Here’s the thing, little buns: the toxicity of diet culture is becoming more and more well known these days, which is incredible news! The not-so-great news is that people are still being bombarded with diets that wear different masks, but that are still, honest-to-god, harmful diets.
What am I talking about? Lemme explain. There are so many food fads and "lifestyle changes" that are being promoted out there that promise results of having more energy, less bloating, weight loss and being able to poop glitter. (Not actually, but some of the claims are that ludicrous, they might as well be pushing that, too.) They’ll say something along the lines of, "Sick of dieting? Want to get rid of food guilt? Want to be your best, healthiest self?" and you’ll be all, "YAS I DO! THIS SOUNDS AMAZING!" But then you’ll look deeper into it and see that they’re suggesting you eliminate entire food groups, restrict calories and portions, and cut out sugar/dairy/gluten all together.
The thing is, you’ll read or hear everything that the "lifestyle" change promotes and think it sounds so wonderful and so easy, that eliminating (necessary) food groups will seem like a small price to pay. "What? I can’t have a sugar in my coffee anymore? I can’t eat carbs? I shouldn’t eat bread? No milk in my coffee either? Seems like a fair trade off for the body of my dreams!" (Spoiler alert: it’s not.)
There are SO many things wrong with these diets. And yes, I’m calling them diets now because that’s exactly what they are.
Firstly, and the thing that frustrates me the most: they will flat out claim that their movement or diet is "body positive". Body positivity is an incredible movement that deserves a whole post dedicated to it alone, but all I will say about it is this: body positivity is rooted in fat acceptance. It was born out of the discrimination that fat people, people of colour, transgender and disabled people face every single day. So, if a diet is telling you what or how to eat in order to get your "bikini body" and "lose weight fast", how is that promoting body positivity at all? SPOILER ALERT: IT ISN’T. Body positivity actually has nothing to do with diets OR health, in any capacity. You can consider yourself healthy and body positive at the same time, but the latter does not depend on the former.
Secondly, people who embark on these diets genuinely do not think they are diets. Which is in no way, shape or form their fault. At. All.
Because of all of the trash they’ve been sold, trash that is covered in glitter and bows and seems too good to be true (because it is), they think that everything they’re doing to their body is good. They think it will be beneficial and won’t even think of the harmful consequences. But, my goodness, the harmful consequences are immeasurable.
I’ll use myself as an example because it’s a spot on example of how toxic these diets are. I’m in recovery for an eating disorder. I’m seeing a wonderful dietitian and am taking all the steps to recover in a safe and healthy way. This, for me, includes eating intuitively, which basically means forgetting every piece of bullshit diet culture I’ve been exposed to over the years, and just eating what I want to eat. What was most surprising to me, is that when I started to eat what I truly wanted to eat, it wasn’t all chocolate and pizza and carbs galore. When you eat intuitively you eventually start eating really nutrient dense foods because you enjoy them, and you enjoy every other food too. Because you literally get to eat whatever will make you feel good and satisfy you.
This means not dissecting every snack or meal and examining every calorie or nutrition fact that comes attached with it. So, you can imagine when someone that’s close to me embarks on a new lifestyle change, how toxic and detrimental their rules… I mean, guidelines… Can be to my recovery. (And their own well being, to be frank.)
Here’s a scenario:
Me: *with a friend, getting really excited about eating a cookie that I made a few days before* YAAAAAASSS
Friend: Oh my God, I wish I could eat that. I’m trying not to have sugar because it’s so bad for you and I had a muffin earlier so I’ve already been naughty today.
Me: *looks at cookie, feels heartbroken for the friend’s situation and obvious disordered eating.
Feels naughty herself because she also had a muffin earlier today and is also about to eat a cookie. Thinks for a second about putting it back in the container and back into her bag, but doesn’t want to look weak. Eats cookie quickly and mindlessly, doesn’t enjoy it at all and swears to only eat vegetables and protein for the rest of the day.*
That escalated quickly, right?
It actually happened. I’ve come so far in my recovery that I was able to pull myself out of that situation and eat intuitively again the next day, but think about other people. Think about how many girls would find themselves, and do find themselves, in that situation every single day.
Think about just one girl; she’s not in recovery. She doesn’t have a history of disordered eating and doesn’t have an eating disorder. She considers herself a normal eater and doesn’t feel any guilt around her food choices. But after a while, talk like that from people around her, combined with the inescapable harmful messages our culture throws at us every day, she starts restricting and dieting. She might even develop a life-threatening eating disorder.
In fact, statistics show that people who diet and restrict are more likely to develop an eating disorder at some stage.
Do you think "lifestyle changes" are going to help or hinder that girl? And, my loves, the devastating truth is that this girl is not hypothetical. She was me. She could be your best friend. She could be you.
I guess my message is this: if any kind of program or movement is telling you to cut out food or add certain things to your food intake, it is a diet. Diets are harmful to everyone except the companies who profit from them. Talking about what you’re eating or not eating to benefit your summer body or energy levels (but have no valid reason/medical issue/intolerance to foods you’re cutting out) may harm someone really close to you without you even realising. And it’s harming you, too. You might be quitting sugar and feel amazing for doing so, but your body needs sugar. You might’ve decided that you shouldn’t have dairy anymore, even though you love it and have no issues with digesting it, but your body will miss it. You will miss it. And the more you restrict, the more likely you are to binge later. And the cycle will continue.
You are SO much better than any "lifestyle change", my loves. You are wonderful beyond all measure. You deserve to eat what you feel like and what makes you feel good. And I know it’s hard to do that. Trust me. Everything around us tells us we shouldn’t. But just remember that only YOU know what is best for YOU. Do you, boo boo!
* One last little note: please, do not think for one second that if you abstain from certain foods or food groups because of religious or ethical reasons that this post is targeted at you. It absolutely, unquivocaly is not! And please don’t think that if you have a genuine intolerance or sensitivity to a certain food or food group that this post is targeted at you, either. I know for a fact that if I drink full cream milk, I’ll shit myself. That’s why I don’t drink it! If you really do not feel good eating a certain food, then of course you shouldn’t eat it! This post is more geared towards those who don’t have any issues with digesting or tolerating a particular food or food group and cut it out because they think they should in order to lose weight or follow a diet. That’s where the problem lies, my dears!