A year ago I started this blog with the idea that I had something to say about a better way to live our lives, at least when it came to food and our weight. I wanted to be one of the voices that spoke out against the diet industry that profits from the insecurity they help manufacture and sells us lies and sham products and then blames us for their lack of success.
Meanwhile, I had some insecurities of my own. I wasn’t sure if I could produce weekly content that people would want to read. I wasn’t sure how much of myself to expose to the internet, which can be a scary place. I didn’t know if I could make one iota of difference in supporting people to get off the diet treadmill. I actually thought if 100 people read this blog by the end of the next year, I’d be thrilled.
Well, I am beyond thrilled. This year, I had 18,351 visitors. For the last 6 months, I averaged 2,379 visitors a month. That’s probably not a lot compared to many blogs, but considering I started out with 300 visitors last January…well, I’m incredibly grateful for every single one of you. I ended up with 172 subscribers and I thank every single one of them for signing up to hear me rant against the diet industry and for Health at Every Size® weekly.
I got to hear from people who are recovering from eating disorders and people who are learning to love their bodies and heal their relationship to food and who told me they found this blog a source of support — they are some pretty cool people. I made some great online allies. Because people were reading and seemed to want more, I felt encouraged enough to start a podcast with my friend Aaron Flores, RDN, which has been so much fun for me. I got to be on Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast to talk about my history with food and dieting which was so very super cool. I guest blogged on NEDIC. I was asked to participate in some more projects for the coming year which I’ll reveal as they come to fruition!
Beyond my blog, I saw the body positive movement go mainstream this year. Sometimes, living in my little HAES® bubble, tailoring my social media feeds to non-diet bliss, I’m not sure what’s going on outside in the real world. But I asked around and looked around and sure enough, there it was – body positivity everywhere. Let’s not let the diet industry co-opt this movement for nefarious profit. Let’s continue to make this movement of nourishing ourselves and loving ourselves just the way we are something that lasts and doesn’t disappear from our collective memory as fast as the Ice Bucket Challenge did.
And let’s keep the ball rolling. Let’s keep talking about how diets don’t work, how we can be healthy without going hungry, and how we can respect our wonderful bodies right now. Let’s someday make the diet industry a thing of the past.
So, Happy 1st Blogiversary to my blog and thank you to everyone who visited and subscribed and shared…the message of this blog is nothing without all of you. I wish I could share this cake with you. Keep fighting the good fight and here’s to a New Year of daring to not diet!
December can be a hard time for people. There’s the stress of the holiday season. The cumulative exhaustion of the year weighing down on you. Retail fatigue getting everyone down. Personally, even while continuing to eat intuitively and getting some exercise, I find it hard to feel healthy during this time of year because this is the “end” of the year and I kind of just feel done.
So I understand that need to want to hit the reboot button at the beginning of the new year. To strive to feel better, eat better, be fitter. Maybe even liking ourselves better. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that desire.
And you’re not on a diet now. Of course you’re not; it’s December, it’s the holiday season, there’s yummy food everywhere, you’re enjoying it, it’s the end of the year and not the time to start something new, etc. etc. etc.
But over the year, some unfruitful seeds have been planted. An ad mentioned getting a “beach body.” A workplace had a “Biggest Loser” contest and someone won $500 for losing the most weight. Oprah made a shitload of money from investing in Weight Watchers, and also, she lost a few pounds.
So while most people probably aren’t thinking about starting a diet for weight loss right now…they are planning it for January. In their heads, they are already starting the diet now.
The diet industry counts on this. They are laying low right now, saving their pennies for the weight loss ads that will pour forth from our TVs, radios, streaming services, and social media platforms come the new year. They will make a lot of money by selling a product that doesn’t work and then blaming the buyer for its lack of success. Even though the probability of 95% of people being to blame for a product not working has to be somewhere around zero. They make $60 billion a year and they barely even bother to advertise in December!
There are a million ways to improve your health and none of them have to involve intentional weight loss diets that don’t work in the long term. In fact, probably the unhealthiest thing anyone can do is try to diet for weight loss, because the most reliable long-term outcome of dieting for weight loss is weight re-gain. Is this really what you want? I didn’t think so.
