Living in a society that is booming with diet culture, it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t. We are constantly being told that thin equals healthy, and overweight equals unhealthy. All we see on social media is the next fad diet—Keto, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Whole 30 and Intermittent Fasting—just to name a few. It’s normal to feel confused! So, how do we make sense of it all?
Dangers of fad diets
Fad diets are just that, a fad. To put it simply, fad diets do not work. They tend to claim that they will help you lose weight fast, promise a quick fix, label foods as good and bad, cut complete food groups out, and base their claims on unreliable research. What they don’t tell you is that yo-yo dieting has been shown to lead to:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Kidney and liver issues
- Heart problems
These fads are not sustainable and can do more harm than good.
Fad diets also like to hide behind other trendy words such as gut health, lifestyle change, cleanse, and detox. If you ever see any of these words, or see terms such as “100% guarantee,” just know that it is a fad.
How to have a healthy relationship with food
We all have fallen victim to diet culture at some point in time, some worse than others. But we don’t have to live under its spell anymore; diet culture loves to prey on insecurities. Those who come up with these fad diets tell us that we need to lose weight to be happy or healthy. They tell us that if we try their diet and it doesn’t work, then it’s on us and not them because we didn’t have enough “willpower.” They promise us a good life, confidence, success and beauty. All of these things could not be further from the truth.
So how do we combat this? Here are some of my tips to help improve your relationship with food and your body.
- A small body does not automatically equal healthy, and a larger body does not automatically equal unhealthy. It is not that simple. BMI is an extremely outdated tool that only takes into consideration a person’s height and weight, nothing else. We simply cannot determine a person’s health based on only these two things.
- There are no “good” or “bad” foods. Every single food we eat is providing the body with vitamins, minerals and nutrients that it needs to survive. If someone only eats chocolate cake every single day for the rest of their life, of course, they will not feel good because all they are eating is chocolate cake. However, if someone only eats carrots every day for the rest of their life, they also will not feel good! If we incorporate both of these things into our diet, then we will be just fine.
- There is no “one food” that is going to lead to negative health outcomes unless we use the example above and only eat that specific food.
- Listen to your cravings: if you are craving something, your body most likely needs something from that food. If you are craving carbs, your body may be looking for some energy since glucose is the body’s and brain’s preferred energy source. You might be looking for a mood boost from the serotonin found in carbs, or maybe you’re just seeking comfort. No matter what the reason, do not judge it. It is okay to have a craving.
- Thank your body for all that it DOES for you. Focus on how you want to FEEL rather than how you want your body to look. Doing so will help you feel energized, have good relationships, be able to go out to eat with friends or loved ones and not worry about the food and be able to function day to day.
- Food is meant to fuel the body, but it is also meant to be enjoyed. Eat the things that you truly like and that satisfies you. Be okay with feeling full. We’re supposed to feel full after eating!
- Lastly, keep an eye out for all of the fad diet red flags and try not to fall victim to the marketing schemes all over social media. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. You are worthy, you are beautiful, and you deserve to fuel your body and enjoy your food.
Your body is the least interesting thing about you. Never let diet culture or fad diets tell you otherwise!
If you or a loved one are seeking help for an eating disorder, contact Seeds of Hope to get started on the road to recovery today.
Written by: Alyson Horning, MS, RDN, LDN