What is the "Wellness Diet"?

Beware of the "lifestyle change" diet.

AND it's super sneaky cousin,
the "wellness diet".

Often when we think of the word "diet" we think of counting calories, weigh-ins, and packaged meals/shakes.

But that kind of dieting, while still very alive and well, is also very out of fashion in our current wellness obsessed culture.

MOST of the people I work with don't really identify as a traditional "dieter".

They use language like "clean eating" or "paleo" or "cleanses" or "detox" or "low carb" or "My Fitness Pal" or "Whole30" or "FitBit" or "eating the right things" or "weight watchers, it's not about weight anymore" or "Beach Body" or "wanting to eat healthy food" or "avoiding unhealthy food" or feeling "addicted to food" and wanting to "eliminate" this food and that food or are in fear of the dangers of "junk food" and wanting to "reduce sugar" so I can "eat to heal myself".

The above phrases and words highlight the nuanced, complex, and shades-of-grey area of the mainstream food/body ideology.

Enter in the "wellness diet"!

The term "wellness diet" was coined by Christy Harrison who runs the Food Psych podcast. She noticed a vocabulary void while trying to describe the phenomenon she was seeing in her coaching practice, and in her own life.

She noticed people were not necessarily dieting, in the overt and obvious sense of the word, but rather they were controlling, manipulating, and hyper-focusing on food as a way to control their health, anxiety, and body shame.

Using external input like Instagram, wellness gurus, food-related books, and their well intentioned health practitioners as a way to "bio hack" their health to find the ideal way of eating to give them the RESULTS they want.

No, most of these people didn't want to do their mom's version of dieting; instead they wanted to find the healthiest diet to solve their body and health-based struggles. They use things like elimination diets to reinforce the fear-based information they read/see/hear.

Even the term DIET needs to be unpacked. I love how the Intuitive Eating philosophy invites us to "reject the diet MENTALITY" and it's that language distinction, the addition of the term MENTALITY, that is hugely important... because dieting BEHAVIOR is an outward and somewhat tangible thing. It's things like measuring and weighing food and counting calories and using books or charts or programs to tell us how or what to eat.

But what about when we aren't doing those things but we are still mentally judging, counting, avoiding, justifying, or fearing foods or eating behaviors?

Isabel Foxen Duke defines the term "diet" as any way of eating to which you are emotionally attached.

Essentially what she is describing is the overlap between diet behaviors and diet mentality. I think most of us here can agree that cutting out carbs to lose weight is a diet, but what about when we eat the carbs but feel guilty and shameful afterwards?

That is still a a diet. That is the "eat what you like but judge yourself for it" diet.

Want to hear more on this?

Check out my podcast episode of Food Psych where I share my story of trying to heal my chronic health issues with using "clean eating" (while also trying to control my weight in the process).

And my dear friend Katherine Metzelaar's episode where she talks about her experiences falling into, and then recovering from, Orthorexia (the obsession with healthy or clean eating) and using that wisdom in her private practice as a Registered Dietitian.

Both are great (if I do say so myself!)

Lastly, I invite you to follow @immaeatthat on Instagram who provided the illustration I shared up top.

My Biggest Turning Point For ACCEPTING My Body and REJECTING Diet Culture

The term "body positive" was always hard for me.

While I agreed with the social justice movement behind it, and I admired the fierce body positive activists I saw online, the term never really resonated with me, personally

I didn't want to pose in a bathing suit and take selfies, and I still had/have days I want to lose weight, dislike a part of my body,  cringe at a picture of myself, or get frustrated that my clothes didn't fit.

On an intellectual level I KNOW that women's body/beauty ideals are all bullshit.

 But on an emotional level I couldn't imagine how to stop playing the "young, pretty, and thin" game. It seemed too unrealistic and hard to stop. 

I felt trapped.

I could see the other side, the "radical body acceptance" wonderland, yet there was a vast distance between where I was now and where I wanted to be.

