False Pictures of Health

Here’s something the “wellness” world never tells you: Many people who look like the supposed “picture of health” are actually struggling with seriously disordered eating and exercise behaviors.

The “wellness gurus” you see on social media sharing photos of their green juices and workout routines and visible abs are often incredibly sick and suffering under their restrictive regimes—even if they don’t talk about that part publicly.

And then diet culture, in its new modern manifestation as The Wellness Diet, makes these struggling people out to be icons of what we “should” all aspire to look like and be like, locking them and us into a losing battle against our bodies.

It’s time we all stopped believing in this bogus version of “wellness.” 

It’s time we started questioning and pushing back against everything diet culture has taught us about food and movement, including the idea that well-being has a certain “look.”

Because when people are running themselves into the ground in order to achieve some mythical ideal of health, that’s anything but “healthy.”

My guest on this week’s episode of Food Psych, Tiffany Roe, used to be one of those people.

She shares how, in the throes of an eating disorder that was consuming her life, she got treated like a health and wellness expert and had friends emulating her every (disordered) move.

She also shares how she ultimately recovered, and we discuss the connections between religion, shame, diet culture, and eating-disorder recovery; why we need to fight fatphobia in the eating-disorder-treatment field; the importance of learning to sit with feelings of distress and discomfort; and so much more.

Plus, I answer a listener question about how navigating emotional eating fits into the intuitive eating process.

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

Here’s to smashing diet culture’s supposed picture of health
Christy

P.S. If you’re ready to break free from disordered ideas about “wellness,” come join my intuitive eating online course. It’ll help you tune out all the toxic noise from diet culture, so that you can tune back into your body’s needs—and your soul’s true desires.

Like This Post? Subscribe for More!

Enter your email address to get exclusive blog posts and helpful anti-diet tips, starting with a 4-day mini-course on making peace with food!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

What You Need to Know About Diet Culture in 2019

It’s the new year, which means the diet/“wellness” industry is doing its usual full-court press.

It does this because it has to, because the marketing that gyms and diet programs and “wellness protocols” do in January pays their bills (or at least a huge chunk of them) for the rest of the year.

That marketing can be hard to resist, even if you’re really committed to recovery from diet culture. I get how hard it is not to get tempted, and I used to feel that way every January, too. But here’s what I want you to know:

If the diet/“wellness” industry wants to make money—and of course it does, to the tune of more than $648 billion—it not only has to snare as many buyers as possible this month, but it also has to sell a product that doesn’t work, that won't produce long-term results.

Otherwise, everyone would lose weight, decide they were done with all the diets and “eating plans” and “protocols” because they had “succeeded,” and move on, never to give the industry another dime for the rest of their lives.

So the only way to ensure that the money keeps rolling in is to sell faulty products, and then insist that the consumers are the ones who failed, rather than the product itself.

That’s how the diet/“wellness” industry functions.

The secret to its enormous revenue is that diets and “lifestyle changes” and other forms of The Wellness Diet were never meant to actually accomplish the thing they promise to do.

Remember that the next time you see an ad or social-media post promising weight loss.

Remember that this huge, wildly successful money machine WOULD NOT EXIST without consumers being sold false promises over and over again, only to be told it’s their own fault that the product didn’t work as advertised.

That’s one of diet culture’s signature moves—to blame us for its failures. And it’s hard to escape that message, because it’s everywhere.

Especially if you live in a body that’s marginalized, where your access to spaces, services, and opportunities is limited, it’s all too easy to believe that the lack of access is your fault—that you should change yourself in order to fit the “norm.”

When it comes to body size, that’s exactly what diet culture tries to instill in all of us from day one, preaching that if you’re bigger than the societal “ideal,” then it’s your responsibility to shrink yourself to fit.

But that’s nothing more than a lie designed to keep us buying diet culture’s shoddy products, and keep us oppressed.

Your body is NOT the problem at all, and it doesn’t need “fixing”—it’s diet culture’s belief system that needs an overhaul, because it’s outdated, unjust, and just plain wrong.

It isn’t your job to “fit” the world, but for spaces, services, and opportunities to be designed to accommodate the vast diversity of bodies that has always existed and will always exist, as long as there are human beings on this planet.

As therapist Sonalee Rashatwar, my guest on this week’s episode of Food Psych, puts it: “It’s not your body that’s wrong, it’s the world that’s wrong.”

Sonalee joined me to talk about the problems with being policed and blamed for your body size, the non-consensual nature of dieting for many kids, how weight gets treated as a marker of class status and cultural assimilation, how gender identity changes people’s relationships with food, and lots more.

Plus, I answer a listener question about whether there are any reasons to focus on fullness other than fatphobia.

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

Here’s to holding your ground against diet culture, this month and all year long,

Christy

P.S. If you’re ready to get some support in breaking free from diet culture this year, come join my intuitive eating online course. You'll become part of an incredible community dedicated to helping you make peace with food and your body—so that you can reclaim your right to focus on the things that truly matter to you in life.

