The Truth About Having "A Lot On Your Plate"

I now officially have less than a month until my book manuscript is due—easily the most important deadline of my professional life to date.

I’m genuinely psyched about everything I’ve written so far (and I wish I could share it all with you RIGHT NOW instead of having to wait until it hits bookstores in late 2019!), but I’m also racing to fill in the gaps and smooth out the rough edges before sending it to my editor at the end of the month, while also trying to keep up business as usual with the podcast and my online courses and social media.

It’s a lot. I’m exhausted.

Whenever I talk to friends and family about how I’m managing it all, I often hear the phrase “you’ve got a lot on your plate,” meant as a compassionate way to commiserate with my feelings of overwhelm, of having more on my to-do list than I can manage.

I always appreciate the sentiment, but I’ve been thinking about that phrase, and I’ve realized that when it comes to what’s on my literal plate—as in the food I eat—I wouldn’t even have the ability to work on these amazing projects if I didn’t have a lot.

I wouldn’t have gotten all of these opportunities if I didn’t have a lot of food on my actual plate.

I’m fortunate enough not only to be able to afford food, but also to have a peaceful relationship with food that allows me to live in abundance instead of the scarcity imposed by diet culture—and that allows me to do this work.

I’m lucky to have a lot on my plate now, because I didn’t always.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I was never fully present in my writing because of my gnawing, ever-present hunger, invasive thoughts of food, and constant trips to the kitchen.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I never could’ve led courses on making peace with food and breaking free from diet culture, because I had no idea how to do those things myself. I was drowning in disordered beliefs about food and my body.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I had a hard time even getting out the door in the morning because I felt so overwhelmed by body shame and worries about what I would eat that day. And for several of those years, my life was organized around my compulsive-exercise schedule, so that my creative energy was constantly getting cut off in favor of punishing forms of physical activity.

Back then I didn’t have enough on my actual plate, but I had way too much diet-culture nonsense on my mind and my calendar to be able to achieve my goals in other areas of life.

That’s what diet culture does to so many of us (regardless of body size, although people in larger bodies also have to deal with the added injustice of weight-based discrimination), which is why I call it The Life Thief.

Diet culture stole a decade of my life, and that’s what it did to my guest on this week’s episode of Food Psych, too.

Before she became a psychotherapist and school counselor, Christine Yoshida got caught up in the world of fitness culture and “clean eating,” and fell down a rabbit hole of trying to diagnose her digestive issues by taking more and more foods off her plate.

She shares how the pursuit of thinness and fitness detracted from her life, how she eventually broke free and made peace with food, why the diet mentality can make health problems worse, and so much more.

Check it out here, and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Here’s to having a lot on your actual plate,


P.S. If you’re ready to reclaim your life from diet culture, check out my intuitive eating online course. It’ll help you stop getting caught up in The Life Thief’s traps so that you can start pursuing the things you really want in life.

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How to Honor Your True Hungers

We’re all born with a strong connection to and innate trust in our hunger cues, but diet culture and other experiences of trauma can disconnect us from those internal signals, to the point that we create a relationship of distrust between our brains and our bodies. 

Over time, the more we ignore our hunger (or are unable to honor it for whatever reason), the more we erode our bodies’ abilities to trust us.

That’s why eating enough is so important in recovering from deprivation—because it helps our bodies learn to trust us again.

And by the way, even if you think you eat “too much” by way of bingeing, there’s actually an underlying environment of lack, of not-enough. Binge eating is a response to deprivation, not a matter of willpower.

So when you practice responding to your hunger at even the subtlest levels, every bite you take helps you heal from the trauma of deprivation.

It shows your body that it’s safe, that you’re no longer in a famine, and that it can start to relax around food.

What if you don’t have any hunger cues to honor? That actually means your body needs even more TLC, even more consistent eating, in order to come back from the deprivation that was imposed upon it.

It means your body was so deprived that it basically stopped even trying to get its needs met, like a neglected child who knows their cries won’t be heard.

So for you, too, the solution is showing your body that it won’t be deprived anymore, and that means eating consistent meals and snacks, even if you don’t feel hunger cues.

When you recover from deprivation in this way, slowly you’ll start to rebuild trust with your body, and eventually you’ll get back to the place of being able to recognize and honor your hunger the way you were born doing.

