How to handle getting ambushed by diet culture

I will always look back at 2021 as the year I opted out of diet culture for good.

I said farewell to yo-yo dieting, and by that I mean every single diet I’ve ever been on (let’s face it, every diet is a yo-yo diet.)

I finally, whole-heartedly and intentionally took back my power by hopping off the diet treadmill I had been on for nearly 40 years. And you know what? It feels GREAT out here.

I no longer restrict my eating or try to break up with food. I no longer think of certain foods as “bad” or “dangerous.”

I enjoy everything I put in my mouth. I no longer have a long list of rules around meals, times I will or won’t eat, snacks, etc.

I eat intuitively now. I listen to my body. Sometimes it craves salad, and then I give it a good one. Other times, it wants comfort food like spaghetti and meatballs – and I enjoy the heck out of it. I aim for balance but above all, I don’t sweat it or stress about it.

I don’t feel guilty about my candy stash of international sweets. I savor and enjoy every bite.

Talk about self-care! This new way of living has freed up my mind, body and spirit for so many new interests, passions and projects.

And yet…diet culture always finds a way to come creeping back into my life, worrying at my insecurities and making me doubt myself. After all, just like the patriarchy, diet culture isn’t just a shark in the water we’re all in – it’s the very water itself.

Here are a few of the places where these issues can pop up – and how to handle it.

Places diet culture rears its ugly head

The doctor’s office – Walking into my annual physical, I knew the nurse would ask to weigh me. I practiced what I would say, “Thanks, but I decline to be weighed today as I am opting out of diet culture.” I said it perfectly, with polite confidence. Yet she persisted: “Oh, the doctor insists on this for all patients.” I get it, it’s her job. I didn’t feel like being difficult, so I acquiesced – but I also didn’t let it ruffle my feathers. Next time, maybe I’ll persist in standing my ground and refuse to be weighed. I have a whole year to plan my strategy! There is rarely a legitimate reason for your physician to weigh you. It’s a meaningless metric and can cause needless stress. Who needs that?!

The holidays – Affectionately known as “the eating season,” the holiday time is nonetheless also rife with diet culture messaging. How cruel is it that you can’t even enjoy the ubiquitous Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas treats without being made to feel guilty for them? The heck with that. Remind yourself what matters. Eat what you want to eat. Move if you want to move. Don’t hold yourself to some ridiculous patriarchal, racist, outdated notion that you can’t have yummy things. Just do you this holiday season – you’ll be so much holly-jollier if you do.

The new year – There’s a lot of pressure to set goals and resolutions for the new year, and while I have no issue with setting goals, too often they are focused around weight. You will be bombarded with ads for weight loss companies, gyms and fitness outlets and other diet culture peddlers. Click the X on ads to let social media outlets like Facebook know that you don’t want to see this type of content. Set new year’s goals for yourself if you want to, but make them goals around trying new things, visiting new places and meeting new people. Life is too short to spend it fixated on ridiculous diets or weight loss efforts.

Three other places diet culture shows up without an invitation are in advertising and media; interpersonal relationships; and your own thoughts. The last two are especially difficult to deal with, but with practice, education and mindfulness it is possible. You may want to refer back to the tips in my prior post about how to opt out of diet culture.

Have you considered giving up diets for good, too? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and strategies for success – or hear about what you’ve been occupying your mind, energy and time with since giving up the diet culture mentality!

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat, snake and guinea pig mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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