So, it is January. And everywhere, literally everywhere are there messages around losing weight, the quickest way to shed belly fat, and or looking slim and trim in 10 days (or less). You may have noticed that diets are not a topic I discuss often on the blog (if ever). You may have also noticed that I do not (very intentionally, although it puts me down in Google rankings) add the number of calories to my recipes. I truly believe that nutrition is so much more than “just” calories. Why I don’t believe in diets you may ask? Let’s dive in below 🤗.
Diet vs. Dietary Lifestyle
First off, let me make the distinction between what I interpret as a diet and what is a dietary lifestyle because I am conscious even I sometimes use these two interchangeably. For me, a diet is a short-term restriction in food consumption whereas a dietary lifestyle is how you eat in general (e.g. vegan, whole-food, vegetarian, nut-free – whatever works for you 🤗).
Why I don’t Believe in Diets
I will touch on a few different thought processes that I have around this topic. The way the media portrays diets and dieting can mess a lot with our heads. I also truly struggle with people trying to sell us that our bodies are anything less than perfect as they are right now.
Food is so much more than
First off, food is so much more than a number or some calories. It can be a lot of things – nourishment, support, fuel, deliciousness, and hopefully fun as well. If it has provided you comfort and gotten you through a difficult time, then be grateful for that. Anyone who cares about you will not care about how you look. They will be happy to see you again, enjoy your company, and spend time with you 🥰. Please also remember that body size is not a straight equal to health, even though the diet industry would like us to believe so.
Body image and body size
A body image is a way that has been ingrained in our minds how we ideally should look. With the “perfect body” we are more likely to get the dream house, dream job, and dream partner (please note that I am totally exaggerating here, but it is what diet culture would like us to believe). This ideal body image is a complete fiction of our minds. And life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, irrespective of your current body size.
The truth is – I have rarely ever met someone who is content with their body image and size. And this is irrespective of their actual size. Unfortunately, we still have unrealistic (and largely faked) images from the media and the beauty industry in our minds. And it is so easy to criticize oneself, rather than blame an industry that obviously NEVER blames itself. None of what the media wants us to believe focuses on our overall well-being, or (mental) health. Which is the reason why certain images can be so detrimental to us. BUT – the same way that we have learned not to appreciate our bodies, the same we can (slowly, carefully, and mindfully) also unlearn these patterns.
I am by no means an expert in this field, but there are some awesome social media accounts that I follow for this type of content in order to further my education: @thebirdspapaya, @sydneylbell, @sophthickfitnesss, and alexlight_ldn are great examples.
Beauty standards change over time
If you look back to the 1800s the portraits of women had hips, boobs, and a belly. If I think back to the early 2000s, not eating, and looking truthfully not very healthy was “in” and portrayed by the media as beautiful. Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian were the first bodies that I actively remember that were not super skinny. I would presume that this was mainly the case because their bone structure simply did not allow it. And then suddenly a huge butt was in and people were buying jeans with padding in order to appear with a bigger butt.
Remember when it was super in to not have any eyebrows and almost plug them to oblivion? Suddenly it was in to have them super thick. The same goes for teeth gaps, noses, freckles, etc. What I want to say with this one – beauty standards change over time and they come and go. Your body worth does not need to change and is always there 💚!
Online is rarely real
A lot of our comparison comes from pictures that we see and that are curated online. Ever wondered why someone looks so effortlessly flawless and beautiful in some of the videos and you may not? I always did until I learned that online curated content contains a lot of posing, ensuring to hit the right angles, lighting, and knowing where to expertly place hands in order to not see skin folding. Anything that is basically normal and should be celebrated and that you see in your own, not curated pictures (obviously go for it if you like them!!). It is also so easy to alter pictures (and videos), even just slightly. So never compare your real life to someone else’s curated content. An awesome person to follow in order to learn all the “tricks” with regards to this is @danaemercer.
Your body is a well-oiled smart machine
Our gut microbiome is unique to us. We only share about 25% overlapping gut microbiome with the rest of the world. So, even if we all were to go on the same diet or dietary lifestyle we would all still look different – and that is fine!! You have to find what works for you and what makes you feel good.
We also cannot look at nutrition in isolation. Your body is such a complex, smart, regulating organism and so much more than the food you put into it. It is almost an insult to presume it will run efficiently with just one “component”. Your sleep, stress levels, exercise, general movement, and nurturing your circadian rhythm are all things that can influence your weight. Never forget genetics, family history, ethnicity, and age. I have said this above, but allow me to repeat: Weight does not indicate how healthy or unhealthy a person is.
The diet industry exists to make money
Let us be honest here, the diet industry is in the market of making money. And big money at that!! In 2019 the diet industry in the US alone was worth ca. $72bn. And it is an industry that is meant to be growing year on year. Hmmm— let me ask the question: How can it grow? If the industry was delivering on the promise of making us all “skinny” should it not be shrinking? The truth is, 95% of people fail on a diet and gain back what they have lost over the span of 5 years. They may even be gaining more weight on top. How convenient for the industry to blame the individual person – the one who did not have enough willpower, was deviating from a more than unrealistic plan, or could not thrive on liquids only (I am being sarcastic here), rather than itself.
I will also leave you with a further tongue-in-cheek thought: Have you ever noticed how, especially women, are meant to trust our intuition and listen to our gut… but when it comes to food we are told we cannot prescribe to the same trust and need to be told how/what/and when to eat? Thank you, diet culture and industry for cashing in on making us not believe in ourselves.
Does that mean we should all never be going on a diet again?
Of course not. You have to do what you feel is best for you. But I hope you now know that weight is so much more intricate, personalized, and individual than an entire industry would like us to believe 🙏🏻. AND what the media is trying to narrate is not real. A lot of it is perception rather than our actual weight. I also would like to point out that our mental health and well-being should not be forgotten in all of this, as I truly also see it as an important contributor to our overall health than just a number on the scale.
There is some evidence that suggests that diets can actually work (and in severe cases, they are necessary in order to bring health markers down or in case of people having a medical condition), but those most successful appear to be making permanent changes over a longer period of time (or as I would like to call it: changing their dietary lifestyle). The short-term cabbage soup diets that I vividly remember my mother doing for weeks at a time will only work (wait for it 😉) short-term.
What is the Takeaway from this Post?
If anything, I hope the takeaway from this post is that you are absolutely perfect, beautiful, and uniquely individual as you are and should be 💚. There is no one or nothing that should tell you otherwise. And whereas the media may be great in promoting certain types of content that it likes to see, this should not take away from your shine. Beauty standards come and go. And if there were a diet that would work for everybody on the planet – we would already all know about it. Please always do what you feel is right for you. By all means, improving one’s health is a good thing and is definitely something I encourage through everything I do on the blog. But habits change in the long-term and not through the next best detox tea (spoiler alert – they do not work and are dangerous). I hope that this post has provided you with a bit of perspective, knowledge, and insight into a more than an intricate and difficult topic.