Trigger warning: body image and eating disorders
May 6th marks International No Diet Day, a day dedicated to fighting against food and weight stigma, inappropriate dieting, and poor body image.
There are many diets and trends that have flooded social media, with some:
Encouraging the restriction of a food group
Encouraging feelings of hunger
Being nutritionally lacking which is not good for you, your body, or your mind
The human body needs to eat a variety of healthy and nutritionally balanced foods; and healthy eating habits can be hard to develop, especially in today’s world.
What is diet culture?
Diet culture is a system of beliefs, morals and values surrounding food that prioritises ‘thinness’ over good health and wellbeing.
In diet culture, certain foods are pigeon-holed into two categories: ‘evil’ or ‘good’. If you eat something ‘evil’, then you are made to feel guilty and regretful. If you eat something ‘good’ and that is acceptable according to diet culture, you feel encouraged and validated. These two categories have produced many food-related myths throughout the decades, including the antagonisation of carbohydrates, sugars and fats. The reality is, there is nothing wrong with eating foods considered high in these groups.
For example, carbohydrates and sugars are typically presented as super evil and villainous. But, they really aren’t! Carbohydrates and sugars are naturally occuring, and appear in very common and very delicious foods including fruits, breads, pastas, vegetables and more. Carbohydrates are used to fuel our body, and are our main contributor to our daily nutritional intake.
If you want to make a healthy change, the Australian Dietary Guidelines are a great place to start, as well as accessing an Accredited Dietician or Accredited Nutritionist.
How can I build healthy habits?
When creating any kind of habit or pursuit of any kind of goal, it’s good to recognise that these habits have taken years to form and become part of your behaviour. So, it may take some time for us to see a change.
Healthy eating habits include things like being conscious of sodium intake, trying to eat more vegetables every day, swapping white breads to whole grains, just to name a few. Healthy eating habits also include having chocolate sometimes, eating ice-cream because you want to, and not restricting yourself in any way. Everything is good in moderation, and having a balanced diet is the most sustainable diet.
If you are to remember anything from this post, I would like you to remember that not all foods are evil or good. Food is just that, food. It has no moral value, and you should always eat.
If you require support or further information, Butterfly Foundation can help as it has plenty of resources, support groups and more. If you require or think you or someone else needs help, contact your local general practitioner or contact headspace and find out what we can do for you.
'If Not Dieting, Then What?' by Dr Rick Kausman
Access the online content here, with further information about the author: http://www.ifnotdieting.com.au/cpa/htm/htm_home.asp
A review by Youth Advocate, Felicity
I highly recommend this book as a great point of reference for people trying to leave behind diet culture - if they feel overly tied to it in many aspects of their life. Rick Kausman’s approach is very gentle and easy to follow along, this book has been a guide for me to shift my thinking towards food and dieting.
I would recommend it to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or anguished by ideas of body image and well being. It’s such a complicated area and everyone attaches different emotions, feelings, thoughts towards physical appearance, which naturally connects to food and diet. Especially when diet culture is so normalised and a part of everyday conversations, it’s hard to see a way out of it.
This book enabled me to place less emphasis on food and diet references and more on appreciating myself and every part of my being! Focusing inwards rather than on the external self leaves for so much more freedom to explore ourselves! Body image and food is undeniably linked in our culture, so finding a new perspective on our relationship with food is so refreshing.
This book helped me bring up conversations and expose uncomfortable thoughts about my body image/ self esteem issues. It’s so fulfilling when we can speak about these struggles and encourage a move away from diet culture and more on gratitude and self acceptance.
Food has no restrictions, only amazing flavours and feelings to be tasted and shared amongst loved ones!
Blog post produced by Bailey, Clare & Felicity; Youth Advocates