Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Danielle Basye, RD, LD

The new year is socially marked as a reset, a fresh start, and time to reflect on all the ups and downs in the previous year.  Part of the socially constructed reset is often promoted with detoxing and repenting for the Christmas treats we ate to get our bodies and health back on track. Often times this is done in the form of weight loss. A new year also provides us the opportunity to strengthen our muscles in rejecting diet culture. The tricky thing is that you don’t even have to be on a diet to be influenced or be engaging in diet culture. Christy Harrison describes diet culture beautifully in her new book Anti-Diet: “a system of beliefs that equates thinness, muscularity, and particular body shapes with health and moral virtue; promotes weight loss and body reshaping as a means of attaining a higher status; demonizes certain foods and food groups while elevating others; and oppresses people who don’t match up with it’s supposed picture if “health”” (Harrison, 2019). While there are many things you can do to reject diet culture here are five simple steps to help you live a diet free 2020.

  • Set boundaries around friends and loved ones.
    1. If those around you are participating in weight loss or begin putting rules around their food choices, have a kind conversation with them about how you do or don’t want to be involved in their new choices. Maybe that’s redirecting them at the dinner table by changing the topic or planning activities with them that aren’t revolved around food. If they ask you to participate in the new year’s weight loss program develop a catch phrase such as “thanks for thinking of me but I’m currently working on accepting my body and eating intuitively.” We are all on our own path through diet culture and that’s ok, we can respect others choices as well as protecting and honoring our own.
  • See diet culture for what it really is.
    1. One difficult aspect of giving up dieting and pursuit of weight loss is the potential for romanticizing or fantasizing about the past or how it could be with a new diet/wellness change. Dieting ads and programs make it look peaceful, energizing, and simple. They use bright colors, fun music, and a before and after picture that says it all. Before is a picture with dim lighting and a grim expression. While the after picture on the other hand has a transformed participant in fancy clothes with makeup and accessories done up to the nines. It’s all too easy to remember the good things (whether they actually happened or not) such as feeling great, receiving compliments and praise for weight changes, and overall being happier. Don’t let your dieting brain trick your authentic and healthy self into thinking it’s something that it’s not. Keep yourself educated on what the dangers of dieting are and recognize how it has or could disrupt your current life. If it seems overwhelming in trying to navigate diet culture while pursuing specific health goals, meet with a dietitian who is educated in Intuitive Eating, Health and Every Size, and practices from a weight neutral approach. If reading is more of your style here is a small list of books to help educate and support your own personal empowerment against diet culture.
      1. Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness through Intuitive Eating, By: Christy Harrison, MPH, RD
      2. Intuitive Eating, By: Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, CEDRD
  • Body Respect; What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, By: Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD
  • Let social media empower you
    1. If social media is something you participate in, let it build you up not tear you down. Social media can and is a powerful presence in our modern society. It can offer inspiration and make you feel not so alone. If your feed on any of your social media outlets is making you feel worse off I encourage you to beef up the positivity on your feed. We are in the midst of a revolution challenging beauty and health ideals, consequently many of the powerhouse leaders make a presence online. Some great Instagram accounts to follow are Marci Evans RD, LD (@marcird), Kara Lydon RD, LD (@karalydonrd), Dr. Colleen Reichmann (@drcolleenreichmann). These accounts are great in debunking diet culture myths and can lead you to other inspiring accounts.
  • Participate in self-care and compassion
    1. Find new ways to take care of yourself that aren’t attached to changing anything externally. This allows you to take care of all areas of health including physical, mental, spiritual, emotions, etc. Self-care looks different for everyone, make a list of activities that interest you such as reading your favorite book, walking outside, going to a yoga class, saying yes/no to plans, making an appointment with your therapist, and the list could go on and on. Make sure you have self-care items that are free and easily accessible at home, work, or wherever you spend a lot of your time.
  • Let your authentic self and values guide your health choices
    1. The weight loss and dieting industry makes their money off us wanting to change ourselves, convincing us that our lives could be better if our external self changed. If our culture was content just the way we were the dieting industry, which fuels diet culture, wouldn’t be a 65 billion dollar plus industry. Can you imagine how many companies would go out of business if we no longer pursued weight loss? It’s time we celebrate these wonderful qualities that make you uniquely you. In order to take a stand against diet culture, we have to work on accepting and respecting ourselves. It requires digging core values so that we can live life authentically. For example, if family is an important value and you want to move your body more find a way that can combine both. It might not be right for you to join an exercise group that takes significant time away from you family.  Maybe it’s more bike rides with your kiddos or taking a stroll with your Grandma. Break out of the tiny box that diet culture puts us in when it comes to reaching our personal health goals.

Wishing you the best of years in which you are able to live your best life exactly as you are.

Cheers to the new year!

-Danielle Basye, RD, LD