8 Ways to Break Free of Diet Culture (2017)

How to stop punishing yourself with diets and over-exercising and just be you, whatever size that is

What’s the best way to NOT get sucked into contemporary diet culture.  Is there a formula?  Is there an answer to being happy and content in your skin?  To being able to just eat what you feel like eating? To stop punishing yourself for not exercising like a gerbil on a treadmill every day?  Okay, so here are some things you can try…gerbil

  1. Cleanse your social media.  Ruthlessly.  Stop following skeletal, compulsive exercisers with six-packs. Stop friend-ing folks who talk about being ‘good’ for not eating something or ‘bad’ for eating something.  Do friend folks who are diet neutral.  Un-friend those who talk about being on a diet or the newest word for diet: cleanse.  Diets don’t work. They are torture and they make you gain more weight later.  Un-friend.  Start coming to terms with the fact that we all have different sized, shaped and coloured bodies. Some of us are in bigger bodies. Some of us are in smaller bodies.  This is normal and it is totally OKAY!!!!!  You do you.  Own it.cake and cherries
  2. Don’t demonize food.  Food is just food.  Food is not the issue.  The trillion-dollar diet industry is. Eat what you want and pay attention to how you feel and what you are craving.  Take a pause to ask yourself what it is that you want to eat and how that food makes you feel.
  3. Stop looking in the mirror so much. But when you do, gaze at yourself with compassion. If you work with mirrors, like in the beauty industry, just avoid LOOKING and checking yourself out.  Okay, after you eat a spinach salad, or a spinach anything, check out your teeth in the mirror to ensure you don’t have a honkin’ huge piece of spinach stuck in your teeth.  spinach in teethBut other than that, it is possible to lessen mirror time.  Instead, FEEL how you look. It’s wonderful to FEEL and ACCEPT yourself.  The mirror can be very critical.
  4. Wear clothes that fit.  If your clothes are too tight or too loose, replace them.  Hit up a thrift shop to save money.  Wear clothes that are comfortable.  Get rid of anything that is uncomfortable, no matter if it is in style right now.  Just get rid of it.
  5. Pretend you are your childhood self and behave THAT way with regard to food and movement.  Play! Nap.  Run.  Skip.  Throw a ball.  LAUGH! Dance.  Think of your hobbies from your childhood and get back into them.  Build something.  Plan a trip. Volunteer somewhere.  Get out of the gym (and out of your own head) and do something of service to others which takes the focus off of YOUR body image.
  6. Conscientiously THANK your body for ALL THAT IT DOES for you.  It is keeping you going and managing all your bodily functions, even while you look at it with disgust.  Try looking at your body with compassion, gratitude and respect, instead.
  7. For Pete’s sake, smash your scale.  That number on there will make you crazy and the pursuit of a certain number on the scale is a big waste of your time and energy. Let your body be the weight it wants to be.  Everyone has a set point range where their body performs optimally.  Trust your body to find its set point.  But, if you have been disordered for a long time, it could take your body a while to get there, so be patient.  A few years even.


8.  Here’s a little secret that someone like me needs to tell you.  You see, I was trapped in the diet mentality for about 36 years.  Ya, THIRTY-SIX YEARS!!  I finally got free of it, after hitting rock bottom which you can read about here: The Body Positive 🙃 and here: BoPo Revisited and it all started here: Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏.  The secret is: you do not need to diet. No one does.  No one. You do not need to compulsively exercise. You just need to chill.  Seek non-diet counselling (make sure the counselor is up to date on this — you don’t want a counselor who puts folks on meal plans.  Uh uh. No meal plan. So be sure.  My first two links above mention a few you can check out.)  If you are disordered or if you are in the grips of a full-on eating disorder you may need professional help.  If you can’t afford counselling, find a friend who has a really great body image attitude (never talks about diet, has no problem with any foods, wears horizontal stripes..that kind of friend). No friend? Reach out to the many, many closed groups on facebook, that I mention in the above links.  Comment here….I will do my well best to help you.

Your turn…what else can we do to be free of diet culture?  To be free to just be?  Without judgement or harassment and with love and compassion?  Leave a comment if you are up to it…  We GOT This!


Here’s a funny comedy track for you with Tom Popa.


(Psssst: I LOVE to hear from you…leave a comment).


end diet culture

BoPo Revisited

There’s this whole other way of living out there…non-diet, size neutral, eat what you feel like eating, exercise because you want to, gently. Who knew?

I have been anti-diet, size neutral, body positive and into Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating since Jan 1, 2017, an auspicious day when the prison bars opened and I walked out into freedom.  (If you are unaware of just how messed up I was regarding body image and food, take a look at the post: The Body Positive.) I received a request from my sister Amy to revisit the topic, now that some time has gone by and I have completely changed my disordered ways.

Well, let’s start with what I have been doing differently.  Instead of constant restriction or worry about calories and types of food, I have opened the flood gates and have been eating whatever the hell I feel like eating and at whatever time of day or night – tuning in to my hunger and cravings instead of tuning them out. The first time in early January that we were at a restaurant together and I ordered (gasp) fish, Leo looked at me quizzically and says, ‘Mom, no salad?’  When I got over the fact that my teenage boy noticed me, I started to feel bad for the messages that I have obviously instilled in him about what mom’s should or shouldn’t eat. Shit!  I didn’t want my body image baggage to affect him.  For his whole life though, I have restricted, stressed and worried unless the prerequisite burning of significant calories had occurred.


