My mother has lived in the same New York City apartment — my childhood home — for close to 60 years. Deciding to finally move south, we sifted through her apartment filled with as many memories as possessions. The process flooded my senses with remnants of diets and diet culture: a doctor’s scale in the master bedroom, Weight Watchers food scales, bowls and measuring cups in the kitchen, bookshelves lined with diet books a la Atkins, Stillman, South Beach, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, and finally to my former bedroom, which still displayed that full length mirror I’d spent hours standing in front of as a teen!
Body image issues
Thankfully, I never developed a full-blown eating disorder but certainly dabbled in diets and had my fair share of body image issues through the years. Society is much more critical of a person’s weight and body size now than when I was growing up. Many young people feel enormous pressure to “fit in” and look a certain way. The media only fuels the focus on external attributes by using anorexic-looking fashion models in television and magazine ads. Eating disorders do not discriminate and can be seen across all races, sexes, ages and sexual orientation.
Food for Thought: Diets Fuel Eating Disorders
It’s almost January — “National Diet Month.” Media ads for the latest and greatest weight loss programs are already upon us. Having provided nutrition counseling for well over three decades, I have seen firsthand the damage caused by fad diets and the dieting mentality.
We know that 95 % of all diets “fail,” and have unintended consequences including food and body preoccupation, weight cycling, reduced self-esteem, distraction from other health promoting behaviors like exercise, and can even lead to eating disorders. Why does everyone need “skinny jeans” and “skinny lattes?” Skinny does not always equal healthy and fit — heavier bodies can be strong and healthy. Let’s not promote dieting, let’s promote living.
Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating
It is time to focus our efforts and attention to health. A healthy body can exist in a wide range of shapes and sizes. When I work with a chronic dieter, our goal is to adopt regular patterns of eating, increase joyful movement, and improve self-esteem.
You can learn to become the expert of your body and meeting its needs. You can discover your own natural, internal signals of hunger and fullness. You can distinguish between your reasons for eating – the “why”, “when”, “what”, “how and “how much” – as the first step in learning to eat mindfully and “intuitively.” You were born with all this knowledge deep inside of you. It is yours to reclaim.
My hope for this holiday season and New Year has NOTHING to do with food, diets, or weight. It has everything to do with self-care – getting extra sleep, practicing a new skill and connecting with friends and family more often! What is your vision for the holiday and new year? Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season.