Diet talk is everywhere around us. The conversations we have, the magazines we read, the shows we watch. It’s hard to escape it and most of the time we’re not even consciously aware that we’re talking the diet talk.
Am I speaking diet talk?
If you are unsure if you engage in diet talk, it includes saying things like:
Whenever we add moral language or judgment around our food, we’re using diet talk. It’s a set of beliefs that equates skinniness with success and health. It assumes eating a certain way will help you get the ‘correct’ body shape or weight, with the right amount of willpower.
But as evidence shows, this just isn’t true or achievable. In fact, diets have a 98% failure rate. Every new diet sets you up for failure, and chips away at your confidence. Yet, every year almost half the adults in the US will go on a weight loss diet. In 2020, the CDC reported that more people are actually dieting compared to a decade ago, and part of that problem is that dieting is often camouflaged as wellness.
Even if you’re not consciously trying to lose weight, diet culture and diet talk often crops up in the way we think, speak and behave around food. The diet culture keeps reinforcing this idea that we have to be skinny to be loved, healthy, successful, and accepted, and that dieting is the way to achieve this. But it’s simply just not true. If there was a diet that worked, we would know of it by now, but instead, every year we see a new diet trend hit the market as the latest ‘miracle’ cure.
The idea that certain foods are our friend and others our enemy is a concept that goes back far into history from as early as the Bible’s Old Testament, in which certain animals are declared unclean and harm our spirituality. Sadly, we’ve carried this concept into our modern lives causing us to distrust and disconnect from our actual bodies and become a slave to dieting instead.
Being resistant to diet culture and diet talk is not anti-health or anti-nutrition…it’s an anti the diet method of restriction, judgment, and shame. It’s absolutely possible to make healthy choices and move your body without the idea and the rules that tell us we have to look a certain way.
The first step is to be more critical of your choices around food and ask yourself why. Don’t expect to change your thinking patterns immediately, it’s a process that takes time through questioning and challenging your thoughts and behaviors around food. However, the more you ask why you chose a certain food, and keep challenging the beliefs behind that, the more you can look at diet talk, thinking, and actions in a critical and objective way.
If you say to yourself “I shouldn’t eat the pasta, I should go for a salad instead”, ask yourself why. Is it because you think the carbs in the pasta are ‘bad’ or ‘fattening’ or is it because you really crave a salad? If it’s the bad or fattening reason, then challenge this and ask yourself – is pasta really bad for me? Sometimes you need carbs, as you may be hungrier or need more calories after a workout. Pasta also has some nutrients that you may need.
Remember: One meal or specific food will not determine your health. Our health is made up of much more than just a single dish or food group.
If you’re currently surrounded by people who often discuss dieting, calories, clean eating, etc. The best thing you can do is excuse yourself and go to the bathroom or change the subject to shake up the conversation. For close friends or family, tell them that diet talk is off the table.
The key is to stop being sucked into these discussions which end in comparisons between what we’re all eating. Healthy eating is different for everyone. Yes, there are some basic principles (we could probably do with eating less sugar and more veggies), but our genetics, lifestyle, activity level, and climate all play a part in how much we need to eat at any given moment. For some people they may need more meat, others veganism works for them, for someone else more carbs. It’s time to stop jumping onto everyone else’s diet bandwagon and start listening to what our own bodies need.
Be discerning about your social media feed too. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself or not good enough and follow anti-diet or body-positive feeds instead.
Your body will often tell you if something is ‘bad’ for you too– we just need to listen to it.
Tuning into your natural hunger and fullness, cravings, taste preferences, and emotions will help you break free from the diet culture and turn your diet talk into positive talk, which is empowering and allows you to live your life to the full. This concept is called intuitive eating developed by two Californian dietitians in the mid-nineties. It’s made up of 10 principles and based on the foundation of mindful eating. You can read up more about Intuitive Eating here.
If you are ready to let go of your diet talk and get off the dieting treadmill once and for all, why not check out my new Empowered Eating Program here. It’s a supportive and educational space, where I will be with you every step of the way to rebuilding a healthy relationship with food and your body!
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