So I asked for help. 

I knew that those people living in the body acceptance space weren't just whistling Dixie... I knew that they really, truly believed these things, so I trusted their advice and counsel.

And I did what they did.

I started reading books like The Beauty Myth and began to see how the 'diet culture sausage' was made. I started to learn how the beauty/body ideals I accepted as "truth" were actually manufactured as a way to keep women preoccupied and distracted... while those in power kept benefiting from our work and overwhelm.

I completed the FANTASTIC online course by Beauty Redefined where I learned how women have internalized these manufactured and objectifying messages (that younger. thinner, and prettier are always better) and NOW we don't even need the big, bad marketing machines to spread the word... 
Now we do it on our own! We happily preach to ourselves via our harsh inner critic and to one another via social media, mothers to daughters, friend to friend, and sister to sister. 

This made me angry.

I am angry at the lies I've been told and that there are people getting rich and powerful off of my suffering.

I am angry that I shared these lies with good intentions but without fulling understanding their harmful impact.

I am angry that I was participating in my own oppression and the oppression of other women. 

I don't blame or shame myself for buying into the "beauty myth" because I know I was just doing what I needed to do to survive in the current culture. I didn't know what I didn't know.

I forgive myself for buying into the lie of "I'm not good enough".

But NOW that I know more I can choose to DO more.

I understand that NO good can come from a world of women not feeling good enough: not pretty enough, thin enough, fashionable enough, busy enough, happy enough, or fill-in-the-blank enough. 

My breakthrough moment came when I finally understood:

 When I don't see myself as enough
it’s hard to see other women as enough. 

When I think my body isn't good enough I am buying into a lie.

When I buy into the lie about myself, I easily buy into the lie about you too.

This is all very subconscious of course. I don't rationally or consciously make this choice. I've been conditioned since I was born and these deep neural pathways don't change overnight. 

But they do change! With the media I consume, the language I carefully use, and the inner dialogue and I choose to participate in. 

I don't have a daughter of my own but I do have nieces, sisters, a mother, best girlfriends, and a teenage girl I mentor. I never want to look at them and believe that they aren't good enough.

So I choose another reality.

I choose to believe I am enough. And what I believe about myself often becomes what I believe about them.  And visa versa.

This has changed everything. No, it doesn't take away ALL the negative thoughts ALL the time but it DOES give me the strength and insight to push back when they pop up because I see them for what they really are: lies that cause harm to myself and others. 

Non Diet and Body Acceptance Resources I LOVE

In honor of Valentine’s Day I wanted to offer some sweet treats to all my readers.

Yes, I know, Valentine’s Day is often called a "Hallmark holiday" but I didn't buy anything from Hallmark so that critique doesn't really apply to me.

And Valentine's Day doesn't have to revolve solely around ROMANTIC LOVE...

Every human being, young or old, coupled or uncoupled, big or small, needs and craves LOVE. 

I firmly believe that radical self LOVE will be the thing that leads us to deeper healing, more joy, and less suffering. 

So in honor of this mushy Hallmark holiday I wanted to show YOU some LOVE  by sharing some LOVE promoting resources!

Click on the RED SECTIONS below for direct links to videos, books, and recordings: 

The documentary EMBRACE. I LOVE that this movie includes a variety of ways women have had to overcome shame about their bodies, going beyond the conversation about weight/size. It also digs into why and how these beauty/body narratives have so much dang power. Watch it for FREE on Netflix or if you don't have time to sit down for the whole thing at least watch the trailer HERE

"The Body is Not an Apology"is a paradigm shifting book, and the audible version is especially good! This book clearly defines what the 'woo woo' idea of body LOVE is all about. It's not all bikini selfies or positive affirmations... it's probably neither of those things for most people. Radical self LOVE is possible for anyone starting TODAY, going far beyond the mainstream "body positivity" movement. For an extra treat tune into the author, Sonya Renee Taylor, sharing her wisdom in this interview with Christy Harrison

The Dear Sugars podcast asked two women I LOVE, Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant of Portland's Be Nourished, to discuss how tragically common body shame is and how the lure to diet/lose weight can grab hold of even the most feminist and empowered women. Trusting our body is not a unrealistic dream, body trust is our birthright. I highly recommend! 

