Diet-culture is a sticky web most of us have been caught in at some point in our lives. Although it seems safe because so many of us are caught in it, diet-culture is a frog in the boiling water type scenario. How do we get unstuck?
Counting calories, over-weighing ourselves, restricting foods, and body dysmorphia are all symptoms of being stuck in a diet-culture mentality. Intuitive eating is the anti-diet mentality where you can break free from these toxic behaviors and help you learn to love yourself again by tuning into and honoring your body’s needs.
Let’s discuss 8 of the most common signs that diet-culture is ruling your life and how intuitive eating can heal your relationship with food and your body.
1. Counting Calories + weighing food
Any rules and regulations regarding food can contribute towards an unhealthy, bad relationship with food.
Counting calories and weighing your food every time you eat can lead to obsessive behavior, and cause a lot of negative emotions when you, inevitably, stray from these unsustainable regulations.
The reason these strict practices are unsustainable is that the body goes through many changes on a regular basis. Our caloric needs vary around so many factors, like activity level, having a cold, feeling tired, or even the weather!
Getting to know your body and when it needs what is a valuable skill that will have you taking proper care of yourself and never feeling fearful or restricted around food again. If you count calories or weigh your food, it’s probably a good idea to look into the cons.
2. Weighing yourself too Regularly
Our body’s weight naturally fluctuates on a daily basis, depending on many things like salt intake, hormones, digestion, and water intake.
Weighing yourself too often, especially with weight loss on the mind, can leave us feeling confused and agitated as the numbers go up and down no matter how “good” we’d been that day.
Diet-culture has us believing that what we weigh means anything at all. Bodyweight does not determine health, all bodies are unique in shape and structure and have different physical requirements to be healthy.
The BMI guidelines that you find on the internet don’t account for muscle mass, body fat %, bone structure, or anything that sets our bodies apart from one another. Health should be determined by what is optimal for your body specifically, not a vague, uniform guideline.
3. Cutting out vital Macronutrients from your diet
Nutrition is one of the most important factors to consider when thinking about health. Well-balanced eating is the best way to assure adequate nutrition intake.
The 3 main macronutrients are fats, carbs and proteins. If you are caught up in fad diets that recommend restricting an entire macronutrient, like with Ketogenic diets or High carb diets, you have been trapped in the diet-culture web.
Restrictive fad diets like these can have severe side effects. They can be very destructive to our health and relationship with food, causing intense feelings of failure when we eat a healthy carb or have a bit too much guacamole with our carrot sticks.
Read more about the risks of ketogenic diets and other fad diets to note why balance is always better.
4. Holding onto clothes that don’t fit you
A common sign that diet-culture has a hold over you is holding onto or buying clothes that are too small for you, with sights of one day fitting into them.
Behavior like this encourages feelings of guilt when we don’t reach our, possibly unrealistic, weight goals. Health should always be your main priority, including mental health, not clothing size or weight.
Embrace your body where it is now, and break free from using clothing as a reward for losing weight, it is not conducive to a happy life or positive self-image.
5. Buying into detox teas
Eating foods high in antioxidants is a great way to remove toxins that leave us feeling sluggish, but many detox teas that claim to do the same thing are just overpriced, glorified green teas.
Weight loss product companies know how consumed many of us are in diet-culture, and they use this to their money-making advantage. With fancy packaging and countless sponsored testimonials, we spend our money in the hopes of achieving the impossible, shedding a couple of pounds for good overnight.
Often more times than not, the detox cycle is over and within a week all the water weight we lost has returned and we fall back into self-loathing before trying the next scheme that ultimately “fails” as well, failing not because of us, but because they are fads.
6. Having “cheat days” / restrictive eating
The mere need to have a cheat day once a week to indulge is a big red flag that your diet is already too restrictive. Using the word “cheat” to describe the food we eat is already adding a negative connotation to food and can be harmful to people struggling with eating disorders.
The pattern of eating a highly restrictive diet and then making up for cravings once a week, has a more negative impact on our health than just eating what you want when you crave it. This article weighs up the reasons why cheat days are not recommended even for strict athletes.
The trick to intuitive eating is removing the power these foods have over us, taking away what makes them ‘special’ by knowing we can have them if we want to. Often this leads to fewer cravings and a more sustainable, healthier relationship with food.
7. Fasting for Weight loss
Although there are many studies stating the health benefits of fasting, done incorrectly, or used for weight loss, fasting can be very destructive on the metabolism and body.
When fasting is used for weight loss, it usually comes off quickly, indicating water loss and not fat loss. Most of the time, any weight lost in this way will come back almost instantly and possibly with extra.
Fasting for weight loss can be dangerous for people with liver or kidney problems and people who are on medication. There are health gurus that swear by fasting for many health ailments as well but done in the wrong way or for too long, fasting can do more harm than good.
For people with a history of eating disorders, fasting is never safe and can lead to unhealthy behavior contributing to a poor relationship with food.
8. Body Dysmorphia
One of the worst things that diet-culture teaches us subconsciously, is that we aren’t good enough how we are. There is always something to fix, or some way that you could look better as if there was something wrong in the first place.
Body dysmorphia can become a very serious disorder called body dysmorphic disorder that can take over your life. The most common sign of body dysmorphia is overanalyzing your physical appearance, and perceiving flaws that are not there or noticeable by others.
People with body dysmorphic disorder engage in compulsive behaviors and social isolation in the hopes of hiding their perceived flaws. There are many signs and symptoms to look out for body dysmorphic disorder.
Why Intuitive Eating Is a Better Alternative To Any Diet
If you are caught up in the diet-culture mentality and find yourself partaking in some of the destructive behaviors that are often associated with it, there is one lifestyle shift that could help you get unstuck, intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is the anti-diet mentality! Anti-diet does not mean that you discard care for your health, but only that you respect your mental health as well. Diet-culture can have a very negative impact on our mental health, destroying our body image, self-esteem, and positive relationship food.
The focus of intuitive eating is to rebuild a strong relationship with our body’s signals and needs, helping us to tune-in and respect our hunger and health, including mental health. Intuitive eating is a great way to overcome food-related fears and start to love food and your body again.
Diet-culture can come from so many places all around us. It is up to us to learn what information has our best interest at heart.
Shifting your focus from weight loss and appearance to internal health and building a positive relationship with yourself and food can reduce stress and anxiety around food and give you a new lease on life.
To learn more about how intuitive eating works, why not book your free Discovery call with Taryn to find out how to get started!