What is Diet Culture? Let’s see how author, activist, and leading expert on weight-based discrimination, Virgie Tovar, defines it. On her podcast, Rebel Eaters Club, Tovar defines diet culture as the $72 billion weight loss industry, the voice that tells us all our problems will be solved if we just ate less, as the way our coworkers cannot stop talking about their new diet or eating habits over lunch, and the way larger bodied folks are treated like second class citizens. According to Tovar, every year 48 million Americans will go on a diet, but sometimes it’s a diet in disguise, going by terms like “wellness” or a “healthy lifestyle.”
With it being the New Year, folks are probably hearing more people in their lives talk about going on a diet than ever. From a weight-inclusive registered dietitian’s point of view, diet culture infused resolutions can be harmful to both physical and mental health. We know that there isn’t a single diet that has been proven to be effective in the long term and that long term dieting or weight-cycling can actually be harmful to cardiovascular health. Not to mention the high risk of eating disorder development that comes with dieting.
There is no shame in wanting to lose weight or change your body because we all reside in a diet cultured world that places value on thinness. A Health at Every Size (HAES)® aligned registered dietitian (RD) can help you work through this desire for change while centering weight-inclusive approaches to health. If that concept resonates with you, below are some suggested goals that prioritize overall well-being without centering body size or weight loss. It is also important to note that you don’t owe anyone your health or owe anyone a New Years’ resolution! If you aren’t in a place to set a goal around food or movement, this is your cue to stop reading.
Let’s dive in!
- Try-it-Tuesdays! (Or any day of the week). While at the grocery store each week, pick out a new food you haven’t had before but would like to try. You may find a new favorite food!
- Do you want a goal around movement? This is a goal about finding movement that is enjoyable for you. Try a new form of movement that you are excited about once per month until you’ve found something that you love. To help keep things exciting, recruit a friend for these adventures. Ideas include hiking, rollerblading, walks around town, bike riding, fun runs, or a unique class like cat yoga.
- A lot of us struggle with getting consistent nutrition and it’s recommended adults eat every 3-4 hours. If this is something you struggle with whether it’s due to a busy schedule or disordered eating, one way to achieve this goal is to set a timer for every 3-4 hours that reminds you to eat. To further support this goal, try carrying a few shelf stable snacks around in your bag or desk drawer. Remember that you don’t have to stick to a timer to eat, if you feel hungry before the timer, eat! The whole point is to make sure you are consistently fueling more than you were before.
- Want to cook more? Set aside time each week to find a recipe you are excited about and then if you’re able, gather the ingredients during your next grocery run. Think about what things are standing in your way of cooking more and make alterations to help. If time is a barrier, can you purchase pre-chopped vegetables, chop them yourself the day before, try out a food delivery service, or make it a social event where you cook with a friend. Maybe the goal is you try out one new recipe a week or one new recipe a month. Either way, set a cooking goal that works for your life and schedule.
- Do what is best for your own health and well-being. That may look like setting multiple goals or no goals. Talk to your HAES® aligned providers if you want some guidance on kicking diet culture to the curb this New Year!