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Breaking Free from Diet Culture: Using Research to Navigate the New Year

Updated: Jan 5




It started on December 25 this year which seemed a little early. An ad, an email, and before and after photos. Promises of dropping pounds quickly and being "bathing suit ready" by May. Food plans and intermittent fasting and workouts...oh my!


As a life coach and mindful eating instructor, I am well aware of the multi-billion dollar diet industry and its tricks, tools of the trade, and false promises. Studies show that at least 80% of the weight lost on these programs is regained within 5 years (see study referenced below).


I know that this is the plan; so we keep coming back and spending money. Our culture and the diet industry make us believe that it is a personal failure when we don't keep the weight off. We feel shame and have thoughts like; "Why can't I keep the weight off?" "What's wrong with me?" "I'm dumb, lazy, or (insert your adjective)", "Perhaps it just wasn't the "right" diet, I'll try something else"...and so the diet cycle begins again.


I know intellectually that yo-yo dieting and the constant loss and gain of weight on our bodies mess with our metabolism and hormones and make it even more difficult to lose weight. Each time our bodies go into deprivation mode there are well-researched biological and physiological responses to hold on to the weight and increase appetite. Our bodies do this to protect us from starving (thank you body)!


Even though I know all of this and more about the powerful food and diet industry, there I was finding myself feeling the urge to start a new diet and exercise program and developing amnesia about what "I know". "What can it hurt?" I thought, "Some accountability might not be a bad thing...and I have gained weight during the four years of Covid challenges."


And the deeper messages that have been ingrained in me by our culture since I was a little girl both verbally, nonverbally, and more covertly through marketing;

"Thinness is valued, fat is not!" and "If you gain weight no one will love you."


As I sat with the urge to click the button to sign up for the new program, I remembered how I felt when I was on the yo-yo diet train; anxious, stressed, not good enough, and depressed. I experienced a tremendous amount of suffering around food and dieting that eventually led to an eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder (for which I was professionally treated**). And every time I tried a new diet I was led right down that path again. Then one day after practicing meditation and mindful eating for a while, I experienced a moment where I was able to recognize that diet plans felt very restrictive and were not good for me at that time. It was a subtle feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me "No, this is not okay for me." and I actually felt relieved.


How was I able to recognize what my body was telling me? Enter mindfulness-based eating awareness training, meditation, yoga, and therapy. While there are many alternative paths to getting out of the dieting cycle and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, I credit a mindful eating program with helping me gain more peace and awareness around food and eating.


If you would like to learn more about Mindful Eating and my 6-week program, A Journey Into Mindful Eating, and how it can help relieve stress around food and diet culture, please join me for one of my information sessions. More information can be found here.


National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information Study here.


**Mindful eating programs are not a substitute for professional help and treatment for eating and body disorders.



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