Today is International No Diet Day (#INDD) and people around the world are raising awareness of the harms of dieting for the purposes of reduction. Weight loss is a popular pastime for many, and big business for those who profit from the anxiety, fear, and disgust of fatness. It’s estimated that people in the United States spend over $60 billion dollars each year on weight loss. According to a survey in the UK, by the time a woman turns 45, she has been on 61 diets.
I’ve been trying to write this post for a while, and I’ve been struggling with what to say and how to be excited about another 6 May. I guess part of my lack of enthusiasm is because every day is a no diet day for me. I stopped warring with my body almost a decade ago.
My decision to stop engaging with diet culture was influenced by a lot of factors, including the fact that it made me miserable, lowered my self-esteem, resulted in weight gain, and fucked up my relationship with food, exercise, and my body.
So I have rejected the desire to diet (v).
The other reason for my lack of enthusiasm is my belief that every day should be a day we encourage people to disengage with the dieting culture. International No Diet Day began in the UK in 1992, and I appreciate that the purpose is to highlight the problems with dieting. It is a day for people to reflect on our diet culture; a day to embrace that there is no wrong way to have a body. A day to acknowledge that we are weight obsessed, and this leads to fat hate, fat shame, and weight discrimination.
But why can’t every day be a day like that? Why do we encourage women to accept their bodies in one breath, but then promote weight loss in the next? Why do we say out loud that we know that diets don’t work, but then hope secretly at home that this next lifestyle change will?
I am surrounded by smart, funny, delightful, people who engage with the diet culture every single day. They worry about how many calories they are consuming. They limit the pleasure they allow themselves to find in food. They contort and twist logic and numbers to feel less guilty about the health behaviors they engage in. They agonize over planning a day free from temptations and possible pitfalls. They talk about points. A lot. They go back and forth between being unhappy with their perpetual state of starvation and lack of satisfaction, and finding pride in denying themselves a life of fulfillment and satiation.
Many may be unwilling to walk away from diet culture because they believe their lives would be better if they were able to lose weight and keep it off permanently. And they’re not put off that weight loss has such a small success rate. It’s aspirational, right? To want to be part of the 5% of people who are able to maintain a weight loss of more than 10 kilos (20lbs) over 5 years?
But if you’re one of those who are ready to quit the war – the war with your body, the war with your food, the war with your very sanity – I’ve gathered some materials that you may find helpful.
Start by reading Golda Poretsky’s great material on walking away from dieting culture. My favourite is her article on how to break-up with your diet. She explains that breaking up with dieting culture is just like any other break-up. You have to accept that it’s not you, it’s them (your diet). And that you may be tempted to get back together with that ex just one more time.
Kate Harding has written about the reasons that people are resistant to the message of fat acceptance, and how pervasive the magical thinking of thinness is. Her piece on the fantasy of being thin changed the way I thought about my own body and self-acceptance journey.
Lastly, check out the blog “you’re welcome”, and the great posts about fatness, fat positivity, fat phobia, etc. I especially enjoy Lunette’s piece on being fat positive – it was partly what inspired me to begin my own blog with a declaration.
For me, every day is a no diet day. What about you – are you ready to make that change?