I recently listened to an episode of the "Love, Food" podcast with Julie Duffy Dillon.
She had a guest Vincci Tsui join her to discuss the complicated issue of how diet culture co-opts health promoting behaviors.
This is a problem.
This is a problem because when someone decides they no longer want to participate in diet culture, and they choose to transition to the philosophies of intuitive eating and Health At Every Size (TM) , there is often a space that needs to be filled.
They may find themselves unable to eat, move, or care for themselves without judging the foods, movement, or behaviors as "good or bad". And not in the way that diet culture taught them, but in the way they are misinterpreting intuitive eating and the non-diet approach to life.
For example, they don't want to restrict their food anymore, or demonize things like sugar, carbs, or fat... SO they start eating more 'forbidden foods', increasing the frequency in which they have their former 'guilty pleasures'. Fabulous.
BUT what if they really STILL like salads or to have fruit for dessert sometimes or choose to use a recipe they got from a Weight Watchers cook book years ago that became a family favorite? Does that mean they are still "in" diet land?
Not necessarily? Maybe? Maybe not? It's a hard question to answer with examining the MINDSET that they currently have towards food, movement, and self care.
There is such wisdom in the phrase "diet mentality", because that is exactly what it is: A mentality.
A mindset. A belief system. Our mindset creates our reality.
If you are eating salad because solely because you have been taught that it is a "better" choice, and/or a carb-filled dinner is bad, and/or you want to lose weight before summer vacation.. then that is diet mentality.
If you are eating salad because you enjoy the taste of salad, and/or you have veggies to use up before they go bad, and/or you had a big, hearty breakfast or perhaps are planning a big, hearty dinner therefore you may want a smaller/lighter lunch (along with the fact that you have full permission to use full-fat dressing, or cheese, or croutons or to add a dessert/sandwich if you choose to)... then that is intuitive eating.
Same salad, different mentalities.
FEARING that old diet behaviors/mentality may "come back to haunt us" we often go SO far in the opposite direction. We FEAR that if we stop eating before we are 100% full then we are restricting.
OR that if we eat a traditionally "healthy" meal we are somehow "dieting".
OR that if we portion out our food, or politely refuse dessert/appetizers/drinks, or use mindfulness 'tricks', then we are somehow betraying Intuitive Eating and the non-diet approach.
This is simply not true.
Diet culture doesn't own vegetables.
Or drinking more water.
Or meal planning.
Diet culture doesn't get to co-opt mindful or intuitive eating practices. (Even though it is trying very hard to do so)
It is not a DIET if you don't have DIET mentality!!
It's not restriction if you are attuned to your body, emotions, and rational thoughts.
We often FEAR that if we have ANY lingering body image issues, or if the desire for weight loss or body manipulation is still tucked away in the back of our brain after decades of conditioning, we are somehow betraying the HAES or IE movements.
This is simply not true.
When we act out of FEAR we will no doubt create a wall between us and our quiet and complex body signals.
I would say it's nearly impossible to feel the quiet promptings of fullness or satisfaction when we are in FEAR mode. Often it's not until we are uncomfortably full that we are forced to feel our body's sensations... and then the guilt and shame swoop in.
Guilt and shame can only exist when we believe we did something wrong.
Eating "a lot" or getting pleasure from food is not wrong. Eating past fullness happens to "normal" eaters from time to time... because the food is delicious or they aren't paying attention while they eat, or they waited until they were overly hunger to eat... and they respond with self compassion and non-judgment.
Wanting to go on a run to enjoy a summer morning, or ride our bike to work because its a nice way to start the day, or stretch tense/tight muscles in a yoga class doesn't only belong to dieters.. it is part of intuitive eater's lives as well.
Write yourself permission to use more mindfulness based practices when you eat.
Or to go to that gym class.
Or to pack a lunch filled with a variety of foods, some of which you may have enjoyed in your dieting past.
Mindfulness and eating intuitively takes WORK, so there is no shame in needing to support yourself with reminders and notes and coaches and blog posts and podcasts.
This is all part of re-learning to be in the present moment with your body and approach things holistically from a place of LOVE and kindness, not FEAR and control.