Those things you can do if pursuing better health is your goal for the new year? Here are a few suggestions: You can eat nourishing foods; you can aim for more fruits and vegetables in your diet; you can learn to savor the foods you eat; you can learn to expand your palette to accept new foods. You can heal your relationship to food and your body if it needs healing. You can move more, maybe learn to love physical activity for the first time. You can discover that exercise isn’t just in a gym, sometimes it’s dancing in your living room or walking down the street or cleaning your home. You can broaden your network of social support. You can give yourself a break when you need it. You can realize that you’re already great, just as you are, without having to change your shape and size.
The diet doesn’t have to begin now, or ever. You can do all those healthy things without handing over one cent to the diet industry, who won’t give you a refund if they fail to help you achieve your goal in becoming thin forever. Don’t let those diet seeds leave you with unsavory fruit. Grow something real for yourself instead.
In Episode 3, Aaron and I talk about the relationship between Oprah (no last name needed) and Weight Watchers. Is Oprah just in it for the money? Is she really going to diet yet again after so many failed attempts at weight loss? Is dieting, with its well-known failure rate, compatible with self-actualization, something Oprah has championed throughout the years? Listen to what we have to say on these questions and more!
Hey everybody! ‘Tis the season for people to start thinking about their upcoming January diets, so I thought I’d re-post this diet story for your reading pleasure (or horror, you pick). Here’s to a new year of not dieting!
It starts out with a simple declaration: “I really need to eat better. And I could shed a few pounds. It’s for my health.” So you join a weight loss group. You don’t really think of it as a diet because diets don’t work, everybody knows this. You’re just going to eat healthier and lose weight.
You measure and weigh out portions with the fancy food scale you bought and the measuring spoons that tell you exactly what one portion of everything is. At first this is easy and kind of fun, like a game. You’re a little bit hungry, but it tells you that your new diet eating plan is working, or at least that’s what someone in your weight loss group told you. You do frequently think about cookies and cupcakes, a lot more than you used to, but you’re not going to have any because this is for your health. Also, they don’t fit into your eating plan.
You love walking, so that becomes your main source of exercise. You walk almost every day and you love it.
You lose a few pounds pretty quickly and you think that all the weighing and measuring and avoiding of butter was worth it. People constantly tell you how great you look now that you’ve lost weight. That feels pretty good! Luckily, you barely hear the insult in the compliment.
After a few weeks, you have your first trip out to a restaurant with friends. You’ve been avoiding this for a while but you miss your friends and eating out. You scan the menu for something you can eat without breaking your diet new way of eating, but there is nothing. You heard about how restaurants will prepare food to your specifications if you ask. “Can I have a plain, skinless grilled chicken breast and steamed vegetables without any butter or oil?” The meal arrives and you are elated at how easy it was to ask and get what you wanted requested. Then you eye your friends’ meals and your mouth starts to water a little bit. However, you are also proud of how good you are being, and you revel in a mild sense of moral superiority at your eating austerity. You don’t even have a bite of the dessert your friends split. It looks delicious.
Soon you have lost several pounds. Somewhere along the way you decide on a number. What you have lost is great but you have not yet reached the number. You have reliably lost a little bit each week with your diet sensible eating that you think getting to the number will be easy. But then a funny thing happens. The number on the scale stops going down. For weeks. “You’re just on a plateau,” says the kindly weight loss counselor. “It happens to everyone. Just keep at it.”
Clearly things must change. You cut your portions down a bit more. Walking for exercise, you decide, is just not cutting it, so you join a gym and start moving very fast on cardio machines. You don’t like being inside instead of outside and you dread the sweaty, exhaustive pace, but hey, this is for your health.
A few weeks after you’ve made these restrictions changes, the scale breaks free and drops a pound. “Congratulations!” the lady says as she takes your weekly payment.
