What really is Diet Culture anyway?
Your health is infinitely more complex than your body size, yet you have been filled with messages since you were young that suggests that weight is a key indicator of health. Diet culture is any influence that focuses on and prioritizes weight, body shape, and size rather than upholding a holistic approach to your well-being.
Let's be clear from the start here, weight gain is not equivalent to poor health, and weight loss is not equivalent to good health.
Diet culture oversimplifies health and can lead to disordered eating and/or fitness habits. That is why it is time to join the movement of ditching diet culture FOR GOOD!
There is a mountain of evidence the diets do not work to improve long-term health. (Check out the book recommendations at the bottom of this blog to learn more about the research) Messages from diet culture lead people to get caught in the pursuit to be "healthy" by the standards of weight loss and thinness. This often leads to cycles of restriction/bingeing and yo-yo dieting (cycling on and off diets for months or even years). This yo-yo cycling can cause more damage to the body in the long-run and lead to undesirable health outcomes.
I created this 6-month guide to help you ditch diet culture for good. Read on to trade out the toxic diet culture messages for healing, empowering, and compassionate growth messages.
Take this month seriously because it sets the foundation for the months to come. We get a lot of messages daily that suggests we are not worthy unless (fill in the blank) or you are not healthy because you don't look a certain way. Take your time bringing awareness to and then getting rid of these influences.
They are simply not true.
Month 2: Self-Pleasure
Your body is capable of pleasure and enjoyment at every size, weight, and body shape. Too many people reject feeling good because diet culture sends messages that they are not worthy of feeling pleasure unless they are of a certain weight, size, or shape. It's time to ditch those messages and settle into the fact that not only is your body capable of sensual bliss but it is worthy of it!
Practice detaching from any outcomes and lean into your sensual capacity. If you need more support, consider purchasing my Seven Sensual Meditation Guide for some pleasurable self-care activities.
Month 3: Ditch the Scale
Does this scenario sound familiar? You are feeling good about the day ahead and you start your morning by stepping on the scale. You look at the number and are instantly flooded with self-judgement, negativity, and shame. You restrict your eating for the rest of the day or you push yourself extra hard during your upcoming workout. You are full of doubt and dismay about your health and wellness journey.
There is nothing wrong with having a scale in your house but the problem sneaks in when we develop compulsive habits around weighing, monitoring weight, and changing habits on a day-to-day basis just because of the number on the scale. The scenario above demonstrates a common occurrence for individuals when they have put too much stock in weight change as a health indicator.
The shame one feels leads to restriction which often leads to binging and then can pave the way for yo-yo dieting. This is why this month is all about recalibrating your internal guide and ditching the external guide: the scale. For some people, this may mean tucking the scale away in a closet while for others it is smashing the scale with a hammer in your backyard. Do what will help YOU release the shame and negativity that is associated with your scale.
With your scale gone, focus on recording your internal dialogue and experience. Journaling is a wonderful way to get to know yourself on a more intimate level. Create a ritual around writing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences on a daily basis. Consider adding a written gratitude practice to remind yourself of the things worth celebrating day-to-day. There are many great journal prompts out there. Check out my Pinterest page for some ideas: Journal Prompts!
Month 4: Enjoyable Movement
This month's task is rather simple but for many, it is a novel idea! Pursue activities this month that genuinely interest you. Do not focus on how many calories the activity burns or how many minutes you spent moving your body. Instead, bring your attention to the quality of enjoyment in the activity.
There is so much power in shifting the focus away from exercise and into movement. Movement is dynamic and versatile. In order to tap into new enjoyable movement routines, I encourage you to think outside of the box. Imagine yourself engaging in an activity you have always been curious about trying. Perhaps it is kickboxing, qi gong, ecstatic dance, silent disco, cycling, freediving, nature hikes, cooking class, or massaging. Whatever you decide, practice being in the present moment and experiencing enjoyment in the act.
Month 5: Emotional & Spiritual Expression
Diet culture concentrates its marketing on the physical body. Your health and well-being are so much more complex than what you eat and how you exercise. While it is important you find peace and enjoyment in your physical routines, this month it is time to shift your focus to your emotional and spiritual health.
Set aside one day each week this month to devote time to deepening your spiritual practice. In Christian religious traditions, this is referred to as the "Sabbath," the day that God rested. This month, tap into your spiritual body and devote one day a week to rest and connect to a higher power.
In order to nurture your emotional body this month, set aside time every evening to write out an I-FAB. An I-FAB is an acronym to help you verbalize your experience with emotions. It stands for I Feel... About... Because I believe...
I Feel Sad
About my workday
Because I believe the conversation with my boss didn't go well.
Creating I-FAB statements may feel a little awkward at first. As you grow aware of your emotional experience your I-FAB statements will flow with ease.
Month 6: Food Freedom
In this final month, give yourself unconditional permission to eat anything, without any rules. Food and eating should be simple but because of diet culture's influence in our lives, our relationship with food becomes overcomplicated. Many develop a preoccupation with food rules, restrictions, and regulations. This month is all about establishing trust in your body's resilient and adaptive metabolism and learning to listen to the most valuable signals your body sends about eating: satiation and satisfaction.
Satiation (n): The state produced by having a specific need, such as hunger or thirst, fulfilled.
Satisfaction (n): The pleasure derived when one's wishes, expectations, or needs are met.
Eating is a pleasurable experience. It is time to release the shame and guilt that you have associated with experiencing enjoyment in eating. This month, notice when food rules or food shaming arise. Release the thought by saying, "Thank you but I am trying something different now." Shift your focus to how the food is satisfying and/or satiating.
Start the month by recording the food rules that you abide by day-to-day. (Examples: No eating til X time or after X time of day, no pairing these foods, no eating this food group, dessert only once a week, exercise for this amount of time after eating XYZ...) Spend the first week of the month journaling about the prospect of releasing these rules for the month. What fears do you have about letting them go? What beliefs of yours are challenged if you gave yourself unconditional permission to eat? What role does joy play in your current eating routine? What role does fear play in your current eating routine?
Spend the remaining days of the month engaged in the daily practice of unconditional permission to eat and awareness of satiation/satisfaction signals. Maintain a journaling practice and establish a support network to help you heal your relationship with food and eating. Fill out this Contact Form if you would like my personalized coaching support at anytime throughout this experience.
Diet culture plays a major role in our modern-day life but by completing this 6-month guide you are ready to ditch its toxic messages for good! I am proud of you for joining the movement and committing yourself to a holistic healing journey. I encourage you to continue these practices whenever you see fit so that you can stand secure and empowered in the face of the diet culture influence.
Please consider sharing this 6-month guide with friends and family that may benefit from a new perspective on health and wellness.
I highly recommend adding a few of these books to your 6-month journey. These will help amplify the importance of ditching diet culture and help sustain the daily practices:
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Licensed Massage Therapist & Wellness Coach