A Diet by Any Other Name

by | Feb 9, 2021

A Diet by Any Other Name

But it’s not a diet. It’s a______________

…………Oh wait.

Diet culture is sneaky because it’s survival relies on consumption. In order to be consumed it must convince you that you want what it is selling, you need it or you should behave as if you do. It does this by making sure you feel like you aren’t good enough as you are right now. You should be better, do better, look better (look different), achieve more. You should be a different size and shape and THEN you will have everything you have always wanted.

It needs you to be very very hungry and the set up always entails that you get a little taste. It may happen over days, weeks, months or maybe a couple years, but after that initial appetizing taste for most people what comes next is disappointment. What comes next is a realization that you couldn’t get to or hang onto what you were led to believe you should and could. For many it is not just self blame they end up with either, but the development of an eating disorder.

Even as you keep doing all the same things that seemed to be working before or try even harder…………you feel like you are at fault and you are why you have failed.

It’s confusing and exhausting to say the least.

The messaging and image being presented to the consumer is always shifting too, just enough to keep what’s being sold interesting or seem fresh with potential. Language is coopted also in an attempt to draw you back in. This means that words or terms that are not compatible with the pursuit of weight loss (like body positivity or Intuitive Eating) get used alongside a weight loss program or diet because people are becoming more interested in these ideas and concepts. This is wrong, misleading and harmful but it is happening right now as I write this.

Diet culture only stays alive and well if the consumer keeps consuming and when there are billions of dollars in profit on the line it’s easy to understand the force behind the drive to stay “relevant”.

So is THIS a diet?

Regardless of what “IT” is being called or referred to as, here are some questions you might ask yourself in considering if what you are viewing, reading about, hearing about etc. is in fact a diet by another name (the intentional pursuit of weight loss).

  • Does it mention weight loss solely or in a list of things as something you “will get” or other participants got?
  • Does it place restrictions how much or what foods you eat?
  • Does it give you tips for how to avoid or ignore hunger signals from your body?
  • Does it involve pre-portioning your food so you “know how much to eat”?
  • Does it involve earning food with exercise? (you get to eat more if you do_____)
  • Does it mention “cheat days, cheat meals, taking breaks on weekends” or earning foods in any way?
  • Does it tell you when you can and can’t eat (vs guide you to listen to your own body to determine its needs)?
  • Does it label certain foods as good and other foods as bad foods (or insert dirty/toxic vs clean) ?
  • Does it promise (or suggest) you will get everything you want and be super happy at the end with your whole life?
  • Does it eliminate any groups of foods (sugar, carbs, fat, candy, gluten, dairy, “processed” foods, take-out/take away foods etc. if not medically necessary due to confirmed allergy or condition such as celiac disease)?

The choice is entirely yours.

If you’ve run through this list and ticked anything off, the thing you are considering is a diet. You get to choose what you do with this information though. It is understandable why you might want to still engage with “IT”, whatever it is. Even if you have uncovered that it is in fact a wolf in sheeps clothing (pretending it’s not diet culture when IT IS and even if it isn’t even trying to hide itself) it is designed to be alluring.

This culture makes it really challenging to look different and to NOT pursue engaging in dieting or diet behaviors. Weight discrimination and bias are real and really harmful. Sometimes playing by the rules and expectations of the culture you live in is a way to feel or be safer in a space that is outwardly not accepting in so many ways of how you physically show up in the world. What is needed is deeper systemic change and this takes time. There is no judgment for how you choose to take care of yourself and stay and feel safe.

The decision is yours

If you want to explore what it might be like to work towards accepting your body as it is now, to quit dieting or dieting by any other name, there is a community for you. You are not alone and you don’t have to keep blaming yourself when “IT” leaves you hungry, craving certain foods, tired and feeling more unkind toward your body than when you started.

You deserve more and you deserve better than what diet culture has sold you. Not sure what to do? Maybe scheduling a free Exploration Call to ask your questions or share your concerns feels like a good next place to go.

I’m Lisa Carrigg, a Brisbane dietitian who helps clients pursue healing and connection with food.

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