Why I’m Anti-Diet
Okay. I’m just going to say it: dieting fucks up your body. BIG time. I *know* that diet culture is influential, rampant and insidious so I know this will ruffle some feathers and probably upset some readers. And I’m okay with that because a) I think it’s waaaaaaaaay more important to get accurate information out there and b) I’m not for everyone and that’s also fine.
The actual definition of the word diet is: the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats. The word diet originated from the Greek word diaita, which means “a way of life”. Diaita moved through Latin to Old French, becoming diete/dieter, to its final iteration of diet in middle English. When I use the word “diet” in my coaching practice, this is the definition I’m using, one’s diet as a description of what one typically eats in their day-to-day lives.
Sadly, the word diet has become synonymous with restriction, deprivation, and smaller portions, typically with the end goal being weight loss. Dieting has also become synonymous with women as it’s largely female-identified individuals who partake in chronic dieting. Of course, dieting isn’t exclusive to women but diet culture is predominantly populated by women and women are the targets of diet culture marketing.
As women, we are told insidiously and often blatantly, to be small. We are taught that smaller is better when it comes to our bodies. Small also often means not strong or weak. We are taught that we shouldn’t take up as much space, that we shouldn’t have a voice. This is the root of diet culture. Not to sound like a broken record and yet again bring up the patriarchy but diet culture is a tool of the patriarchy, subtly and not so subtly teaching us that we need to be small. Diet culture is harmful to women. Its harmful to our bodies and to our minds. And in some cases, diet culture is literally killing us through disordered eating practices we employ in an effort to reach the unreachable beauty standards.
In being small, we take up the least amount of physical space as possible. As well, our worth and value, we are told, is directly connected to our size and weight. Smaller is better, we are told. Be small, we are encouraged. And if we are, we will be rewarded with a better mate, more positive attention, a better paying job, higher social value.
We are being fed lies. Every single day. The advertisements that we’re inundated with show us thin, slightly toned, tall, closed-mouthed women. These are the women we are supposed to aspire to be. They are the goal. Anything that’s not them is lesser.
This messaging is not only wildly problematic but damaging to all women. And its fuels diet culture. Americans spend more than $60 billion on diet and weight loss products annually. According to a study done by Dove, 85% of women opt out of activities, social gatherings and other important life events because they feel badly about their image and appearance. Women are opting out of life because of diet culture and not meeting the unattainable, unhealthy standards that have been thrust upon us. When we opt out, we silence ourselves. Period. This is a larger topic of discussion that I’ll definitely be coming back to but for now, let’s get back to how dieting and the pressures of diet culture are actually ruining our bodies.
When we engage in restrictive dieting practices, we are doing a significant amount of damage to our bodies, especially when we are chronic dieters. What most people forget is that our body’s primary job is to keep us alive. As such, when we start a restrictive diet, drastically reducing our caloric intake, our body kicks into survival mode so instead of losing weight, it responds by acting like its being starved. A couple of things are happening here: first, our body becomes super efficient at using the energy that’s available so it starts to protect the fat that’s stored in our body (for survival) by chipping away at muscle and lean tissue for energy. It also attempts to store as fat any calories that are coming in because its not sure when we’re going to feed it next. In breaking down our muscles for energy, our metabolism can slow way down. When our metabolism slows down, weight loss also slows down.
When we engage in super strict and restrictive dieting practices, the weight being lost is muscle mass (not typically what we’re going for), more fat than usual is being stored AND we’re messing around with our metabolism. Dieting forces our bodies into survival mode. And it’s doing the exact opposite of what we’re hoping to achieve.
There will be loads more content on this topic so I’ll leave this here for today but not before saying that I have nothing but compassion, love and support for women. I know the traumas, pressure, and oppression we deal with on the daily and I *get* why dieting is so appealing. The insidious messages are powerful and everywhere. I know we think we’re doing something good for ourselves and for our bodies. And I also know that dieting is yet another way we choose to punish ourselves. I see you. I love you. I am with you.
Also, in response to the highly problematic and damaging influence of diet culture, I have developed a program that teaches women how to love food, experience radical self-love and acceptance, and how to nourish your body for life with real, whole foods. It’s called The Anti-Diet Detox and it will be launching VERY soon so stay tuned!