Most days, I spend my working hours talking to people all about their diet. Although I am a dietitian, the name itself makes me cringe. Three out of four people that come to see us have done every diet under the sun, and they come to us searching for what their body “really needs”. What does the body really need? Great question. Likely the same thing the mind really needs: a break from our diet culture. What is diet culture? In my opinion, it’s the public and private thought-process that there is a magic formula (a diet) out there for my body that will allow it to look and function a certain way (as defined by our society).
After searching social media for the hashtag ‘diet culture’, these are a few of the posts that popped-up:
- Diet culture asks, what are you doing, not how are you doing.
- Worst food additive: GUILT.
- What would it be like to live in our bodies instead of control them?
- News flash – no matter how much you keto or kale, none of us are getting out of here alive.
And my personal favourite: I’ve decided I’ll never get back down to my original weight, and I’m okay with that. 6lb 7oz just isn’t realistic anyways.
I want to be clear, some foods will absolutely change how we feel physically and mentally. Balancing out or changing our intake of food and meeting our daily nutrient requirements (aka our diet) can give us more energy, clear our skin, help calm digestion, give us mental clarity, improve depression and anxiety, change our weight, help us excel at a sport etc.
Never ever will it increase our worth or value as a person.
Yes, sometimes weight loss does mean our blood pressure will decrease and our joints will hurt less, and we will be ‘healthier’. Weight loss does not equate to a healthier, successful, flourishing, mentally whole person. And there is the lie, and we have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
What we eat does not define us. I hear it all the time – “I was SO bad this weekend” or “I was good ALL week, and then I had my cheat day”. If I eat “good” food, I am not therefore good. If I eat “bad” food, I am not therefore bad.
I am still me.
There are so many labels our culture throws on food, and thanks to the age-old saying ‘you are what you eat’, we slap those labels on ourselves and others.
Filling our body with the stuff we were designed to run on (food) should not be a regimented test that sometimes requires us to cheat! There is freedom to eat treats. There is freedom to buy expensive donuts. There is freedom to eat ice cream before you eat your kale salad. If I could give my clients one thing it might be this: to see their food in a new light – as food.
Life is a balancing act. The food we eat is a balancing act, but we aren’t walking on a tight rope with nothing but a plunging fall if we fail. Mental and emotional health are impacted partially through diet, but significantly through a diet culture. As with anything we struggle with, it helps to know that other people have experienced similar things. I love the quote below as I get this question asked ALL. THE. TIME.
Dear dietitian, what is my ideal weight?
Dear client, see below:
“Your ideal weight is whatever weight you reach, when you are mindfully nourishing yourself with food and movement that you actually enjoy, and fully engaging in your life.” – Jennifer Rollin– Jennifer Rollin