Is Diet Culture Dooming Us All?

As I touched on last week, I firmly believe in distancing morality from food. There are no good nor bad foods – there are just foods, and healthy and unhealthy portions, based on your current situation.

But as a dietitian, a so-called “expert” in the realm of nutrition, how can you NOT say that there are bad foods?!?

This infuriates people. The dieters. The gurus. The zealots.

There are CLEARLY BAD FOODS! Gluten, sugar, carbs, fat, dairy…

People love to give these labels and marry them to a specific ideology around food.

Here is the deal, and the shocking truth – people are different. What may be unhealthy for one person, could be okay or tolerable for another. Gluten, for example, can wreak havoc on someone with Celiac Disease, or a major intolerance… but to someone else, it may be totally fine.

Dairy – especially milk – causes me some super unpleasant side effects within minutes of consuming. While my wife can handle it.

People are different.

While there are some fairly universal truths when it comes to what we eat being a healthy option – vegetables are one – there are STILL outliers. Some people have terrible reactions to peppers, and onions. Some to broccoli (and no, that’s not a legit excuse to avoid eating broccoli if you can).

People are different.

Do you get the point yet?

What about donuts? And pie? And cookies? How can you say that those are not bad?

Again – context matters. What is bad about the dount? The donut itself isn’t bad. It’s frickin delicious. Eating 20 donuts per week…still not bad in itself, but probably not the healthiest decision. Eating a donut once in a blue moon, while being active and balancing your diet with mostly non-donuty foods? Probably 100% totally cool.

So by adhering and perpetuating the diet culture – which is only successful 5% of the time – where has it gotten us? Not very far. Yes, 5% of people who lose weight on a diet keep it off for more than 2 years.

So 95% of people who try to diet, fail?

No.

95% of diets fail people. 

Most diets out there make it so unbearable to continue forever, that after a year, maybe two – life happens and you start back to your old ways. You see, food is pleasurable. It’s not just fuel, or macros, or sustenance to get you to a weight that will make you happy. It is supposed to be enjoyed. We cannot deny that foods bring pleasure.

When these diets deprive us of entire food groups or put us on an insanely low amount of calories, then, of course, we are bound to give up. Who wouldn’t??

So how the heck are people supposed to lose fat, improve their health, or get super sexy 6 pack abs?!?!

Awareness. Acceptance. Time. Consistency. Patience. And Effort.

Awareness as to how you have gotten to your current state, and if it is a state of unhappiness, figuring out why you are unhappy. Will losing weight ACTUALLY make you happier? Solve the root of your unhappiness? If not, then don’t even think about trying to lose weight. Solve the root problem first.

Acceptance that you have gotten to your current state because of a cumulative effect of things you have an have no done over years and years. This is not meant to shame, but to just accept ownership of your decisions. You decided to stop working out for 10 years. You decided to stop cooking meals, and eat out all the time. You decide every morning to drink 800 calories from Starbucks. None of these decisions are inherently good or bad, they just are what they are – and they have lead you to your current point. Once you accept that YOU have gotten yourself here, you can also accept that YOU can get yourself out.

Time. It will take time. You didn’t get unhealthy from eating one “bad” meal. You won’t get healthy from eating one “good” meal. Go back to awareness. Why are you here? What got you to this point? Why is it important that you not be at this point? Dig deep. Find the real “why” that will pull you out of the bed each morning, and encourage you to realize that you don’t need food to cope with your stress.

Consistency. Again – one salad, one donut – won’t change much. You need to be consistent. But not OCD. If you give yourself time, you can be more lenient. Enjoy holidays. Enjoy birthdays. But maybe don’t celebrate every taco Tuesday with 4 margaritas. What you do the majority of your time, will lead you to become the person that is a direct result of your efforts.

Effort. It’s simple, but not easy. Most will give up when they don’t see 10 pounds gone in 10 days. Most will want 7 minute abs to be true. Most will want the supplement that their friend scammed sold them on to work now. Truth is, you still need to put in the effort. The effort is needed to move your body, break a little sweat, and challenge yourself occasionally. The effort is needed to not bring foods into your house that you know you struggle with. The effort is needed to not give up when you feel you are doing everything right, but the scale hasn’t moved in weeks (scale doesn’t mean everything – never forget that).

We haven’t failed at diets. Diets have failed us – because what we perceive diets to be are miserable, unsustainable and damn near laughable.

 

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Stay healthy my friends,