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End the Diet Mentality



di·et

/ˈdīət/

noun

  1. the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

  2. a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

verb

  1. restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.

Depending on your relationship with food and your body, this four-letter word may evoke a myriad of thoughts and emotions. We live in a diet culture—a belief system that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over well-being. We are promised that if we only follow this set of rules or use this product, we will lose weight quickly, easily, and forever. According to Boston Medical Center, “An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight loss products.” You may be saying to yourself, “But I’m just trying to eat healthy.” Variations of the diet culture also include rigid eating patterns that on the surface are in the name of health, but in reality are about weight, shape or size. This is how the diet culture is tricky, working to keep us stuck in a diet mentality.


Diet mentality is a false belief that diets for weight loss create health and happiness. Diet mentality erodes body trust and replaces it with external rules, encouraging us to ignore the natural body cues we have as infants and toddlers and question our ability to know how to feed ourselves. Diet mentality is that negative voice we hear that chastises us for not following the rules well, for not being enough. Research on the short-term and long-term effects of dieting reveals damaging effects mentally, emotionally, and physically.


It’s time to refuse to believe the lies of our diet culture, end the diet mentality and focus on true health and wellness mind, body and spirit. To break free, consider the principles of bio-individuality and intuitive eating.


1. Bio-individuality. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. The principle of bio-individuality is based on the belief that each person is a unique individual with highly individualized nutritional needs, and that these needs change over time. Giving ourselves permission to listen to our physical bodies and bringing awareness to what makes us feel good and what doesn’t is a big part of identifying our own unique dietary needs.


2. Intuitive Eating. Forget about counting calories, fat grams, and carbs. Evelyn Tribole defines intuitive eating as “a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs…Ultimately, you are the expert of your body.  Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feels like.  Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.” Learn more about the 10 principles of intuitive eating here: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/


Bio-individuality and intuitive eating may seem like very foreign concepts considering you most likely have years, if not decades of experience in a world of diet culture and diet mentality. Making changes to eating patterns can be frustrating and overwhelming. It’s important to remember that each and every food choice is an opportunity to move toward a healthier way of eating. Small changes in food choices—one meal at a time—can make a big difference in the long-term. Remember to offer yourself grace & self-compassion. It’s all about progress, not perfection.


~Nicole Hutchison, PT, CSCS, Health Coach, Integrative Nutrition Coach

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