The diet mentality. It’s a slippery slope, that one.
A little voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re not good enough, that you need to be thinner, that you need to lose weight and deprive yourself to look a certain way.
And once you give in to that voice, it’s hard to stop. You become ruled by food and weight and everything else becomes secondary.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
You can break free from the diet mentality and learn how to accept yourself just the way you are. It takes work, but it’s worth it. And this post can get you started!
Let’s talk about what the diet mentality is and how you can overcome it.
What is the diet mentality?
The diet mentality is the belief in diet culture: an insidious cultural phenomenon that tells us we are never good enough, and our value lies in our physical appearance. It pervades every aspect of our culture: social media, movies, family life, media, schools, advertising, etc.
This mentality can lead to a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting that leaves you feeling deprived, frustrated, and ultimately disappointed.
It’s time to break free from the cycle and start embracing your life with intuitive eating.
Diet Culture: How the diet mentality manifests in our lives
Diet culture is obsessed with thinness, fitness and weight loss. It encourages people to see their bodies as objects to be changed and improved to match the current beauty ideal.
For many, this leads to a cycle of dieting and restriction, most often followed by bingeing, weight gain, and guilt.
But diet culture didn’t just appear in your adult life. It was curated over the years in the books you read and the films and tv shows you watched growing up.
Ever noticed how larger bodied characters are portrayed in children’s films like Harry Potter, The Little Mermaid, or Star Wars? They are the villains, they gluttons and the butt of the joke, but never the hero or romantic lead.
Have you noticed that the casts of Friends, Saved By The Bell, Jane The Virgin, and Riverdale are all thin and fit? Where are all the average-sized people (for women, that’s a size 18-20)? Very few shows have even one larger-bodied main cast member.
The absence of diverse body representation in the media is diet culture and weight bias in action.
Diet culture also appears each January as a new wellness diet or cleanse that will cure your inflammation, “addiction” to sugar, candida overgrowth, or whatever the buzzwordy problem of the week is.
Diet culture also tells us that certain foods are “good” and others are “bad,” which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt when we eat the “wrong” thing. The food police take up residence in our brains. This can create a destructive cycle of chronic dieting and disordered eating.
Ultimately, diet culture is damaging, but there are ways to break free from its clutches. By becoming more aware of diet culture’s pervasive influence, we can start to question its messages and live our lives in a way that is more joyful and liberating.
The dangers of the diet mentality
If you believe diet culture’s main message – that the key to health is losing weight and the best way there is to go on a restrictive diet – you’ve been sold a lie. This way of thinking and the behaviors that go with have proven to be harmful to your physical and mental health.
First, weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting, can take a toll on your body. When you lose weight quickly and then gain it back, your body goes through a lot of stress. This can lead to problems with your metabolism, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and even heart disease, according to numerous studies.
Second, dieting and weight stigma can damage your self-esteem. Constantly obsessing about food and your weight can make you feel terrible about yourself. You may start to believe that you’re not good enough or that you don’t deserve to be happy. (But this is not true!)
Lastly, the diet mentality and dieting can lead to disordered eating behaviors and worse, full blown eating disorders such as Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. When you’re restricting yourself and have a fear of weight gain, it’s far too easy to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
The bottom line is that the diet mentality is harmful to your physical and mental health. If you’re stuck in this way of thinking or think you might have an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help from a registered dietitian and therapist.
And, there is another path to health…
The antidote to the diet mentality: Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body’s cues and caring for yourself nutritionally, physically, and emotionally. This means no more depriving yourself of your favorite foods or punishing yourself for “slipping up.”
Instead, intuitive eating allows you to honor your hunger and make choices that make you feel good all around – in the kitchen, at the gym and in your emotional life, too. In the realm of intuitive eating, self-care reigns.
Intuitive eating has been shown to reduce disordered eating, negative body image, and poor mental health. People who practice intuitive eating engage less often in emotional eating and loss-of-control eating than dieters do. Intuitive eaters have higher motivation to exercise, higher optimism and body appreciation.
Moreover intuitive eaters have lower triglycerides than dieters. They have better HDL levels (that’s the good cholesterol) and eat a larger variety of foods compared to non-intuitive eaters.
When you start to eat intuitively, you may be surprised at how your relationship with food changes. You’ll start to enjoy eating again, without all the guilt and stress. So say goodbye to the diet mentality and hello to a healthful, intuitive way of living!
How to ditch diets for good and develop a healthy relationship with food
If you’re fed up with feeling bad about your body and your relationship with food, it’s time to reject diet mentality for good. Diets are all about restrictions and rules, which only leads to feelings of guilt and shame when you break them.
Instead, focus on making peace with food and developing a healthy relationship with your body. That means stop counting calories and stop judging yourself for what you eat. Without all that pressure, it becomes easier to make good food choices that satisfy you.
All foods can fit into a healthy diet, and it’s okay to enjoy your food without feeling guilty. The key is to listen to your body’s cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction. This can be a challenge at first, but it gets easier with practice.
When you reject diet mentality, you’ll also start to appreciate your body more. Body acceptance is an important part of developing a healthy relationship with food. When you embrace your body just as it is, you’ll be more likely to take care of it in a way that promotes health and wellbeing.
So ditch the diet mentality today and start on the path to a healthier, happier relationship with food and your body. I specialize in helping women on their intuitive eating journey achieve food and body freedom. Are you ready to ditch dieting for good?
Hello there! I’m Britt, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. I can help you find freedom from life-long dieting, disordered eating and eating disorders. When I’m not writing about ditching diet culture, joyful movement or improving body image, you can find me hiking in Vermont’s Green Mountains, eating pizza, making modern quilts or sipping a hot cup of tea. Let’s connect!