3 Powerful Approaches to Defying Diet Culture

Last week I called out the 3 biggest crimes of Diet Culture. If you didn’t read that blog yet, check it out here!


As a quick review, the 3 biggest crimes of Diet Culture are: Dishonesty, Disregard, and Destruction!


Any eating pattern that emphasizes how you look over your mental and physical well-being is detrimental. Diet Culture thrives on dichotomous thinking, also known as black-and-white thinking. Eat foods on the good list and you’ll be “thin” (good); eat foods on the bad list and you’ll be “fat” (bad). Thin = win!


In reality, no one food has the power to make you “thin” or “fat”.


I realize this might not be a popular belief among dieters or programs and people that spew dieting information. But if you think about it long and hard (and re-read that sentence multiple times), I believe you’ll come to this realization – eventually.


So what can you do NOW to help you come to this realization before you jump back onto the diet bandwagon?


3 Powerful Approaches to Defying Diet Culture

 Let’s address 3 very powerful impactful approaches that can help you defy diet culture.


  1. Non-Diet Living and Intuitive Eating

Non-diet living and intuitive eating used to be less traveled paths, but more people are choosing these with great success. Dieting is physically and mentally exhausting and people are simply tired – tired of dieting and tired of hating themselves, 2 things which go hand-in-hand.


Intuitive eating, along with the Health at Every Size movement, are striving to shift the focus away from body weight and demonizing food. They are displacing the current definition of healthy, broadening it to encompass more than simply a number on the scale. This shifts the perspective inward, focusing on listening to what your body is telling you, and on habits and behaviors for improved long-term health, versus how many pounds you’ve lost. More and more research is finding practices such as intuitive eating helping people with disordered eating habits become more in tune with their bodies again.


I recognize that the idea of no longer dieting is a scary thought if you’ve been dieting for many years. Logically you realize that the diets have never given you long term weight loss. In fact, you weigh more now than when you started dieting all those years ago. Research will back that up. Diets lead to weight gain, end of story.


So what would help you on this journey? This takes us to approach #2…


  1. Self-Compassion

Diet Culture thrives on you hating yourself. If that sounds harsh, it’s because it is. Dieting is about willpower and when you don’t have enough willpower, you start beating yourself up, telling yourself you’ll always fail.


Try something different. Try using self-compassion.


You’ll find that treating yourself with kindness is much more satisfying because it’s impossible to hate yourself into positive change. You’d never dream of speaking to your friend the way you speak to yourself, yet Diet Culture has taught you to do just that. After decades of believing it, be gentle with yourself in your escape from that mentality. It took time to build and it will take a long time to break down. It’s important to remember there is no perfection in the healing process. It will most certainly be challenging but you are most certainly worth that effort.


Sounds logical, right? When asked if you’d speak to your friend who is struggling with her food that way you speak to yourself, of course the answer is no, you would not.


Part of this journey is body acceptance. And a very important part of accepting your body where it is now is the 3rd approach to defying Diet Culture.


  1. Weight Inclusivity

Accepting and respecting the shapes and sizes ALL human beings come in defies the perfectionist ideology of Diet Culture. There is no one height/shape/weight everyone should be. Our culture needs to move further toward a mindset where judgement is no longer passed on people who don’t meet Diet Culture’s moving target of “perfection.”


More and more research is supporting the idea that being a certain weight or looking a certain way does not equate to being “healthy” or “not healthy.” Intuitive eating and Health at Every Size are teaching internal acceptance as well as acceptance of others, appreciating the diversity. They temper the internal diet wars being waged.


The principles of intuitive eating remind you how different everyone is and helps you to accept and respect your body where it is right now.  It is key to stop passing judgement on others which will make it easier to stop passing judgement on yourself.


So how do you mesh these 3 approaches together, so you can defy Diet Culture?


Start with having a heart-to-heart sit down with yourself. Ask yourself the tough questions:

  1. Has all the dieting I’ve done helped me achieve weight loss that I can maintain for a lifetime? No.
  2. Do I bash my body every day, maybe even multiple times per day? Yes.
  3. Do I wish food could just be a “non-issue” and meal time can be relaxed? Yes.
  4. Am I afraid to try this new approach of intuitive eating? Yes.
  5. Do I need support and a partner to walk the journey with me? Yes.


Great job! Contact me here and let’s defy Diet Culture together!



