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Diet Culture, | 06.26.21

Why Having Healthy Guidelines with Food isn’t the Same as Being on a Diet

There’s a difference between diet culture and having loving guidelines in your relationship with food. Yet, most people’s reaction to a food plan is- “I’m on a diet” or “This sounds restrictive!” Hey, that may even be your reaction to guidelines around your relationship with food. 

As discussed last week in our conversation about Dialectics (read here), this stuff is complex. And our brain loves to put things into neat boxes- you’re on a diet or you’re off a diet- you’re counting calories or you’re eating whatever you want. Where’s the grey area between diet culture and having no rules?

Why Diet Culture Don’t Work

So let’s talk about this concept of grey area between no rules and diet culture. If you have existed on either end of this spectrum, you know there are pros and cons to each. Diet culture can make you feel in control – albeit for a short period of time. Maybe we see super quick weight loss at the beginning of our diets, and with the exact and extreme rules of diet culture, there can feel like there’s no unknown to navigate. However, the dark side of diet culture is, *spoiler alert*, they don’t work in the long term. Not only do diets not work, but they often damage our endocrine system, mental health, and full body functioning. Our eventual failure on diets can also lead us to feel shame and disappointment- like we’re the problem. When in reality, it’s the diet that’s set up for us for failure from the get-go.

Why Having “No Rules” Doesn’t Work Either

On the flip side of diet culture, we can take the approach of having “no rules” or guidelines around our food. Eating whatever we want, when we want. This can bring a sense of much-needed freedom and autonomy over our food choices and doesn’t involve the deprived feeling we feel so strongly with dieting. However, we may quickly find that our eating can start feeling out of control- we may gain weight or deal with health issues. Turns out that’s not full freedom either.

Finding the Middle Path between Diet Culture and No Rules

Now let’s talk about the middle path solution. For many people- with or without food addictions, there are guidelines in their relationship with food. The guidelines are self-determined (giving you full autonomy!) and are geared towards what your wisdom knows you need in your life. They aren’t meant to feel punishing- they are meant to protect you against the pulls of food addiction and diet culture. Yes, I mean urges to skip meals too! So that you can live freely without food or diets calling the shots. Who doesn’t want that?

So next time your food guidelines feel like a diet, take a step back and reflect- are these guidelines are protecting you or enhancing your life? If they are- great! Sometimes we just need a little reminder. If they feel more punishing than rewarding, it’s time to reassess. Either way, know that while it takes trial and error to figure out what works best for you, a life without dieting and with loving guidelines is totally possible. 

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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