Like This Post? Subscribe for More!

Enter your email address to get exclusive blog posts and helpful anti-diet tips, starting with a 4-day mini-course on making peace with food!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Why I’m an Anti-Diet Dietitian—and What That REALLY Means

The anti-diet movement is a radical, much-needed departure from Western culture’s 100-year obsession with thinness. But where there are radical departures, there’s often also genuine confusion and deliberate obfuscation. So as one of the more vocal dietitians in the anti-diet movement, I wanted to take a moment to set the record straight about what “anti-diet” really means.  


Defining “Anti-Diet”

I’ve seen some people define anti-diet just to mean anti–fad diet—as in, Dr. Quacky Quackerson’s 5-Step Fat-Loss Plan, or Sally Instagram Star’s 7-Day Detox. 

But that definition is too narrow.

Don’t get me wrong: Dr. Quacky Quackerson and her ilk are undeniably terrible. They’re part of the problem; they’re just not the whole problem. 

The whole problem would be diet culture, Western society’s toxic 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 foods while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of your food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power;

  • And oppresses people who don't match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which means you experience internalized stigma and shame—and perhaps external stigma and discrimination as well—for all the ways in which you don't meet diet culture's impossible standards.

You don’t have to be following any “official” diet to be caught up in the culture of dieting, which is endemic to Western society.

Diet culture isn’t a singular diet, “eating plan,” “program,” “protocol,” or “lifestyle change,” although all of these things are part of diet culture. (So is a lot of what passes for “wellness” in this day and age.)

Diet culture isn’t just fad diets, or even the diet/“wellness” industry as a whole; it’s also all the subtle, low-level ways in which certain types of bodies and foods are held up as being “good” and others are denigrated as being “bad.”

Diet culture is the fatphobic comments casually dropped into our movies, TV shows, books, and pretty much any other art form you can imagine.

Diet culture is elementary-school nutrition classes telling kids that certain foods are “unhealthy” and should be stricken from the menu.

Diet culture is your mom’s advice that you should really consider shrinking your body if you want to find a “suitable partner.”

Diet culture is eating-disorder-treatment centers putting larger-bodied patients on restrictive diets that only worsen their disordered eating.

Diet culture is the false narrative that weight loss prevents or cures health issues. 

And in one of the shadiest moves of all time, diet culture even includes people trying to sell the anti-diet movement as a weight-loss method.

So what does anti-diet really mean? Anti-diet means anti–diet culture

It means standing against this oppressive system, in all its sneaky, shape-shifting forms. 

Anti-Diet
 

Anti-Diet Does NOT Mean Anti-Health 

Being against diet culture doesn’t mean being against health.

On the contrary, I and every other anti-diet health professional I know are very much in favor of helping anyone who wants to pursue well-being (although of course health is not an obligation), using truly evidence-based, diet-culture-free interventions like the Health At Every Size® paradigm. 

For example, anti-diet dietitians can offer nutrition counseling for medical conditions.

Anti-diet does NOT mean anti–medical nutrition therapy (MNT).

MNT is any evidence-based nutrition intervention that registered dietitians use to help people manage conditions like phenylketonuria, celiac disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and other legit medical diagnoses.

Many anti-diet dietitians offer MNT, and they do so without having diet culture anywhere in the mix.

Of course, some dietitians offer MNT with a side order of diet culture (e.g. moralized beliefs about health and weight, demonizing gluten or sugar or carbs, etc.), but it doesn’t have to be like that. You can be anti-diet and pro-MNT, and in my view, MNT without diet culture is a beautiful thing.

What’s the difference between MNT and a “medically necessary diet,” you might ask? Isn’t it just semantics? 

Actually, no. The word “diet” has its roots in moralization about food and health (more on that in my forthcoming book), and the way it’s been used since the 20th century layers on weight stigma and healthism as well. 

That’s why for anyone who’s been burned by diet culture (yours truly included), the word “diet” doesn’t feel good in any context, even when it’s ostensibly just used to mean “the foods you eat everyday.” 

I’ve had clients who were years into recovery from chronic dieting tumble back into a well of diet-culture beliefs and disordered behaviors just because a doctor told them they needed a “low-fat diet” to manage their acid reflux or a “gluten-free diet” to treat their celiac disease. Living in diet culture is traumatizing, and it can have real, lasting effects. 

So I avoid using the term “diet” even when discussing nutrition interventions for medical conditions, and say “MNT” (or just “nutrition therapy”) instead. If you’re a fellow anti-diet dietitian, I’d love it if you joined me in doing the same. 

Anti-diet does NOT mean anti–medical nutrition therapy.
— Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN
 

OK, So What’s an Anti-Diet Dietitian?

An anti-diet dietitian is one who’s opposed to diet culture. 

Recently some “regular” dietitians have been getting their feathers ruffled by the growing number of RDs calling ourselves “anti-diet,” claiming that the term is divisive.  