Even more diet changes: you switch to a very high fiber cereal that tastes like gravel and gives you painful gas cramps every afternoon. You eat massive quantities of low fat microwave popcorn (the kind you heard gives people who produce it “popcorn lung”) throughout the day to keep the now-constant gnawing hunger at bay. You make large quantities of steamed vegetables and low-fat, low-carb vegetable soup that you don’t want to eat after it’s made – but you do. Even with all those vegetables to fill you up, you are still hungry before you go to bed. You suck on a sugar free candy to fool the pangs away.
You lose a few more pounds but the scale stalls again. You have stopped eating out altogether – you can’t stand looking at others’ meals, can’t deal with the wonderful aromas of the foods you are afraid to eat. You’ve bought new clothes for your slimmer body but have nowhere to wear them because social outings usually involve food or drink, and right now you can’t have too much of either of those. It’s just not worth messing up all that work you’ve done on your weight health.
One day, you get tired of eating the same 10 safe foods and go out with friends. “What the hell!” you think, and order steak and mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. You think you deserve this because you’ve been good, but the fact is that you cannot stop yourself from eating the entire plate, well past your point of fullness. Even though your stomach hurts, you order dessert and eat it all yourself. You are not sure what came over you to make you eat that much.
You feel ashamed of your binge and determine to get back on the wagon. You do at first, but that meal opened the flood gates. You think of food 24 hours a day. You simultaneously lust for and fear your next meal. You double down on your exercise and diet (yes, yes, it’s a diet, you know it and can no longer deny this to yourself), but the number on the scale starts to move up a little anyway.
You hate everything you are doing to maintain this weight loss. You hate the gym and feeling like you have to go. You are so bored of your monotonous diet and also the lack of taste, and you are so so hungry. You dream of cheesecake one night and wake up in despair. You are not sure this is for your health anymore.
You keep gaining weight, even though you never really stopped dieting and exercising. So you start eating everything and anything you want. You know this is worse than how you ate before you dieted but you need to fill yourself, fill up the hollow feeling. You quit exercising, including walking, you haven’t done that in forever anyway and all the joy has gone out of it for you. Nobody compliments you on your weight gain.
When all is said and done, you have gained back all your weight plus a few more pounds. You don’t know that this is your body’s way of saving your life from another famine like the one it thinks you just went through. You also don’t know, yet, that you will go through this many more times, trying a different diet (Zone, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Volumetrics, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem) each time, all with the same results. And in the end you’ll have gained an extra 40 (or 50, or 60, or 100) pounds and you will think it is all your fault.
Someday you will find out that there is another way. It’s a way to learn how to be healthy but without worrying about your weight. A way to live without fighting your body. You will find that revolutionary. It will be called Health at Every Size®.Will you choose it?
*This is a composite of many different diet experiences…including mine.
In one of the most colossal failures to interpret Intuitive Eating to the masses, Gretchen Reynolds reported in The New York Times magazine on this study which concluded that intuitive eating was not any better than calorie restriction for shedding pounds.
Are you effing kidding me?! There really is nothing that will put me in a rage more than someone trying to take one of the few, weight-loss-mentality free, diet-free philosophies on earth and trying to turn it into a weight loss diet.
In case you don’t want to read the article or the study – though if you do, please come back here for a complete breakdown of how this is just so wrong from top to bottom – I’ll sum it up here. Researchers took 16 men and women and put half on a diet, and gave the other half “instructions” in intuitive eating and after 6 weeks the dieters lost around 5 pounds and the intuitive eaters, while initially losing weight, did not show nearly as much weight loss as the calorie restriction group. Neither the article nor the abstract mention average weight change for the IE group, but I suspect it was insignificant and I’ll explain why just as soon as I finish banging my head against the wall over here.
There are three huge problems that I can see with this study. The first is the fact that intuitive eating was not designed with the intention to produce weight loss. Straight from IntuitiveEating.org, it is “an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body.” Nowhere on the website is weight loss promised. It’s simply not about that – it’s about becoming a no-drama eater, unlike how most people eat while on diets (total drama). In the process, a person’s weight may stabilize as a result of eating according to inner hunger/fullness cues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean weight loss, and in some cases it might even mean some weight gain if a person has been maintaining below their natural set point. And yes, some people may lose weight, although this is not a scientifically proven outcome. Which is why the end point of intuitive eating is a relaxed, healthy relationship to food and eating – not weight loss.
