Brigid Downey

January 17, 2021

Ditch Your New Years’ Diet Plan

Hi readers, I have a problem and a bone to pick with the universe today which is: new year’s diet ads! So, grab a snack and buckle in with me because this is gonna be a long one

Content Warning: We’re going to be talking about some sensitive topics like body image, fatphobia, diet culture, and eating disorders. If you think this might be a problem for you to read, I encourage you to back out and read a different post of mine instead.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the books I’m using as sources. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. I encourage you to shop from your local Indie bookstore which you can do from IndieBound.

Some Back Story

Quick story time: As a person very interested in social media and digital spaces I focused a lot of 2020 on diversifying my feeds. This started with the BLM movement and wanting to make sure I had a culturally diverse group of creators on my profiles, and that was the initial push out of my feed slump. I saw new faces, new creators, and I fell in love with engaging again.

But then.

Something incredible happened because I started to diversify in other ways. I started following more people (especially women) in tech spaces and marketing, I followed more resources for my career and cool TikTok recruiters, I followed LGBT+ creators, and I diversified more out from my tiny books, publishing, and writing bubble. I’ve talked a lot on here about body positivity and the journey that I’ve gone through to self-love. In the last year, a big part of this journey was following plus-sized creators.

I started to see bodies that looked like mine daily and women who, frankly, were killing it at my size. That was huge for breaking down some of my own body dysmorphia and normalizing bigger bodies as well as getting involved in conversations surrounding the body positive community and diet culture. And then the social media algorithm did something phenomenal: it gave me dieticians to follow.

Intuitive Eating

Not only did social media give me registered dieticians to follow, but it also gave me dieticians certified in intuitive eating. I had heard about intuitive eating before, but never really looked into it–that was until I started following feelgooddietitian on Instagram. She has a lot of content that’s easy to break down into what intuitive eating is so I decided to buy the book and look further into it. I also bought the workbook because I learn well when guided through something with exercises (fellow hands-on learners shout out in the comments!)

Intuitive eating has 10 aspects that guide you through it (that I will 100% talk about in another post). A lot of people think it’s a hunger-fullness diet, but it’s more of resetting your body to its natural state. I’ve talked about before how in high school I went through a period of seriously restricting my eating, I never got diagnosed with an actual eating disorder because I gained weight instead of losing it.

Diet Culture and Rules

I found out, through intuitive eating that this is actually very normal and a reason why a lot of diets don’t work. Your body doesn’t know if you’re on a restrictive diet or starving so it goes into a survival mode that makes you store a lot of food as fat. You’re body then begins to break down muscle for energy instead of fats and sugars, this causes weight gain. If a diet doesn’t cause this type of weight gain it can cause another: binge eating. When we restrict our body of food is when we get cravings and when we ignore those cravings it gets worse and worse. When we finally eat that food we tend to binge on it which can cause us not only to feel sick but also to gain weight if we do it often enough–thus the trap of cheat days.

There are many other reasons why diets and restrictive eating don’t work and (as I am not a doctor) I encourage you to read Intuitive Eating and maybe also talk to a registered dietician certified in Intuitive Eating methodology.

Dangerous Diet Products

Not only do diets not work, but they can be dangerous. Do we have to have a conversation about flat tummy teas? Okay, we will. Flat tummy teas (and smoothies, waters, juice cleanses, supplements, etc.) do. not. work. They are full of diuretics’ and all you lose is water weight and become dehydrated while starving yourself. We talked about why starving yourself makes you gain weight already. So, these products are designed to make you lose water weight and then gain more weight back so you’ll feel bad about yourself and buy more.

Also, they are not regulated by the FDA: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/beware-products-promising-miracle-weight-loss

“Detox” teas are the same thing, by the way. Your body does not need you to detox it, your liver and kidneys already do that. So, if you think that your body is not detoxing itself correctly I would encourage you to go see a doctor and get your liver and kidneys checked out.

Racism, Misogyny, and Diet Culture

So now that we’ve broken down why diets don’t work let’s talk about the systemic issues of diet culture. I want to preface for people who’ve never been on my page: I am a white, gay, cis-gendered woman. There are some things here that affect me and some that don’t and I will post all my resources and sources at the end of this blog post.

Upon looking further into the how and why of diet culture I was appalled to learn that it has deep-seated roots in racism and, slut-shaming, and control of women. Have you ever noticed that women are the main targets for companies like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig? or that plus-sized characters in media are more likely to be portrayed by black women?

The media portrays “thin” as a symbol of control, beauty, restraint, delicateness, femininity, and grace. It’s a symbol of the “perfect woman” to have an hourglass and be white. Why? Sabrina Strings, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine and the author of “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia,” sums it up better than I can in this article from “In the Know” by Morgan Greenwald:

“By the middle of the 18th century, because of the fact that the main mechanism for separating ‘free’ from ‘slave’ — which had been skin color — was no longer an effective sorting mechanism, they started to identify new ‘traits’ of inferior and superior people,” says Strings. Their conclusion, she explains, was that “inferior races have no self-control … because of how interested they are in sex and food. This was really the beginning of linking what was considered an unruly type of fatness to Blackness.”

Morgan Greenwald (quoting Sabrina Strings), Unpacking the Racist Roots of Fat Phobia and Diet Culture, “In the Know”

The fact of the matter is “fatness” became another way of othering, mainly black women, because they were what was labeled as unruly, lazy, or out of control. Now-a-days this also encompasses control of women in general. The diet industry is marketed toward women primarily because it’s another form of control over our bodies… and it’s gross. The societal standard to be “pretty” is riddled with impossible expectations for youth, beauty, and weight that is driving young girls into diets, disordered eating, and finally eating disorders in an attempt to control them.

New Year’s Diets

Since January 1st, I’ve seen so many ads for Weight Watchers, Noom, intermittent fasting coaches, Keto programs, and on and on. Nearly every ad I get now as I scroll through Instagram is a diet ad telling me to “lose the quarantine weight.” Fuck. That. If your feed is similar, I want to remind you that the world is healing through a global trauma and that means that you are also healing. Whether you worked out every day this year, or whether you sat on your butt and ate ice cream every night, you are going to be okay. Please try to remember that these companies are predatory and don’t work and you are trying your best.

If you’re really worried I encourage you to go talk to a dietician if you have access to one (not a regular doctor because the medical industry is fatphobic, but that’s another post). For now, remember diets do more damage to your body than being overweight does and you are beautiful and valid at any size.

plus sized female (Brigid Downey) wearing rainbow makeup and a rainbow pride shirt that reads "All You Need is Love"

What does your New Year wellness plan look like? Are you ditching diet culture this year?

Sources and Resources

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