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.