We need to change the way we talk about dieting

It's beyond time for us to wake up to the fact that dieting dishonors our humanity over and over again.

Before we get started, let me be clear about what I mean by 'dieting': any attempt to control your body weight or size by controlling what you eat and how you exercise. Programs like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Whole30, 21-Day Fix and countless others fall into this category.

Ok, here we go.

The constant pursuit of weight loss (and the dieting that it requires) is problematic, but not just because it makes you feel bad, or because it takes up too much time and emotional energy, or because it's a waste of money.

It's all those things and more. We have to to acknowledge dieting for what it ACTUALLY is and for the effect it has on us as human beings.

I believe that diet culture dishonors our humanity. At times, it can be utterly dehumanizing.

After spending >25 years yo-yo dieting and the last 4 years writing, speaking, and coaching I now see just how dehumanizing the constant quest for a smaller body can be for women.

This burden gets thrust upon us at a very young age. When we're barely in puberty, the message that our growing bodies are to be feared, controlled, and conquered is planted into our minds. The chance to establish a positive peaceful relationship with ourselves goes flying out the window during our first Weight Watchers meeting.

And many women have endured a lifetime of this without completely realizing the toll it's taken them. Only in the past 9 months or so have I been able to clearly articulate why diet culture is an assault on our humanity:

1. Dieting demands perfection: Being human is complicated and messy, and diet culture reinforces the idea that perfection is the goal. And if you "mess up" you have to start all over again, but only after a few rounds of beating yourself up.

This is depressing, demoralizing and it feels like non-stop failure.

When there's no room for error it feels like being trapped in a small box with no space to move. Eventually you run out of breathing room. 

 

2. Diet culture ignores body diversity: If we were all meant to be a 5'8" 125-pound, able-bodied, conventionally attractive white woman, we would've been born with that genetic code.

But we weren't.

Diet culture gives a big middle finger to body diversity and programs us to believe that there are limited ways to be beautiful. This is blatant disrespect of nature.

Body diversity is a real thing and we need to respect it.

 

3. Dieting overrides body wisdom: It requires you to fear, and ultimately betray, your body's natural signals. The result of this is disconnection and disembodiment, which rob us of a full human experience.

We were born with the ability to listen to and trust ourselves. We have to reclaim our birthright.

 

4. Dieting undermines body autonomy: From the moment you partake in diet culture, your body ceases to belong to you. Diet culture convinces you that you don't know what the hell you're doing anyway, so just hand over the keys and let someone else take the wheel.

NOPE. It's time for us to be done with that.

 

Why is all of this important?

I'm laying this all out because we deserve to know and feel what it's like to be an imperfect, embodied, self-determined human.

From now on, whenever I speak or write about dieting or diet culture, I will do so from this perspective. We have to call it what it is and we have to treat it seriously and with urgency.

We need a collective awakening to the madness.

P.S. If you want to hear a little more about this, please check out my conversation with Glenys Oyston and Aaron Flores from Dietitians Unplugged.