What is 'self compassion' and how can it help me heal my negative body image and practice Intuitive Eating? And how is self compassion different than self care?  In this podcast episode Summer Innanen interviews THE premiere voice on self compassion, Kristin Neff. If you want to dig a bit deeper there is a workbook that can help take these big concepts into tangible and actionable changes in your life. 

Brene Brown's Ted Talks about vulnerability and shame are fantastic. I cannot overstate how much I LOVE Brene Brown's work. Her explanation of what shame is, why it's so damaging, and how vulnerability is the antidote, have completely changed my life. In addition ANY of Brene's books are solid gold, but her classic "The Gifts of Imperfection" is a great starting point.


As always, please don't hesitate to reply directly to me. I can't wait to hear which of these resources helped you LOVE yourself a bit more.  XOXO, Linda 

Do you believe Intuitive Eating is a way to lose weight?

Weight loss is a tricky topic.

More accurately it’s a loaded topic.

It's LOADED with lots of fear, hope, shame, guilt, marketing, and $MONEY$.

The majority of people I encounter WANT to lose weight…

and they HOPE Intuitive Eating will be the answer.

It’s a completely logical hope given the messaging we absorb every dang day from a culture that praises, rewards, and idealizes thinner bodies, while simultaneously stigmatizing, fearing, and critiquing larger bodies.

It’s also completely logical to assume that Intuitive Eating will be "the answer" to help you lose weight because:

A: We don't have much (cough, more like ANY) exposure to conversations about food/eating that don't have promises of weight loss wrapped up in the messaging somewhere

B: Nowadays almost any health-promoting behavior (eating, movement, or otherwise) is infused with the suggestion/promise that 'weight management' will be a natural side-effect

When it comes to Intuitive Eating and weight loss the reality is this:

Pursuing intentional weight loss, or prioritizing the goal weight loss, is going to be counter productive to healing your relationship with food and your body.

We must be VERY clear on keeping those two desires VERY separate.

But we don't have to pretend that the desire to lose weight doesn't still exist

OR that the decades of thin-praising/fat-shaming societal messaging will magically disappear overnight.

How could it?

And we definitely don’t have to be at total peace with our body as a prerequisite to start the work of un-learning diet culture and re-learning Intuitive Eating. Often doing the work of re-learning of Intuitive Eating is the pathway to being at more peace with ourselves.

Intuitive Eating simply invites us to place the PURSUIT of weight loss on the back burner.

While it's simmering away back there we can get busy doing some new pursuits. Like talking openly and honestly about our HISTORY with food and dieting (including those sneaky "wellness diets" and “lifestyle changes”) and our experiences with body and weight shame.

We can then work on absorbing how those past traumas directly affect our relationship with food and movement TODAY.

Understanding what role dieting and body shame played in disconnecting us from our bodily cues is the KEY to helping us reconnect with our bodily cues.

I regularly discuss WHY someone might want to lose weight, even if they choose not to pursue it right now.

We explore how much pain comes from not liking the way their body looks, being frustrated at how it functions, and how angry they are that they have been sold weight loss and "wellness diets" as the magical answer to every health or life struggle they have.

The choice to put weight loss on the back burner while choosing to work on healing your relationship with food/your body is profound and paradigm-shifting.

Sometimes that choice gets easier with time and sometimes it gets harder, but the same is true with dieting.

Friendly reminders:

You can go back to dieting whenever you want.

You cannot fail at Intuitive Eating, it's all about curiosity, experimentation, and observation.

In the future you can prioritize weight loss again, dieting isn’t going anywhere.

Whatever you choose to do with your body is your choice and your right.