so their relationship with food was fairly intact to begin with. These clients are also in smaller, or not very fat, bodies, and this certainly can make it easier to shift the focus away from worrying about weight and the perceived need to restrict food.
If you feel your relationship with food is suffering and you’d like to escape diet culture, please contact us – we’d be delighted to hear from you!
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