Unfortunately, the title of our profession has the word “diet” in it, which can be extremely problematic for anyone who’s been scarred by their experiences in diet culture, for the reasons I just discussed. 

So my colleagues and I in the anti-diet movement use the phrase “anti-diet dietitian” to help show people who are wary of dietitians and anything with “diet” in the name that they’re safe with us, and that diet culture has no home here. 

If you’re a fellow dietitian—or anyone, of any occupation—who shares those views, you’re welcome to sit with me at the anti-diet table anytime <3

Like This Post? Subscribe for More!

Enter your email address to get exclusive blog posts and helpful anti-diet tips, starting with a 4-day mini-course on making peace with food!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

The Truth About Digestion and Gut Health

This past weekend I went on a long road trip to visit my in-laws in Virginia. Normally the drive should only have taken 6 hours or so, but with the holiday traffic we spent more than 10 hours in the car each way.

That meant lots of stopping for meals and snacks.

Yesterday for lunch on the drive back home to Brooklyn, I spotted a sign for a fast-food place that shall remain McNameless, and suggested we stop there. My husband said that sounded good to him, too, so we pulled off at the next exit, sat and enjoyed our food, and then went on with our epic day of driving, feeling satisfied and happy.

It was a perfectly mundane, uneventful lunch—something that millions of people do every day—and yet to me, it was incredibly meaningful.

Because as we sat eating our burgers and fries, I thought back to a Thanksgiving road trip I’d taken to Boston with an ex more than a decade earlier that was an entirely different experience.

There was no relaxed, spontaneous decision-making about where to eat on that trip, because I was cutting out gluten and a couple of other foods at the time—a decision primarily motivated by my disordered eating, and seemingly justified by the constant digestive problems it was causing.

I didn’t (and still don’t) have celiac disease, a genuine medical condition that truly requires a gluten-free menu; instead, I was blaming gluten for my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a nebulous constellation of digestive symptoms that only began when I started restricting my eating and overexercising in my early 20s.

I didn’t realize that my disordered eating was actually causing my digestive problems.

Instead, I got caught up in the ideas—novel at the time—that gluten and dairy and a whole host of other foods might be responsible for the discomfort I was experiencing.

I fell down a rabbit hole of cutting out different foods to see if it would help, becoming so obsessed with what I thought I “should” and “shouldn’t” eat that I couldn’t go anywhere without scouring menus or traveling with Tupperwares full of my own food.

I’d done the latter on that fateful Boston road trip—although of course I hadn’t packed enough food to truly satisfy my hunger, because again, disordered eating—and I became increasingly irritable and upset when the holiday traffic added hours to that trip, too.

Instead of being able to meet my needs to the best of my ability in that situation, I was so locked into my disordered beliefs about food that I refused to deviate from my woefully inadequate menu—and ended up a miserable, hangry mess in the process.

The trend of cutting out foods in the name of digestive health has only become more and more mainstream in the decade-plus since that uncomfortable road trip, and as a result there are millions of people out there struggling with the same things that I did.

Diet culture’s latest incarnation, The Wellness Diet, would have us believe that ANY ailment is directly caused by the food we eat—and that’s especially true when we’re experiencing digestive discomfort.

As a result, often our first reaction (and sometimes that of health professionals) is to reflexively blame what we’re eating and start cutting out different foods in an attempt to find relief.

That’s completely understandable—nobody wants to experience pain, and we’re all constantly told that food is the culprit.

What diet culture doesn’t tell us, though, is that our gut actually communicates closely with our brain, and there’s a strong link between mental-health challenges and digestive issues.

So when you're worrying about food, obsessing over what you can and can’t eat, and stressing out about your health in general, that may actually be making your gut symptoms worse.

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

My guest, friend and fellow anti-diet dietitian Marci Evans, joins me to discuss the intersection of digestive disorders and eating disorders, why disordered eating causes gastrointestinal problems, and the dangers of doing elimination diets.

We also delve into the role of the gut microbiome in digestion and health, and how to care for our GI tracts in truly holistic ways. Plus, I share how I’ve learned to manage my own IBS without cutting out foods—or making myself miserable on road trips.

This episode is already becoming a fan favorite—check it out right here to hear this great conversation!

Here’s to dropping the disordered eating and finding relief,

Christy

P.S. If you’re ready to stop stressing about food, come join my intuitive eating online course. It’s designed to help you break free from The Wellness Diet's rules, so that you can feel relaxed and joyful in your relationship with food—and in your life as a whole.

If you’re not quite ready to dive into the full course yet, I also have a 5-day intuitive eating mini course to give you a taste of freedom from diet culture, so that you can start building a foundation for deeper healing.

Like This Post? Subscribe for More!

Enter your email address to get exclusive blog posts and helpful anti-diet tips, starting with a 4-day mini-course on making peace with food!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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,

Christy

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.

Like This Post? Subscribe for More!

Enter your email address to get exclusive blog posts and helpful anti-diet tips, starting with a 4-day mini-course on making peace with food!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit