Diet Mentality

Ah, January. The time of the year when the thrill of the holidays is over, the temperature is at an all-time low (at least in New England), and around the world, millions of people have put their New Year’s resolutions into motion. A simple google search confirms that by far the most popular resolution is losing weight, which is unsurprising considering how most societies prioritize thinness.

As someone who’s recovering from an eating disorder, navigating this focus—this obsession—on healthy eating and weight loss is challenging. Whether it’s a resolution in January to wanting a “beach body” in July to a new craze or trend sporadically popping up and taking over the world, diet mentality is literally everywhere all the time.

Diet mentality is defined as the constant awareness of food and the perceived impact it has on our bodies. This dangerous mindset decides your food choices for you without taking hunger, fullness, cravings, fluctuations, or personal preferences into account. Oftentimes, it includes attaching words to certain foods like “good” or “bad” and “safe” or “unsafe.”

When I was very ill, I kept—in my mind—a small list of “safe” foods and actively avoided any foods that my disorder-driven thoughts deemed unhealthy. For almost a year, I didn’t let myself eat desserts, cheese, and anything else that wasn’t low-fat, low-cal, low-carb—you name it. It’s important to note that my eating disorder actually started with me going on an innocent diet that, of course, quickly spiraled into restriction, compulsion, and ultimately starvation.

While I’m in a much better place now, I still have a hard time listening to others talk about food, calories, weight, or their bodies in a negative way. The fact of the matter is that we all must find balance, both in our lives and our diets. There’s a reason why most fad diets don’t work, and that’s because they aren’t sustainable or long-term. Eating in moderation with the right amounts of starches, proteins, vegetables, fruits, dairies, and fats, on the other hand, does.

It’s difficult to reason with someone who’s stuck in a diet mentality. Instead of trying to change other people, I’ve learned to focus on my improving relationship with food and lead by example by eating healthy but still allowing myself to have fun on occasion. I feel good about how I eat, I’m fueling my body with the nutrients it needs to thrive, and I’m becoming more comfortable in my skin. These are all milestones that, just a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine reaching. I’m in a place where I can recognize how miserable I was when I was in the throes of my disorder and feel motivated to do what I can to not go back there. While I’m still more sensitive than most to comments about food and diet, this perspective helps me overcome those challenging moments and actively stay in recovery.

My advice to anyone who’s going on a diet is to be cognizant of how you talk about food. You never know who will be listening and the impact your words could have. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthier. Where trouble arises is how we approach and obtain that want. Instead of cutting out all fats, strive to eat a balance of the right kinds. Instead of depriving your body, learn how to listen to it. Instead of adopting a diet mentality, reject the myth that there are “good” and “bad” foods and embrace intuitive eating: an approach that’s all about making food choices without guilt, honoring hunger, respecting fullness, and enjoying the pleasure of eating. It’s not an easy feat—years of battling anorexia have taught me that much—but it’s worth the effort for securing a relationship with food that’s kinder, healthier, and permanent.

– Julia

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23 thoughts on “Diet Mentality

  1. Haha I just posted about myself having a “diet” where I eat whatever I want. 😅 Lately It’s been all about moderation for me. Nothing is forbidden. Food restriction is the cause of so many issues around food. I don’t think I ever would have started bingeing if I hadn’t first restricted.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I just read and commented on your post, which I liked a lot. Honestly, moderation is so important, and I wish more people would realize that. I wish I had realized that 7 years ago but at least I know it now and can live a more balanced, healthy, and happy life as a result.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. you are totally right Julia. Diets are tools that can help us stay healthy when needed but shouldn’t replace completely our approach to food. Eating is an essential activity of our lives and I do agree with you that we should avoid entering a diet mentality but rather have a smooth approach to food, allowing ourselves some joy from time to time and control ourselves when needed for health reasons

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you share a similar mindset on this topic. Food absoultely IS essential, and it’s also meant to be enjoyed, not feared or critized. It’s important that we all learn how to find that balance in our diets. In my experience anyway, having it has made a tremendous difference in my personal health and happiness.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! I had diet mentality for so many years and it ended up backfiring on me. Now, I pretty much eat what I want in moderation and it has served me better than being constantly on guard about food. Thank you so much for posting!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome! That’s such a great attitude to have towards food, and I wish more people shared it. For me personally, eating in balance has done wonders for my mental and physical health. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m so glad to hear you’re in a place in your journey where these crazy January diet fads don’t get you off track in your progress ❤️ Holistic long-term focus on health and well-being is where lasting changes happen, and that change doesn’t have to mean “bikini body” – it could simply mean learning to nourish and love our bodies better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad too; it used to bother me a lot, and it’s definitely easier to manage now that I’m in a better place. I couldn’t agree more with you and think we’d all be better off if we focused less on weight and calories and more on long-term mental and physical wellbeing.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I completely agree, and that’s why it’s important for us all to find a diet that’s balanced, flexible, and promotes a healthy relationship with food, not a toxic one.

      Like

  5. All so true! A healthy mind set and being in touch with your body is both sustainable and effective. Also far easier than trying to stick to a set of food rules that may not even be of any benefit to your body or lifestyle! As individuals surely a broad spectrum ‘diet’ just doesn’t make sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with you, diet mentality is toxic and it is so sad that there is so much obsession with it, whether thats in the media or among others. It is important to try our best to almost ignore it, or at least remember that for anyone it isn’t really effective.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! It is sad how prevalent this mentality towards food is, especially when food is such a good thing! While I’m able to ignore it now, unfortunately that’s not the case for many people who struggle with my disorder, nor was it for me when I was unwell.

      Liked by 1 person

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