For all of us, the key to the process of healing from deprivation is feeding ourselves, both literally and figuratively:

Literally, you need to FEED YOURSELF FOOD—enough of it in general, and a wide enough variety that you can feel full, satisfied, content, and not deprived of the things your body needs and your mind wants.

And then figuratively, you need to feed yourself anti-diet resources to unlearn diet culture’s rules and re-learn how to feel and trust your body’s innate wisdom about food and movement.

You need to stop reflexively filling your mind with “diet food” and start nourishing it with truth.

When we consistently feed ourselves in these ways, we let our bodies and our brains know that we won't be depriving them of food any longer.

Once they trust us again, they can relax, and we can reclaim the peaceful relationship with food we were born with.

That’s what this week’s episode of Food Psych is all about.

It’s a repost of my conversation with Rachel Estapa, a size-acceptance advocate, yoga teacher, and the founder of More to Love Yoga.

We discuss the connection between physical and emotional hunger, why diet culture's promise to "fix" us is so alluring, and why rediscovering our true loves and desires in life is essential to recovery from dieting.

Rachel also shares how the practice of yoga helped show her the path to body liberation, how an acute illness led to an unexpected truce with her body, and lots more.

Tune in to the episode now to hear this great conversation—and if you're celebrating Labor Day today, I’m wishing you a happy one!

Here’s to honoring ALL your hungers, 

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What Is Diet Culture?

If you're familiar with my work, then you know I'm all about dismantling diet culture. But what exactly is diet culture? It's a term that gets thrown around in anti-diet spaces without a lot of unpacking, but it's incredibly important to understand so that we can recognize how it's showing up in our lives and fight back. Here's how I define it:

My Definition of Diet Culture

Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

  • Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
  • Oppresses people who don't match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health. 

Diet culture doesn't just mean “being on a diet,” because you don't have to follow any sort of official diet to be caught up in the culture of dieting.

Moreover, some people may eat in a way that they refer to as a diet for legit medical reasons (e.g. diagnosed celiac disease, diabetes, etc.) and not actually be engaging in diet culture (which, I should add, is very rare and hard to do, since diet culture has its tentacles all up in the medical field).  

I've worked with hundreds of people who think they're not dieting, but when we dig into their relationship with food, they realize that they're pursuing “wellness” or “health” in a way that looks veeeeeery much like a diet. 

That's a form of diet culture that I call The Wellness Diet, and it's rampant in the 21st century. “Clean eating,” detoxes, cleanses, the overuse of elimination diets, carb restriction, gluten phobia, “ancestral” diets, and performative health all fall under the umbrella of The Wellness Diet. The weight-stigma aspect of diet culture may be de-emphasized in some iterations of The Wellness Diet, but the moralization and demonization of food is front and center.  

There are many other forms of diet culture, too. It's a sneaky, shape-shifting thing that robs people of their time, money, health, happiness, and so much more, which is why I've nicknamed it The Life Thief. It can be hard to spot, and yet in Western culture, it's everywhere. 

To learn more about diet culture, how to recognize it, and how you can reclaim your life from it, check out some of my writing on the subject, and tune in to my podcast, Food Psych. I'm also working on a book about diet culture that's coming out in 2019, so be sure to check back here for more info, or pop your email address in the form below to stay in the loop.

Diet culture is a form of oppression, and dismantling it is essential for creating a world that's just and peaceful for people in ALL bodies.

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What Diet Culture Gets Wrong About Health

Food is so much more than nutrition.

When we eat, our bodies don’t just absorb nutrients and move on.

The act of eating is a complex experience, and it involves a lot more than just giving our cells energy (although of course giving them *enough* energy is essential, otherwise you end up in this situation).

Food is also about satisfaction and socialization and community.

It’s about pleasure and flavor and tradition.

It’s about creativity and connection.

It’s about SO much more than the nutrients. In fact, nutrition is just one small paragraph in the story of how food has functioned throughout human history. 

But The Wellness Diet—the modern guise of diet culture that pretends to be all about “wellness”—looks at food only in terms of nutrition, of physical health.

That completely misses the major role that food plays in mental health and well-being.

This negation of the mental and emotional aspects of food belies The Wellness Diet’s claim to be about “holistic” health.

*True* holistic health means considering your mental well-being just as much as you do your physical health. 

If your mentality about food and movement makes you feel obsessive and anxious rather than nourished, then I don’t care how much kale you’re eating, you’re NOT actually supporting your health.

That’s what this week’s episode of Food Psych is all about.

It's a repost of one of our all-time fan favorites, in which religious scholar Alan Levinovitz and I discuss how diet culture turns nutrition into a religion, totally negating the mental and emotional aspects of health.

We also discuss why “food as medicine” prescriptions should come with a warning label just like medications, why you don’t need to listen to diet culture’s fearmongering about gluten, and so much more.

Check it out here to see why this is one of our most beloved episodes of all time, and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode!

Here’s to TRULY holistic health, 

P.S. If you’re ready to heal your relationship with food and your body, come check out my intuitive eating online course and community. It’ll help you break free from diet culture, so that you can care for your well-being in a real way—mind, body, and soul.

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What Diet-Culture Recovery *Really* Looks Like

I’m back from my honeymoon, although I must admit I never wanted it to end.

We were in Oahu, which was incredible and romantic and such a needed recharge—I was also off social media for 2 weeks, which seriously gave me life—but also occasionally messy and imperfect and unpredictable, like life itself.

I could just tell you about the gorgeous parts, which far outweighed the messy ones, but as my brilliant pal Jes Baker points out in her latest book, Landwhale (which I finished devouring by a pool), being a diet-culture-recovery advocate who never shares their messiness can lead to unrealistic expectations of what recovery really looks like.

It can make people think life in recovery is 100% sunshine and rainbows, which it most certainly is not (although the sunshine-and-rainbows-to-gloominess ratio is definitely WAY higher than it was in the throes of diet culture).

So instead, I’ll tell you about our trip to the breathtaking Hanauma Bay, the island’s top snorkeling spot, where I had a mild panic attack when I couldn’t figure out how to breathe through my snorkel at first.

And I’ll tell you about the unbelievable view of the Pacific from our balcony at the resort (thanks to my in-laws for hooking that up), where I had another panic attack when a giant bug wandered onto the scene.

I’ll tell you about how I ate a dodgy room-temperature Spam Musubi because it was delicious and I pride myself on eating anything, but soon thereafter I got terrible food poisoning, which then led to a crying jag because being sick freaks me the f*** out.

I’ll tell you about the time I sat on the beach with a piña colada, trying to get my happy vibes back after seeing our professional wedding photos for the first time and having a moment of body-image BS from diet culture—because even the most ardent anti-diet activists sometimes have bad body-image days.

And I’ll tell you about Fumi’s, our favorite shrimp truck in Kahuku, a super fun day trip where my husband did all the driving because I’ve recently developed major anxiety about my own ability to drive on freeways, for obscure PTSD-related reasons that I’m still untangling.

So lest I ever come across as having it all together, let me assure you that I do not 😂 I love my life more than ever these days, AND sometimes I still have mental-health challenges just like anyone else.

I share this to show that all of us, no matter how far we’ve come or what we do for a living, are human.

We all have our stories, and we all have our reasons for going into the careers we do.

When it comes to those of us who make anti-diet activism our life’s work, many of us have gone through our own history of disordered eating and body shame, and we’re forever changed by that experience.

Once we get to a place of peace with food and our bodies (which includes the occasional bad body-image day, because, again, not 100% sunshine and rainbows), we feel pulled to help other people get there, too.

That’s what drove my guest on this week’s episode of Food Psych to the work she does now.

These days Fiona Willer is a badass anti-diet dietitian from Australia who lectures at universities all about Health at Every Size, but as a teenager and young adult she struggled with body shame and binge eating.

She shares how her efforts at “clean eating” only made the problem worse, how learning about mindfulness helped her heal her own relationship with food and her body, and what it’s like to be a lecturer teaching a radically different paradigm than her students are used to.

We also talk about how scientists are human, too, and how it affects the outcome and interpretation of research when their perspectives are influenced by diet culture (as most are in our society).

It’s a great episode, and I know you’ll love Fiona as much as I do, so be sure to check it out here or wherever you get your podcasts!

Here’s to recovery, in all its messy glory, 

P.S. If you’re craving support and guidance from fellow humans on your journey to peace with food and your body, come check out my intuitive eating online course and community. It’ll help you break free from diet culture so that you can get back to living your life—ups, downs, and all.

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