From my research on recovering from eating disorders / disordered eating and over exercising, this was the stage where I was lifting the taboos from all foods.  It’s key that for a number of months, or a year or so, one goes with whatever the hankering is for and try to really tune in to the exact food that is being craved. Almost always, initially, it will be previously demonized foods like: french fries, desserts, melted cheesy-foods. After paying some attention to those particular foods (the previously demonized ones), they will lose their power and we won’t feel the need to indulge in them as often.

I am already noticing that some foods are losing their attraction, just because now they are allowed. Their allure is lessening.  Don’t get me wrong.  This intuitive eating method is NOT a weight loss method.  It is rather, a way to learn to be in tune with your body and what it needs and wants. What ever develops from that…so be it.  Some gain.  Some lose. Some stay the same.

Another big step was to rid my social media sights of anything or anyone who would trigger my thinking back to the old ways.  So, I unfollowed or unfriended sites and folks with mentions of dieting, weight-loss, green smoothies (YUCK!), cleanses or over-exercising.  Also, I had to let some friends know that I now take exception to body-slagging, diet and fat-phobia talk.

As for exercising, I am doing a lot of walking, because I enjoy it and because, while I walk, I can educate myself using podcasts.  I have now listened to hundreds of hours.  My favourite podcasters are:

  • Christy Harrison on Food Psych podcast https://www.christyharrison.com/foodpsych/ ;
  • Chris Sandel http://www.seven-health.com/;
  • Meret Boxler on Life. Unrestricted podcast http://www.lifeunrestricted.org/ ;
  • Summer Innanen on Fearless Rebelle Radio https://summerinnanen.com/frr/

There are also life changing books available:

  • Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size; 
  • Harriet Brown’s Brave Girl Eating; and
  • Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Another thing that’s good about walking: I can do errands and make it functional exercise, like fetch the mail and a few groceries items.  Can’t do that on the treadmill or on the stairway to nowhere. I am also still doing yoga but it has morphed into a very gentle version of yoga.  No more power yoga and way fewer handstands.  Instead of compulsive exercising for the purposes of looks or to burn calories, now I exercise because it feels good.  Exercise is a gift to my body, much like slaking my thirst with a glass of cool water.

So, what has changed for me.  OH MY GOD.  I am free.  At last.  I do not wish my previous shit on anyone.  That was a horrible way to live.  I have gotten rid of my scale so I don’t know how much, but I have gained weight.  But, seriously, who cares?  WHO THE HELL CARES if I have a bigger dress size?  I know one thing for sure, my hubby is enjoying my bigger boobs. A win win.

Is it difficult to do a 180 degree turn at this stage in my life?  Well, you know that saying: fake it until you make it?  That’s me.  I’m pretending to be one of those people who eats whatever they want.  We have all known at least one friend like that, right? That’s me. It’s working and it’s exciting to be able to just EAT WHATEVER I WANT and NOT OBSESS ABOUT IT. God.  It’s so much better this way.  I welcome you to join me.

When I’m having a bad day, I check in with a couple of closed facebook groups which are full of people going through exactly what I am going through.  I was having a really bad day a few weeks ago — scared about my changing body and hoping I was on the right path. I posted to the Food Psych podcast facebook group and within a few minutes I had answers to my gnawing worries.  One person encouraged me to simply lessen my mirror time.  Imagine.  I don’t have to check myself out so much and that will make me feel better.  It works.  Another person responded that I may want to go buy some larger clothes because wearing tight clothes can be distressing at this stage. Off to the thrift shop I went and found some beautiful jeans that fit so well at thrift prices. Their responses really helped me and I was touched.

I would love to help even one person to get out of the restriction / over-exercising hell.  If I could save one person from wasting themselves in the diet-culture crap, that would have all been worth it.

I will end with truisms that I have learned so far:

  • All bodies are good bodies.  This is key.
  • Our body knows what is best.  Tune in.
  • Diets don’t work.  Why does Weight Watchers have a lifetime membership?  Think about it.  It is a profit driven business based on diets NOT working.  Am I right?
  • If it feels like a chore to exercise, take a break.  Sit down and enjoy a rest or go for a stroll, admire nature or window shop.
  • If your Instagram is full of skeletal bodies with six-packs, that’s not helpful.  Unfollow.
  • Diet talk is not helpful and it shouldn’t be how we bond with each other as women (or men). Diet talk is lame. Step away from those people or help them to know they are triggering you.
  • Journal writing and meditation helps work it out.  Meditation can take place while walking, if that works for you.
  • Juice fasts are diets.  So are cleanses.  Diets don’t work.
  • Not only do diets not work, you will likely gain more weight in the 3-5 years after the weight loss.  This is because your body is rebounding from thinking there was a famine and slowed your metabolism.
  • Some lifestyle choices are just glorified diets.  Diets don’t work.
  • If you have a craving for a food, think about eating that food.  Your body is asking you for it.
  • If you get a feeling that someone is anorexic (because you have never seen them eat and perhaps is skeletal – but not necessarily) they probably are. Anorexia is a very secretive condition.  However, if you can, reach out to them in a gentle way.  Tell them you care.  This will mean a lot.  I was there.  I know.
  • Anorexia is a very lonely mental illness which can be fatal.
  • If we don’t buy into it, we can beat the trillion dollar per year diet industry….together.

Just in case you would like to read these again:

Intuitive Eating Principles by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
  2. Honor Your Hunger. Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
  3. Make Peace with Food. Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
  4. Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
  5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
  8. Respect Your Body. Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
  9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
  10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

Copyright 2007-2017. intuitiveEating.org All rights reserved.

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It’s a journey my friends.

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