At first this concept was something that I used to validate my experiences around food. I finally realized that eating according to a meal plan or avoiding certain foods wasn’t something my body did well, it rebelled and for a long time I felt like a failure, that I was the problem. Then I came across the term Diet Culture. I brushed it off, i assumed anti diet meant anti health, but boy was i wrong.
Diet culture is this strict set of ideals and habits that are reinforced by our society. These ideals are often only accessible to those with privilege and completely invalidates anyone who doesn’t fit into the societies idea of health. I don’t fit into these ideals and since I started looking into diet culture, I quickly realised I’m not the only one that feels like this, that diet culture hasn’t stolen joy and life from so many and my beliefs around health and what I do were causing harm.
As a health professional, the goal was always to help people, to reduce and minimise harm. This feeling has always been at the core of me. But when I started working in health. I thought that meal plans, strict rules and rough love were the way to do that with other and myself.
Fast forward six months and I came across Christy Harrison, when I started to learn about diet culture and how harmful societies view of health was, I was overcome with grief and guilt. Christy defined diet culture as “A system of beliefs that worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue…promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status…demonises certain ways of eating while elevating others…oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health”… [which damages] both mental and physical health.”
I couldn’t believe what I had done to people and myself. I pulled myself out of that job, shut down my own business and refused to take any work that didn’t align with the HAES and non- diet principals. I through myself head first into the research and started listening to peoples stories around their bodies and health. I wasn’t alone, majority of people felt like their body had failed them and they were trapped with a body that hated them. I refuse to be part of the reason someone hates their body.
The non-diet approach makes sense, my mind felt clear, weight always felt like such a reductive view of health, but I did what I was told and had a weight centric practise, even as someone in a larger body, but the non-diet approach made sense to me, finally a movement that encouraged health behaviours as a way to assess health rather than weight, it became clear to me, there was waaaaay more to health than how much someone’s weighed and so now I practice that way.
Simply put, I abide by the non-diet approach because I care about people and I know better now. When you know better, you do better.
The abundance of research that backs the non-diet approach is staggering (we will cover more about this soon, but be sure to look at the Messy Health Instagram to learn more), but there was something bigger that solidified this change in practice, my body finally felt understood and peaceful. I knew the non-diet approach was the best way forward because throwing out the rule book and focusing on healthy behaviours changed me, my health and my body. I didn’t lose weight, but I recovered from an eating disorder, all indicators of health had improved, less painful monthly cycle, less stress, increased mental health, had more variation in my diet and started to love the fuck out of myself and told anyone, any system that encourages me otherwise to fuck off.