The first principle of intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality. Before you can fully tune into your body’s internal cues regarding what, when, and how to eat, you must stop following all of the instruction and rules from diet culture. This first step is the most difficult, but each time you turn away from the diet talk and plans that are (unfortunately) abundant in our culture, you grow stronger and are one step closer to becoming an intuitive eater. Today I wanted to share my experience in rejecting the diet mentality and give you some tips so that you don’t feel like you have to be a slave to diet culture any longer.
Before I found and embraced intuitive eating, I was a sponge to diet trends and talk. Instagram and social media were huge sources of comparison for me. I would follow someone who had a “fit” body and posted/talked about what they ate, and I would immediately think that I needed to eat like they ate to look like them. When my body didn’t resemble their body, or I got tired of the diet, I would jump to follow the next person’s diet I overly idolized. This went on for a couple of years, and no matter how many different ways of eating I copied from others, my body never changed like I wanted it to.
I began to realize that eating wasn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and that my body would never look exactly like someone else’s body. If I wanted to be okay with who I was in my own body, as my own person, I had to stop the comparison and reject any dieting messages that tried to sneak their way in. It took work and constant action, but today I am a much stronger person, and don’t get swept away by dieting.
Here are some actionable steps that I used to break free. Maybe these will be of help to you or someone you know who struggles with the diet mentality.
- Stop following social media accounts that trigger your “diet brain.” Whatever we expose ourselves to on a daily basis becomes all we see/the “truth”/what we expect should be. In order to change your mentality, you must change what you allow into your brain. For me, this meant unfollowing all IG fitness, nutrition, and health accounts that talked about dieting, tracking macros, or gave me the urge to restrict my food in some manner (whether that be calories, macros, types of food, etc.). I also unfollowed accounts with people who posted a lot of photos of their bodies, especially if I found myself overly idolizing their body and feeling less than when I looked at their posts.
- Walk away from diet talk. Let’s face it, diet talk is all around us. Every day I hear someone talking about losing weight, starting a diet, or over-explaining their food choices. You don’t have to physically walk away from conversations that include diet talk, but you do have the right to choose not to engage. This could mean listening kindly, and changing the subject or respectively telling the person that you are trying to disengage from talking about dieting for your mental health, so you wish not to discuss their diet. It might throw someone off guard, but YOUR mental and emotional health is more important. And, if you are being respectful and kind, you’ve done your part. Their reaction/feeling toward your remark is not in your control, nor is it your business. Sometimes, it does mean walking away from a very triggering conversation. Only you know what is best for you. As you get stronger in rejecting the diet mentality, diet talk gets easier to ignore. Today, I am really good at what I call, “silently calling bullshit” on diet talk. If I hear something that I don’t agree with or that is steeped in restriction/dieting, I have the thought of “whatever”/an eye roll/a scoff in my brain. This is a way that I can respectfully acknowledge where someone else is in their journey, but not let it interfere with my journey. I am not “whatever-ing”, eye rolling, or scoffing at the person in my head, but instead, at diet culture. We aren’t to blame for falling prey to something that is becoming so normalized in our society.
- Surround yourself with people and resources that build you up. Similar to unfollowing social media accounts that make you feel less than, start following ones that promote intuitive eating and diverse bodies. Start reading books like Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Resch and Elyse Tribole and Body Respect by Linda Bacon. Listen to podcasts like Food Psych, Nutrition Matters, and RD Real Talk. Read blogs from fellow IE bloggers like ImmaEatThat, The Real Life RD, Alissa Rumsey Nutrition, and Simi Botic. If you know someone who doesn’t diet or overthink their food choices, observe their eating behaviors and use them as a role model. It can be helpful and easier to embrace intuitive eating when you know you are not alone. Lastly, a therapist who teaches intuitive eating might be helpful for you. Therapy made a big difference for me because my therapist was quick to call me out when I started back down the diet rabbit hole. She was a great source of accountability, a role model and unbiased support as I worked to let go of the diet mentality.
- Speak your truth. Letting your loved ones or friends know that you are working to reject the diet mentality can be super helpful. If people know what you are working to do, you might be surprised by how supportive they can be. You may even inspire someone else to work on rejecting the diet mentality. Also, the more you speak out about rejecting dieting, the more you are standing in your truth. I found that my mental fortitude became stronger the more I spoke out about how dieting was bad for me. I also found it helpful to speak my truth to myself, especially when those diet demons would rear their ugly heads. If I felt tempted to get back on the diet bandwagon, I reminded myself (sometimes aloud) that dieting never gave me anything more than insecurity and self-loathing. I reminded myself that ditching dieting was the only way I was going to get closer to loving myself and living a truly fulfilling life.