Health At Every Size and The Non-Diet Dietitian
Sunday morning here in Boston, MA.
I’m sharing what I’ve been listening to lately on the Food Psych Podcast with Christy Harrison. It helps to explain my philosophy when it comes to nutrition.
Yes, I am going to school to become a “dietitian”. No, that does not mean I am into “perfect” or “clean” eating. No, that does not mean you should be embarrassed about what they eat in front of me. Please do not be! :-(
There is a movement called Health At Every Size, and there are a group of dietitians who call themselves anti-diet dietitians. I align myself with those groups. I’ll try to explain what that means, in my own words.
We, as a culture, have fat-phobia. We are scared of a having a body that isn’t the “right” size. We have made it a medical problem by saying that having a certain body size is the cause of illness and disease (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, metabolic syndrome).
We have internalized bigger to mean bad, undesirable, and unhealthy. We make it our own fault if our body is not a certain size.
Just consider that this might not be true. The fat-phobia we have has allowed a huge diet industry to flourish. It has many guises, including “clean eating”. It makes us think if we eat a certain way, our body will be a certain size. If we never let up control, our body will fall in line.
What’s the problem with that?
For starters, people are complex and food is part of culture, family, social occasions, comfort, love, in addition to being fuel. We are not machines that eat nutrients. We eat food, and we are born being comforted by, and enjoying, eating. So restriction (i.e. dieting) goes against that very instinct of joy through food.
Also, the science tells us that diets fail at sustained weight loss most of the time. Meaning, a diet does lead to weight loss, but a diet fails at keeping weight off. People internalize the “failure” to keep weight off, and make it a personal failure. That leads to shame and fear of food and guilt and more dieting. The diet industry thrives on the failure, and our psyche suffers.
Restriction doesn’t work because the body and mind wants more of what it “can’t” have. This is very true for kiddos, too. No sweets allowed means eating all the sweets possible at a friend’s house who is allowed to have them.
Does nutrition matter? Yeah. Once you’ve got a healthy and intuitive relationship with eating, i.e. not afraid of food, eating what you want when you want it, not restricting (and I’m sure some of you reading this do! So that’s wonderful!)
Then it can be great to know about nutrition, to refine choices.
Eating is about enjoying and nourishing the body. Not punishing and depriving.
Check out the Food Psych Podcast and, in particular, an episode I really liked, called Emotional Eating and Diet Culture that explains a lot about what I am saying. The guest on the show is an anti-diet therapist named Judith Matz, who has been practicing for 30 years and helps people recover their healthy non-disordered relationship with food.
Someone recently asked me, "does anyone actually have a healthy relationship with food?" I know, that is where we are at as a culture. So many people sadly don't, that it is an incredulous thought to think that some people do. But yes, some people do! Some people feel fully free with food, and enjoy it, and don't overthink about it! Freedommmm! And that is available to anyone, and the journey may be a long one, and may take partners, but it's available.
I know that this can take a while to sink in. So no worries if you’re not convinced or turned off or whatever at first. Just give it a chance. Check out the episode of Food Psych , or any episode that strikes your fancy-- there are so many good ones. But there are swears that aren't bleeped out so you may not want to listen with the kids!
P.S. Why do I align with this? First of all, systematically faulting people because of their bodies is oppressive. Breaking free of that mindset (they must be lazy, or they are costing me so much in taxes because of the cost of their healthcare) takes time, but is worth it. Body-shaming worsens the lives of many people.
Also, I used to have a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa, that I got at age 12. In the nearly 20 years since then I have been navigating my relationship with food and falling into different ways of being a “clean”, and “healthy”, and “virtuous” eater. Now I understand that I can eat whatever I want, and that what I actually want is what makes my own body feel good, not what some diet culture or some expert tells me should make my body and mind feel good. Sometimes I eat ice cream because it sounds good and someone is offering it to me and I want to join in. Sometimes I don’t because I don’t feel like it. Anyway, it feels like real freedom.