So comparing intuitive eating to dieting to produce weight loss is like comparing apples and…watermelons, it’s just that different. Other than being about eating, they are not at all the same thing. But that didn’t stop the study authors from making the comparison.
The second big problem is how intuitive eating was executed (with all the accurate imagery that word evokes) in this study. All participants, including the intuitive eaters, were all weighed. So while one of the principles of intuitive eating is not “throw out your scale,” rejecting the diet mentality is the first principle, and weighing is an integral part of weight loss dieting. Many intuitive eating practitioners I know won’t weight their clients because it is counterproductive to becoming reacquainted with their internal eating regulation. Why? Because stepping on the scale may trigger the expectation of weight loss, and that expectation, whether met or not, can mess with developing true body trust. It becomes about reliance on external outcomes, not internal cues.
But these study participants were indeed weighed. How effective, then, do you think their practice of intuitive eating during the study was? Do you think they were truly able to trust their internal signals of hunger and fullness when they stepped on a scale and were reminded of the expectations around weight change? I doubt it. I call that a big study flaw.
And the third problem is this: the participants were instructed in intuitive eating at the beginning of the study and then at the midpoint. The study was a randomized controlled trial so I’m going to assume most of the participants were new to this non-diet philosophy. Were they dieters before? Had they ever tried to lose weight? Were they chronic over- or under-eaters? Because here’s the deal: just getting some basic instruction in intuitive eating once or twice, especially if someone has been a chronic dieter, does not necessarily an intuitive eater make. For many of us, the journey from anguished eater to intuitive eater is a process – sometimes long, sometimes complicated. It can take weeks, months or years. In my personal experience, the first few weeks of non-diet eating does not feel intuitive at all. As Carly from the blog Snack Therapy writes, intuitive eating initially
“…involves a whole lot of thinking about food. And this is true… at first. It’s kind of like when you break up with a partner; you have bitch and moan to your friends/therapist/mom/other therapist/person handing out free samples at Whole Foods/cat in order to get over him or her and forget about your dysfunctional relationship. It’s the same thing with food. You have to analyze why you’re eating what, and when, and why, and how, and with whom. You think about how you feel after certain meals. You might spend a lot of time dreaming about what you’re going to eat tomorrow, because you’re finally allowing yourself to eat good food. So it’s true: if you decide to start eating intuitively, it probably won’t be very intuitive at the beginning. It’ll be a lot of checking in with yourself: (‘Carly, why did you eat that bowl of ice cream? Was it because you were hungry? Was it because you needed comfort? Was it because you saw a commercial for some and you had a craving? Was it because the moon is in the 7th house? Was it because you read that article about how some people develop lactose intolerance later in life, and so you should probably eat the ice cream now just in case you wake up tomorrow with a crippling dairy allergy?’). It’ll be a lot of thinking. A whole lot of thinking.”
Do you think the participants of this study, in the first 6 weeks after their introduction to IE, were really accomplished intuitive eaters? Maybe, and also maybe not. Not that it matters much to the bottom line of weight loss – because again, that’s not what we’re expecting here in the real world. But if you’re gonna call it intuitive eating, you maybe want to start with a bit more than two quickie info sessions.
This is irresponsible science. It’s also irresponsible reporting. The investigation in this article was pretty damn piss-poor. All Ms. Reynolds had to do was toodle on over to IntuitiveEating.org – which she referenced in her article – to see that nowhere on the website is there a promise for weight loss. Where you can see that it doesn’t even mention weight loss as an outcome. That it is obvious it isn’t another fad diet craze that is to be used as a substitute for dieting in order to get your dream body. Nope nope and nope.
While intuitive eating might not produce weight loss it can give us so much more: peace of mind, a healthy relationship to food and eating and our bodies, a weight that is right and sustainable for each one of us. Putting it in the same category as weight loss dieting? Epic fail.
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