Happy New Year!
It's only been two days, and I've already seen the annual signs of diet culture at its strongest time of the year trying to convince people to find a new body, a new diet, a new workout plan, and a new YOU.
By now, a lot of people will tell you diets don't work. People have caught on to the idea that traditional "diet" plans don't work, but the tricky thing is diet culture has a new language. Instead of calling their plan a diet, they call it a lifestyle, a 30-day plan, a detox or cleanse and throw in a bunch of words like balance, sustainable, and healthy.
I'm sure you've seen these plans around social media - Whole30, a juice cleanse to "reset" your body, the no sugar/gluten/dairy plans to lose weight, clean eating, or flexible dieting.
I understand why these plans are appealing. They are often promoted next to before and after pictures showing weight loss or body changes. There is a strong sense of community with many of the plans. The Instagram accounts who showcase these plans are curated with "perfect" pictures of bodies, food, and seem to be the picture of health and happiness.
If you're feeling bad about your body, browsing these accounts easily make you feel guilty about your food and exercise habits. It's not uncommon to develop the belief that "In order to be loveable/wanted/accepted/WORTHY, I must eat/move/live this way."
Yes, diet culture plays on your sense of worthiness to keep you reeled in. It makes you believe your body - and your Self - is not good enough unless you look a certain way or weigh a certain amount.
When you fail at a diet, diet culture makes you believe that it's your lack of willpower that was the problem and offers you a list of reasons what you did wrong. You rarely blame the diet for not working, so you choose another one and get started again.
Diet culture is full of lies.
Here's what it forgets to tell you:
Diets don't work, and this includes any plan that leads you to restrict your dietary intake.
The only proven side effects of dieting are weight gain, irritability, feeling crazy around food, fatigue, obsessing about food, and much more. Sure, in the short term you may lose weight and feel great, but within a few weeks to months, it will end up rebounding. Your hunger will kick back in, leading you to feel out of control and crazy around food, as your body tries to nourish you again.
Mentally restricting food by telling yourself to cut out a certain food often leads you to obsess and think about that food all the time. I'm sure most of us have experienced the feeling of craving sugar when we tell ourselves not to eat it. When you finally let yourself eat it, you end up feeling guilty or eat a ton of it all at once.
Your health is much more than your physical health, and your health is more how you feel on the inside than how you look on the outside. Sure, you may be able to control your food and exercise to get the "perfect" body (quotations because the perfect body doesn't exist). However, to get there, it will likely require unhealthy behaviors and may worsen your health, leading to symptoms of fatigue, losing your period, obsessing over food, anxiety, or more.
Your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health matter just as much as your physical health. Your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, relationships, and connection to the world all matter. Your physical health is more about how you feel inside and how your body is working to help you through the world. By nourishing your body, you have energy to live your life.
Diet culture forgets to tell you that you are worthy. You are enough. You are worthy of love, belonging, and acceptance just as you are (shout out to Brene Brown!).
Your body is enough. You deserve to live IN your body - to experience embodiment. You deserve to nourish your body.
You do not have to have a "New You!" this year. You are already whole as you are.
I know it's tempting to fall into these plans and the resolutions, but this year, focus on your life.
Instead of filling your life with food or body obsessions, show up fully for your life.
Set intentions instead for:
- More self-care
- More nourishment (in all ways)
- More joyful movement, when you want to move
- More rest and relaxation
- More presence
- More feeling your emotions
- More nature
- More enjoyment of all foods
- More self-compassion
- More embodiment
- More vulnerability and accepting imperfections
Let your life feel expansive rather than restrictive.
A note on making changes that support your health: It is possible and fine to make changes to your food or movement patterns when and if they can support your health and come from a place of self-care. For example, choosing to move more for better energy and balanced moods may mean deciding to add in a few weekly classes of your favorite movement. It can also mean deciding to skip the class if you wake up exhausted that day and practicing self-care by getting more sleep. Listen to your body and intuition - it knows best.
If you're ready to give up the diets, check out my free Make Peace with Food email course. I'll send a daily email for a week to help guide you away from restrictive eating plans and towards peace with food and yourself.