Diets get a bad rap these days. There is an anti-diet movement going on that aims to end the toxic culture of unsustainable results leading to feelings of total failure and I’m for one, I’m here for that! Go to any bookstore and you’ll find shelves and shelves of books touting the easiest and fastest way to lose weight. There is a lot of money to be made in our feelings of inadequacy. According to a recent article published in the New York Times, the food industry was valued at $78 billion in 2019!
I recently came across comments on a Facebook page where people were saying that it’s totally normal to be motivated to work out and count calories to change your body. They were tired of being told they were victims of the food industry. It got me thinking. Pushing back on diet culture isn’t about giving up a healthy lifestyle. It’s about rethinking your motivation to want to be healthy. Is it normal to want to fit into your favorite jeans or look in the mirror and feel good about who you see? Of course it is. But it’s also about recognizing that the person you see looking at you may not match the image you’ve been immersed in for most of your life. If all your energy is spent trying to chase this away and you feel like crap no matter what you do, maybe it’s time to rethink that.
For women in particular, the pressure to conform to a specific body type using any means necessary is especially strong. It was my whole adolescence. I vividly remember my relief at going to college and not being the top of my class anymore. I was clearly the wrong size and even though I couldn’t control my height, I could definitely control my weight. I didn’t recognize myself as thin and focused only on the number on a scale that, because of my height, was higher than my shorter peers. To say things went off the rails for me is an understatement.
This experience is repeated again and again for millions of women and men. The focus is on a number on the scale and nothing else matters. The diet industry has done a masterful job of playing on our vulnerabilities and laughing it out to the bank while the rest of us scramble to find the next quick fix, starving not just for a real meal but also a sense of peace inside our own skin.
When I finally understood that I was a victim of this culture (from an early age) like most people around me were, my first instinct was to be angry. Much of my life energy has been spent trying to fit into a mold that is being sold to us a million different ways! And rather than feeling satisfied with myself, I felt rather discouraged, resentful, less than compared to all the images of what I was “supposed” to look like.
My next step was deciding to do it MY way. It started with pushing back the messaging. Recognize it for what it is. Marketing. That’s it. Then it was to clarify what I really wanted for myself. In my case, it led to running. Running was an opportunity to get to know my body differently. To see his strengths and abilities mile after mile. This led me to choose a plant-based diet that fueled my race, made me feel better, and was more in line with MY values.
The result? I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever been. I have a feeling of freedom that I could never have expected.
When I choose things that make ME feel better, there is considerably less guilt and worry. I rarely feel controlled by food.
There is something magical about charting your own course. It creates a sense of self-confidence that the diet industry sincerely hopes you have lost. You and you alone know what will make you feel your best.
Turn down the volume on quick fixes and the need for perfection. Your body knows what it needs. Start listening.
Leah Doriot is a Certified Master Health Coach and works one-on-one with clients of Leah Doriot Wellness, LLC.