Over the past few months, I’ve talked together a lot about how we live in a world where we moralise food, how we’re obsessed with numbers, and how our bodies are political. We’ve gone on to talk about how diets don’t work and even worse, that diets can cause serious mental harm.
As an idea to counteract that, I’ve also been sharing with you how learning to love your body is actually an option! We’ve looked at how body positivity differs to body confidence and how you don’t have to be healthy to be accepted in a movement that encourages us to work on side with our bodies rather than against them.
So I’m hoping you’ve realised that diet culture is the root of all evil. That it has been used to control you and shame you for your entire life. That it’s ruined how you feel about your body. That it’s dictated the clothes you’ve worn since you were a child. That it’s impacted on your love life and your sex life. And that it’s fucked with your head, your relationship with food and in turn covered all the occasions you should have been feeling on top of the fucking world with a dark cloud that you didn’t even necessary realise was there.
But my question now is, are you ready to stick two fingers up to this awful cycle of binging and restricting? Because, guys, there is another way!
GIVE UP DIETING.
I know. It’s utter madness. But seriously, you can quit dieting.
I felt, and still feel, totally fucking lost sometimes. I’ve been consumed in a life of extremes. Whilst some women find that they are able to follow diets ‘successfully’ for a few days or months before ‘falling off the wagon’, my experience is a larger version of a similar cycle. Years of restriction and supposed ‘successful’ weight loss then nosediving into years of profound emotional, over and binge eating. Without realising I had a severe eating disorder and I was firmly rooted in diet culture.
But we’ve been fed, pun intended, so much bullshit about food, and diets and what we should or shouldn’t be doing, I don’t blame you for feeling like the answer to your diet issues … is a different diet.
Dieting is about controlling and restricting food. For many, diets induce a food obsession, constantly worrying about the rules of the latest program their following. It’s almost hard to imagine life before we worried about carbs after 6 or what percentage of vegetables we have on our plates.
And just in case you wanted some quick reminders as to why dieting is awful, here are just a few:
- I constantly felt like I was missing out on life, saying no to things I’d like to do and avoiding social situations just in case I was expected to eat. Not to mention I had no energy, no desire to do anything other than exercise and I couldn’t focus on anything for longer than two minutes.
- I became obsessed with food, always thinking about my next meal, worrying about what time of day it is and how hungry I was already. I couldn’t listen to my friends or see a film because all my space was taken up with my food anxieties.
- I realised that dieting made my mental health terrible, I slipped further and further into an eating disorder I didn’t even realise I had. I felt low all the time and sex was absolutely off the menu.
- It was costing me a fucking fortune. Like actually worse than smoking.
- Reaching my goal weight didn’t change how I’d been conditioned to feel about my body. There wasn’t an ‘aha’ moment, I simply stepped off the scales and wanted to see a lower number the next day.
- I start to feel like no amount of weight lost would ever be enough. Ever.
- Self acceptance should always be the top of the list of things I do for my body.
- I realised that every day beauty standards don’t represent ANY woman, so why was I trying to reach a standard set by some white bloke? If we know that everything is photoshopped and that Victoria Secrets models stave them selves for a week before a shoot, why are we still trying to look like them?
- I finally understood that my journey to be ‘healthy’ also included my mental health and that whilst I was dieting, that became seriously unhealthy.
- I didn’t want to hate my self any more. I’m sick of it, it’s exhausting and there must be more to life than this…
So what is the anti-diet and what on earth does it actually look like?
If dieting is all about controlling food, then the anti-diet must be all about loosening your grip, letting go of all the shit you’ve been told about food and finally learning to truly listen to your body.
Intuitive Eating is the anti-diet. Intuitive eating is the dream. And the only tool you need is your own mind.
The idea of intuitive eating is to heal your relationship with food. To unlearn all the crap you’ve picked up over the years about the ‘rules’ around food and to finally connect with your body in a way that serves you.
If you think about how babies and young children eat, they’re not yet attached to foods in the way we have become, they’ve not yet been indoctrinated into diet culture and they’re able to remain in touch with their bodies. If you give a small child food when their not hungry, they’ll play with it, decorate their table, perhaps throw it on the floor, but they won’t eat it. You know when your child is full, because they stop eating.
In intuitive eating this is the aim. To re-connect with those cues that you did once have. It’s about respecting your body, giving it nourishment when it asks, moving when it feels good and fundamentally having more respect for your self. Dieting rubs away those connections, it confuses you into thinking food is simply ‘points’ or ‘syns’, meals become about calories rather than nourishment and you’re discouraged from connecting with the primal feelings of hunger, thirst, fullness in a bid to control your calorific intake.
Surrendering to food seems so far out of your reach when you’ve spent your whole life believing food is ‘out to get you’, but intuitive eating puts you firmly back in the driving seat, teaching you to settle your self back into your own body.
By moving away from dieting, and the horrible all encompassing dieting ‘lifestyle’ that we find our selves trapped in, we can free our selves from the ingrained fat phobia we have internalised and we find our feet back on the ground, ready to take on life with a totally different attitude.
In the next two posts we’re going to look more deeply at the principles of intuitive eating and the my own experiences and top tips for surviving the transition.
But for now, I just want to leave this here to sit with you, the idea that there is another way after 20, 30, 40+ years of dieting, this may need a couple of days to sink in….