Navigating Toxic Diet Culture and New Year “Resolutions”
By Liz Gruber, Ph.D.
It is the time of year when many individuals, especially those in eating disorder recovery, are vulnerable to the full throttle forces of the diet and wellness industries. The holidays can already be a difficult time with food and the relationship with one’s body. Typically, there are more family and social gatherings this time of year, which often involve hearing a lot of “diet talk”. This might include unsolicited comments on your food intake or size, the diets others plan on doing after the new year, and more.
The dieting and wellness industries both insidiously and aggressively strive to convince you that something is wrong with your body this time of year, as people contemplate their “New Year, New Me goals”. We are bombarded with ads, images and messages on social media advertising the latest diets, cleanses, and fitness products and “deals” to help attain unrealistic standards of beauty. This can vary from very thin, to “fit slim”, to hourglass/ “slim thick” bodies. Nonetheless, these body shapes are unrealistic. Consequently, many new year resolutions have the end goal of weight loss given the fat phobic influence of the diet industry and general society.
However, scientific evidence indicates diets do not result in long term weight loss for an overwhelming majority of people and in fact leads to weight-cycling or “yo-yo dieting” (Bacon & Aphramor, 2014; Fildes et al., 2015; Harrison, 2019). Repeated weight loss and regain have significant health consequences including eating disorders, cardiovascular issues, higher mortality, hypertension, inflammation, diabetes, some types of cancer, and loss of muscle tissue (Cho et al., 2017; Harrison, 2019; Tylka et al., 2014).
Although we tend to assume weight loss is always “good” for our health, the dieting industry does not care about your well-being. They care more about the money you are willing to spend, as evidenced by the 132.7 billion dollars Americans spent on the weight loss industry in 2021 (Market Analysis Report). Additionally, the Dieting industry strategically rebranded itself to the Wellness industry using phrases such as “lifestyle changes” and “healthy hacks” instead of diets to appeal to a specific perception of health (Harrison, 2019). Cleanses and food related detoxes are not necessary like we are manipulated to believe they are. Our bodies are already well-equipped with liver, kidneys, and lungs to help with a natural cleanse (for those without medical conditions affecting these organs).
Aside from how disturbingly dangerous Diet and Wellness culture is to your health, you do not need to change your body to be of value. You are far more than just your body.
Below are ways to navigate peak Diet and Wellness culture season at the start of a New Year. Please stay tuned for future blog posts on Anti-Diet and Health At Every Size Frameworks for helping to heal relationship with food and movement.
Mute or unfollow triggering social media pages OR consider taking a social media break altogether
Report diet ads that you come across
Regularly clear browsing history
Consider getting Ad blocking software
Prepare for alternative topics when interactions include diet talk with friends, family and at work and set boundaries. Your comfort level in your responses might differ based on the people you are surrounded by
Explore what self-care means to you. This can mean being intentional with taking more breaks throughout the day even if it just 10 minutes, spending more time in nature, try that new hobby you’ve been considering, focusing on connections that are important to you, journaling, having less screen time, and much more.
Practice mindfulness to help facilitate more pauses and check-ins with yourself throughout the day. Notice your breath for a few minutes when you first wake up in the morning instead of reaching for your phone and getting out of bed. Observe your body, posture, and each part of the foot that makes contact with the ground when walking to different places throughout the day. Checkout my recent blog post to learn more about mindfulness. It is a powerful tool for chronic pain, medical conditions, stress management, anxiety, depression, and more
Bacon, L. & Aphramor, L. (2014). Body respect: What conventional health books get wrong, leave out, and just plain fail to understand about weight. BenBella Books, Inc.
Cho, I., Chang, H., Sung, J. M., Yun, Y. M., Kim, H. C., & Chung, N. (2017). Associations of changes in body mass index with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in healthy middle-aged adults. PLoS ONE. 12(12). 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189180
Fildes, A., Charlton, J., Rudisill, C., Littlejohns, P., Prevost, A. T.,& Gulliford, M. C. (2015). Probability of an obese person attaining normal body weight: Cohort study using electronic health records. American Journal of Public Health. 105(9). 54-59. https:/doi.org/10.2105 /AJPH.2015.302773
Harrison, C. (2020). Anti-diet: Reclaim your time, money, well-being, and happiness through intuitive eating. Hachette Book Group.
Market Analysis Report. (2021). Weight management market size, share & trends analysis report by function (diet, fitness equipment, surgical equipment services), by region (APAC, North America) and Segment forecasts 2022 – 2030. https://www.grandviewresearch.com /industry-analysis/weight-management-market
Tylka, T. L., Annunziato, R. A., Burgard, D., Daniélsdottir, S., Shuman, E., Davis. C. & Calogero, R. M. (2014). The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of Obesity. 1-18. https://doi.org /10.1155/2014/983495
Disclaimer: These blogs are for informational and educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for medical or mental health assessment, diagnosis, or treatment.