Taking Focus Away from Diet Culture

Taking Focus Away from Diet Culture

By Victoria Kupiec RD, LDN, Director of Nutrition Services, Timberline Knolls

Diet culture is a prominent part of society that is often difficult to avoid. Conversations surrounding diet are ever-present on social media, in stores, and on television. This diet culture places a strong emphasis on achieving the ideal level of thinness with the promise of love, acceptance, and health to follow.

We are often told that we will suffer from disease and feelings of worthlessness if we fail to achieve an appropriate weight. Blame and ever-changing body standards that transform with time serve as major barriers to sustaining well-being.

The focus on unrealistic body standards promotes a cycle of shame that further attracts individuals to diet culture and products with the intention of “fixing” their bodies. Yet, the majority of diets that are started with the intention of weight loss are unsuccessful in the long term. Individuals often feel shamed or guilty if they are unable to meet the goals they set for themselves. If someone does not experience or sustain the weight loss they desire, they may adopt the belief that they are weak and do not possess enough willpower to manage their weight.

The overwhelming number of individuals whose dieting is unsuccessful points toward a big-picture issue with approaches rather than a problem with the individual. Another aspect that impacts the effectiveness of dieting tools is their heavy reliance on external cues and strategies. A more effective approach to support a positive relationship with food should instead focus on building sustainable habits that are not rooted in restriction and that help rebuild the body’s own innate wisdom to guide one’s eating.

Individuals who begin dieting will often regain the weight shortly after, which triggers the continuation of the dieting cycle. This cycle and the associated negative feelings leave our bodies and minds exhausted. Over time, this fatigue takes a toll on our emotional and physical well-being. The adverse effects of dieting can be seen with every fad diet that emerges, yet it is common place to fault the individuals rather than the approaches.

One solution to this struggle is to allow ourselves an open-minded approach to discover how we interact with food. Individuals are encouraged to develop and honor internal cues of hunger and fullness while exploring how different foods affect their bodies. This would also involve permission to incorporate foods for enjoyment. By allowing ourselves to explore the tastes, smells, and textures of food through an unbiased lens, we can find a balanced, yet diverse connection with what we eat.

These methods of self-inquiry are important, especially when supplemented by education from healthcare professionals who are trained in nutrition. There is no single solution to achieve a body image that you are comfortable with. Because each individual, and their relationship with food and eating, is unique, it is important to emphasize the body as a complex and multifaceted system that must be nurtured and cared for. In this way, our society can begin to see the importance of a person’s well-being, rather than focusing solely on their weight.

5 Tips for Holiday Success

5 Tips for Holiday Success by Meagan Mullen, MA, MHC, Clinician and Community Outreach Specialist

The holidays can be stressful enough as is—but when you pair the busy time of year with eating disorder recovery, it can be even more daunting.

Here at MEDA, we believe that everyone can make it through the holiday season with success, but we also understand that it can be difficult.

We’ve come up with five tips for holiday success to help support you through parties, gatherings, and celebrations alike.

  1. Be kind to yourself

It may sound simple, but offering yourself compassion in difficult moments can go a long way. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, find a helpful mantra or quote that can soothe your anxiety. Or, when it doubt, give yourself a bathroom mirror pep-talk about how much of a Rockstar you are. Beating yourself up or letting that inner critic voice get too loud won’t do you any good.

2. Reach out for support when needed.

Identify someone who can be a listening ear if you need to process a few things. Maybe it’s someone in your family, a trusted friend, or maybe it’s the “notes” app on your phone or a journal page until you’re able to process it aloud in therapy. Remember that you’re not alone in this!

3. Take care of yourself physically.

As stressful as the food part of the holiday can be, remember to stay adequately fueled throughout the various events you might be attending. While holiday food might be different from what you’re eating every day, it still offers nourishment and fuel to your body! Pack snacks if needed and make sure to listen to the advice of any team members. Get enough sleep and rest when needed.

4. Identify a few ways you can engage in self-care.

Maybe you need some alone time after a party. Maybe you want to take a nice hot bath at the end of a long day. Pick a few things in advance that you can do to relax, unwind, and handle any stressors/triggers that come up!

5. Set healthy boundaries.

Whether it’s walking away from a conversation with your family members about the latest diet trend or avoiding a gathering altogether, make informed decisions about what you do and don’t do over the holidays. Sometimes meeting up with triggering friends or family isn’t the best bet—especially if you’re already in a vulnerable place. Or if it’s unavoidable, have a good excuse to dip out of any conversation that feels uncomfortable. Try coming up with a list of topics you can bring up if the conversation veers off in a direction you don’t want to go! And don’t feel guilty!

MEDA is here to be a support, and we wish you all a wonderful holiday season! We are rooting for you!