The diet industry knows that you want to be healthy and they know you don’t want to be on a diet, so they have changed their marketing strategy to make you think that diets are healthy and that they aren’t diets. They use some reasonable sounding nutrition advice to sell you on all the benefits of eating better and exercising more and they try to persuade you that it’s all just a matter of feeling good, that it’s easy, and using their product will help you. They avoid using the word diet A LOT, now that it has such negative cultural connotations.
They sell you a big bunch of promises on a silver platter, and they take the cultural pulse of the moment to make their diet books, plans, systems, lifestyle changes, products, etc… seem like they will positively impact your life and change everything. Not only will you fit an ideal mainstream beauty ideal, but you’ll feel great, you’ll go running through the park in beautiful athleisure ensembles and you might even get a new dog!
They use beautiful photography and they co-opt the messages of wellness, health, vitality, and endless youth to sell you on the product. That is their job. Their job is the bottom line. Their job is to create a profitable strategy. Make you feel lacking and inferior, then sell you the answer.
Here’s the problem. There is mounting consistent scientific evidence that diets do NOT work, even if you don’t call them diets. Only 2-5% of people keep the weight off longer than 5 years, most people gain it back, and usually more. Dieting hurts your metabolism by putting you in “starvation mode,” and actually encourages your body to retain more weight and give you those uncontrollable cravings that make diets fail.
In fact, there is plenty of research to demonstrate that diets are actually harmful and lead to greater weight gain over time. Is that what they mean by healthy? Fatter? Fatter as you get older? Hmm…
So let’s look at the research, and jump through all those hoops of evidence and facts and reach a baseline together of- we all want to be healthy, but we can agree that diets, especially highly restrictive diets, aren’t healthy. Would you ever take a medication from a doctor that only works on 2-5% of patients? Would you use a birth control pill that had extreme side effects that only worked 2-5% of the time? So how do I tell if what I’m doing, whilst merely trying to be healthy, is a diet, if it says, right there, that it’s not a diet?
Ask yourself two questions. Is weight loss the goal of this plan/system/book/meal plan/whatever? If the answer is yes- definitely a diet AND, most importantly, are they trying to convince you that you cannot be healthy WITHOUT it?
That’s the biggest clue. A diet will reveal itself to be a diet if it is trying to convince you that it is the best or the only way to lose weight or “be healthy.” It will often try to convince you that nobody can achieve true lasting healthful results without following their plan or using their product to the letter.
There are a lot of other ways to tell but that’s a big one. If they sell themselves as “THE ONLY THING THAT WORKS,” well… they’re just one of the many things that don’t.
I think a lot of people think when they hear that I am anti-diet culture, that I don’t like to eat nutritious foods. Wrong. I love many of the foods promoted by diets. I love fruit and vegetables. I am a friend of avocados, but I’m totally uninterested in assigning value judgments to specific foods. There are so many lies and so much misinformation and nobody agrees. This diet expert says this, that diet expert says that… some research says this, some research says that. What I know for sure is you can eat nutritiously all by yourself. You don’t need a diet to eat health-promoting foods or do any of the other myriad things that actually promote wellness. A diet’s purpose is not to improve your health. It’s purpose is to create a problem in your mind, such as the lie that you are unlovable, unworthy, not good enough, unhealthy, broken, ugly, undesirable, etc… and sell itself as the only solution.
Get better sleep. Move your body in ways that feel good and intuitive. Nurture loving lasting relationships with others. Reduce stress. Get a dog. Give back to your community. Serve others. These are all proven documented health promoting activities that you can do, right now, that increase longevity. There are many more, and most of them don’t cost a thing, and of course, if you want to, choose a variety of nutritious delicious enjoyable foods, but I promise, you don’t need a diet for that. You can do this. You are worthy. You are lovable. You are enough, just the way you are.