The 3 Biggest Crimes of Diet Culture

How many times have you overheard a heated conversation about food or the latest diet?

When I meet up with friends or family, the talk often ends up routed into diet gossip. This makes sense considering I’m a Registered Dietitian, yet my intuitive eating clients share similar stories.

I’ve spent the last 7 years of my career helping clients bury the diet mentality for good, yet I’m reminded how much work there is to do when people ask me questions like, “What do you think about that new diet that [insert celebrity name here] just published a book about?”

The worst part of Diet Culture (or more aptly, Diet Cult) is the potential harm to everyone involved. Diet culture is a system of beliefs that focuses on and values weight, shape and size over health, and it equate thinness with higher status and worthiness. The negative effects it has on both adults and children are criminal. Many times, these so called “healthy” diets are considered disordered eating or even full-blown eating disorders.

I am here today to call out the CRIMES OF DIET CULTURE.

Crime #1: Dishonesty

“Don’t eat carbs. They make you fat.”

“Dairy will keep you from losing weight.”

“Avoid gluten! It’s bad, bad, bad.”

When you look back at the history of food, Diet Culture has spent a great deal of time and money into criminalizing one food or another. This food is “good” for your health and weight, this food is “bad”.

When saturated fat was the offender, we saw an influx of fat-free, chemically altered foods. When sugar became the offender, we were bombarded with products containing sugar alcohols and messages to avoid sugar at all costs. Food fads are encouraged by Diet Culture with the support of the food industry. When scientific research is published, Diet Culture cherry-picks the information that best supports their agenda and launches campaigns to herd consumers to jump on their bandwagon, spending money on their products, lining their pockets.

Diet Culture never has your best interest in mind and it’s betting on the fact you don’t realize it. So they call their foods “healthier” than the others and has you thinking it’s better for you.

Crime #2: Disregard

Any eating pattern that emphasizes how you look over your mental and physical well-being is detrimental. Diet Culture thrives on black-and-white thinking. Eat foods on the “good” list and you’ll lose weight (“good”); eat foods on the “bad” list and you’ll get fat (“bad”). Thin = win!

Here’s the thing – people are literally dying to be thin and Diet Culture completely disregards this. Your body does so many amazing things for you every day, but Diet Culture has you focusing on how many calories you’re eating, pounds you lost or dress size you wear.

There is peace in accepting your body as it is at this very moment. But Diet Culture doesn’t want you to have this peace. So it influences you to keep striving for that “perfect” body, comparing yourself to celebrities, models and reality stars.

I remind my clients that what they see online and in magazines are not real. They are photoshopped images and even more, they are just the highlight reels of peoples’ lives. What they decide to post and publish are just snippets of their reality, particularly the snippets they want everyone to see. They edit out nearly a lifetime of moments, yet you use those carefully selected highlights as a comparison to your own life. This is exactly what Diet Culture wants – to keep you running back for more.

Crime #3: Destruction

Diet Culture’s most egregious crime is telling you that you’re not good enough. It doesn’t know you at all, but it’s making you question yourself, often calling attention to things you never considered flaws.

“Got a muffin top? Never eat these 5 foods again to get rid of it!”

“Do your thighs touch? Do this cleanse to fix that problem!”

Messages like these are toxic to women of all ages. It’s teaching them from a young age that they are nothing more than a sum of their parts and if those parts don’t add up to an unrealistic ideal, they need to do whatever it takes to get there. This has the potential to lead them into a dangerous relationship with food and exercise, twisting their self-perception. Diet Culture destroys self-esteem.

It’s Time to Defy Diet Culture

The truth is that body size doesn’t always equate with health. There are plenty of people who are in smaller bodies who have a plethora of health issues. On the flip side, there are people in larger bodies that have no medical issues at all. Why is the thin couch potato more culturally acceptable than the larger triathlete?

Diet Culture wants you to be at war with your body because that’s how companies who support it make their billions of dollars every year while young girls are skipping meals, ultimately missing out on nutrients critical to their growth and maturation. What’s even worse is that these diet messages often come from parents who suffer from disordered eating patterns over decades of being at war with their own bodies. It’s a cycle of abuse you are paying dearly for with both your wallets and your well-being.

Tune in next week for Intuitive Eating Wednesday when I share how to blaze a path to defying Diet Culture.

In the meantime, what other crimes of Diet Culture can you identify? Comment below.