Intuitive Eating was first published in 1995 and written by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Since the original publication date there have been 3 more editions with the 4th being published in 2020. This version is the one that you want to get your hands on, if you want the book. The 4th edition has included the topics of social justice, diet culture and even baby led weening. This edition has also moved even further away from intentional weight loss as the original still did have some “diety” language. (note: the authors agree with this) Personally, I think the evolution of the book is a great example of how people travel through Intuitive Eating (IE). When people start to move away from diet or wellness culture there are still many remnants of past thoughts or behaviours that continue. It takes time of unlearning and learning. This is why I think the first principle is one that takes a ton of work as well as it continues for life. Before I get into this principle I want to quickly talk about 2 things.
The principles of IE are not rules. They are not things that can and are done perfectly. I view them more as maps that have multiple routes to follow- routes that allow me to choose the direction that works best for me and my life. My map will be different than everyone else’s and that is ok!
The other thing I want to say about the principles is that they are not something you can fail at. I have been doing this work for a long time and yes there are days that diet culture is there in my thoughts or even actions. Does that mean I have “failed”? Nope. You can’t fail at this. (see point 1)
Alright, let’s get to “Ditching the Diet Mentality”. When working with clients this is the one that I always start with. I am not sure about other clinicians but I do because if we can’t start seeing diet culture for all that it is in our lives then we will be viewing of the other principles through diet culture tinted glasses. And those glasses make everything harder to see. When working on this principle one of the first things I often hear is “AHHHHH!!! DIET CULTURE IS EVERYWHERE!!” Yes…yes it is. Let’s think about it. Every time someone talks about their diet, macros, lifestyle. Every time someone comments on the bodies of others. Every ad for a wellness product. It’s in books, movies, television shows. It is in the fat jokes people make (can we please stop this and point it out when others do it so that we can stop this). At the stores that only offer clothes up to a size 12. It is everywhere. In fact I could write books on it- oh…there have been books written on it- check out my webpage for some suggests to read.
Ditching the Diet Mentality allows for you to get rid of some of the noise that will affect how you eat and move your body. If you noticed I said “some” not “all”. This is because we have all been born into this culture. It permeates everything we do and because of this some of it is so sneaky you might miss it. Diet Culture is a shapeshifter so sometimes it might take a bit longer to notice. Diet Culture takes away your power to listen to yourself and make the choices for food and movement that are best for you. It will tell you to not eat past a certain time- your body is not a clock and it does not magically do things differently past 8pm. It will tell you that you need to avoid a certain food or food group- have you ever noticed how this changes and cycles. This process is similar to jean styles. High-waisted bell bottoms, turned into low rise baggy, turned into extra low rise boot cut, turned into something else with none of these styles suiting every human on earth. Very similar to the low-fat, turns high protein, turns into I can’t even keep track which also do not fit every human on earth.
What are some things you can do to ditch diet culture? Let’s start with what I believe are the 2 biggest: Trackers and social media. They both have the ability to cause obsession and distance yourself from your own inner wisdom. In Laura Thomas’s book “How to Just Eat It” she talks about a client who had a Fitbit funeral- which is a concept I love. If you take it off for a day, what happens? Did you get stressed about not knowing how many steps you took? Did you worry that you ate more food than you needed? Now ask yourself- How does this machine know more about me than I do? If you go for a walk without a Fitbit did you actually take any steps? Yes! The answer is yes! Movement is movement no matter if it is tracked or not. What I think the tracking does is make people obsess over it. There are days I move more than others. Sometimes this is due to weather or work or I feel like a lay down day. The days that I move more does not make me a better person than the days I don’t. Yet I believe that trackers create this binary. We are good or bad depending if we close “our circles” or not. I have had students tell me that they will only eat once they have “burned” a certain number of calories that day (Honestly this should be a red flag to healthcare professionals to screen for an eating disorder). Our bodies have many mechanisms set up to tell you that you need food, why do you think a watch or tracker knows better. The only thing it does it further the divide between you and your body.
The other is social media. The only cleanse I will EVER recommend is a social media cleanse. Often times I will ask clients to pull out their phone and look at the accounts they are following. Things to look for: anyone who makes you feel like you need to change your body in any way; before and after photos; meals that omit food groups; meals that lack white, beige or brown foods. Anything that tells you that you are wrong and need to be fixed. Once that is done, look for accounts that have diverse bodies. Look for bodies that are not the same as yours. Curate your feed to be things that make you feel good. Include hobbies! Like to sew, follow sewers, like pottery follow potters (I might have made that word up..not sure).
At this point you might be thinking about food. So let’s turn your focus to your relationship with food and how the diet mentality has affect it. How have diets affected how you interact with food? This is a good question to ask yourself and write out the answer to (Maybe you want to journal your way through this series!) Do you find that you are scared to eat certain things because of what they “might do” to your body. Do you find yourself obsessing over a food you have restricted or feeling out of the control when eating this food? This is how dieting/restricting/”my lifestyle choice” can cause a rift in your relationship with food. Where you told your cultural foods weren’t healthy enough so you are avoiding them? Try putting them back in the rotation. What would happen do you think if you shut out all that noise? You might get a chance to hear what you are saying. You might hear things like “this food tastes good and is satisfying”. Stopped putting a moral value on foods. You are no better a human than someone else for not eating the cake. Stopped berating yourself for eating something. Trying being kind for providing your body with nourishment.
This is only a sliver of the work that you can do on this principle. It can take years to move through and past the diet mentality. Try following some badass non diet dietitians and therapists online. Be careful of the co-opting- if is walks like a diet, sounds like a diet, it is a diet (hey Noom…I am talking about you!).
Next week Principle 2: Honour your Hunger
Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically Me RD