How long have you spent looking for cleanses, doing diets, or making weight loss your main focus? And then I have just two more questions: Has it been fulfilling? Is it sustainable?
If I could tell you one thing, I’d say diets and weight loss aren’t usually the answer
As a registered dietitian, I know firsthand diet culture is huge. It’s expected to reach $278.95 billion dollars by 2023. But the actual cost is much higher because diets and weight loss aren’t the end-all answer to our problems like we’ve been led to believe. In fact, they’re literally the opposite of what most of us want for our lives.
But the belief that they matter is so ingrained in our culture. When I started out as a dietitian, I made the mistake of focusing on diet and weight loss, too. I wanted to help people, and I thought that meant creating meal and detox plans. So I put people on a scale in my practice. I co-authored a book. I went on TV advertising a green smoothie and bikini bodies. But my clients didn’t have any food freedom. They counted and tracked and analyzed menus over being present in their lives–and that’s not really living.
Diets and weight loss don’t actually make us healthier
So many of us are told and believe that restricting what we eat will make us healthier. But strict rules don’t make us healthier, mentally or physically. All it does is create fear. It leads to stress and gut distress. And it creates so much angst around food. All the attention on what to do and what not to do makes our views about food and our bodies worse, not better. We end up with ideas that don’t support our goals and that also restrict how we live our lives.
The truth is, you don’t have to eat one way or weigh a certain amount to be healthy
What we need to be healthy is a variety of foods and a healthier mindset around what we choose to eat. Being intuitive with your eating helps you know what’s best for you and your body, and that’s better than anything else you can do with food.
As a society, we’ve moralized certain foods and body shapes. We focus too much on diets and weight loss. It’s created a complex web of negative thought patterns that just don’t serve us. Instead, we ignore our internal cues for food and end up with what I call diet brain. Our minds are constantly on food. It’s all we can think about because we won’t let ourselves just eat. We’re always planning and thinking about what we can eat next and is it “okay.” Does it fit in our macros? Have we gone over our calories for the day? Then we deny ourselves things our bodies are craving. But is that physically healthy? Emotionally healthy? Is it really how we want to live our lives?
What our real goals should be around food
Listen, I started in the same place with diets and weight loss, as a woman and a dietitian. It’s taken me years to get to this point in my journey with food. But once I started to allow myself foods and be intuitive with my eating, guess what? I actually became healthier. I found I wasn’t always thinking about food, and that opens a whole lot of doors to find genuine joy and be around people. To be present in your life.
We need to allow ourselves to eat. Think about how different life would be if rather than analyzing the menu for days, you were just able to say: This sounds really good, and I’m going to order it. What if you stopped dieting and learned another way? There’s more health and well-being in that than any type of number can give us.
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