Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rejecting Diet Culture

Don't diet! Life is too short and it doesn't work anyway.

New Years is a little tricky this year. I'm usually somewhat depressed due to the holidays being over, in addition to the dark and cold of winter. But now I also have to navigate being bombarded with dieting and exercising resolutions being touted on TV, radio, and online. Why? Because I'm in full anti-diet mode.

I have struggled with my weight and body image for most of my life and I'm finally learning that it doesn't have to be such a struggle. I have wasted so much energy trying to manipulate my body, so much brain power being obsessed with food and exercise. I'm ready to get on with my life and accept my myself for who I am and my body for what it is.

My journey towards body acceptance began recently when I gained all the weight back (plus more) that I had lost a couple of years before. I went through a very stressful and difficult year in my life and couldn't spend all the time and effort it took to suppress my weight anymore. The weight came slamming back on and there was nothing I could do to stop it. My body was done with trying to be a weight it didn't want to be. I tried so hard to lose the weight again, but it wouldn't budge. My metabolism was shot. The old "calories in, calories out" didn't work anymore. If you think I just didn't try hard enough, let me tell you, I was an expert at losing weight (having lost a good amount of weight twice in my life). I had a ton of self control and discipline. It wasn't for lack of trying that I couldn't keep the weight off.

So I had a choice, I could keep trying, which at this point I realized was futile, or I could take a different approach. Around this time I read an article on Facebook. The article was about weight loss, and despite my better judgement, I read the comments. I got so mad at all the fat phobia and was desperately searching for commenters that countered the hateful rhetoric. Such a comment was there and mentioned a podcast called "Food Psych."

I had never listened to a podcast before, but I knew I had an app on my phone for such things, so I listened to an episode and was immediately hooked. I very quickly felt vindicated and reassured that my lack of ability to keep the weight off was not my fault. I quickly found other similar podcasts and devoured them over the following months. I can't give enough accolades to these ground-breaking podcasts: Food Psych with Christy Harrison, Fearless Rebelle Radio with Summer Innanen, Every Body Podcast, Dietitians Unplugged, Reclaiming You with Sarah Vance, and several more. They have changed my life so much for the better.

In listening to the podcasts, I learned about Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating. I had actually read "Health at Every Size" by Linda Bacon a year before, but wasn't quite convinced. I still held the belief that I could lose the weight again and keep it off this time. I just had to find the perfect diet, the perfect combination of macros, the perfect exercise routine.....until I finally reached my breaking point and was ready to hear the truth.

The truth is that our bodies are not meant to lose weight and keep it off. It will fight tooth and nail to get back to the weight it was before. This is actually a good thing. It's a mechanism that keeps us alive. The body was starved before (i.e. on a diet) and wants to keep the fat in case it happens again. It wants to stay alive! The other big truth: Our size and health has more to do with our genetics and socioeconomic status than our diets.

CNN recently published an article that describes these ideas very well: How your body fights back when you diet.

So how does my anti-diet stance relate to IBS and the low-FODMAP diet? Well, it's complicated. I still think that the low-FODMAP diet, when done properly with expert guidance, is a great tool for relieving IBS. It helped me immensely. My hubby would be suffering from his fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance if it weren't for my low-FODMAP recipes, so I'm not giving that up! However, I have a lot of untangling to do when it comes to how my IBS relates to my attempts at weight loss and how my body image is tied to my mental health. It's all connected and I'm trying to get to the bottom of it all. I might not have developed IBS if it weren't for dieting and the disordered eating that emerged from it.

Now that I'm not stressing out about my weight anymore, what will I do? For one thing, enjoy the freedom! Second, learn to appreciate my body for what it is. You know, my body is a pretty amazing thing for surviving the ravages of cancer. I'm also discovering its abilities through yoga. Yoga is incredible!  Of course I will continue with this blog. I love developing recipes and photographing them. That hasn't changed. Though I do wonder if the restriction of dieting to lose weight lead to the obsession with food that lead to starting a food blog.

I hope to be writing more about the anti-diet world in the future. I hope I can help other people that may be suffering with IBS resulting from disordered eating, and suffering from the mental effects of negative body image. Sometimes just hearing that you are not alone can help. I also have this blog, an amazing platform, to help spread the word: Life is too short to spend so much time and energy trying to manipulate the size and shape of your body!


  1. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I agree that just being a woman in our society creates a hyper-awareness to body size and shape that I just get frustrated by sometimes. I regret the many times I've beat myself up for weight gain too. I do think my less than healthy eating habits have been affected by having IBS. I'm also lactose intolerant and because it's been a life-long struggle to resist delicious foods, I do a good bit of cheating. This will often lead to me eating more than I should of a food that bothers me. My mental dialogue can be, "If I'm going to have a stomachache, why not have a few things that I've been missing?" This leads to overeating past full, tons of bloating, gas and regret. Sigh. I would love to have a normal digestive system. I would love to be able to focus much LESS on what I put into my mouth.

    1. Yes, it is so difficult to balance. I try not to restrict myself, but it's hard to do with food intolerance. Trying to balance what I desire to eat versus what I shouldn't eat because it will upset my belly.