How to recognize sneaky forms of the diet mentality

Over the weekend, some of my listeners in the Food Psych Podcast Listener Crew Facebook group had a really lively discussion about whether intuitive eating can include intentionally controlling your eating in order to maintain the same clothing size, and whether that kind of thinking could fall under the umbrella of eating for self-care.

Can you guess my response, as an intuitive eating coach and anti-diet activist?

With tons of respect and compassion for the person who posted this question, this kind of thinking is NOT intuitive eating and NOT self-care—it's one of the sneakier forms of the diet mentality.

Thinking about how your eating is going to affect your size in any way, shape, or form is diet mentality, and if you let it govern your eating choices, you're dieting—even if you don't think of it as dieting, and even if it's very, very subtle. The diet mentality is crafty like that.

Intuitive eaters don't think, "I should only have X amount of food because otherwise I'll outgrow my clothes" (which is dieting, and also not even true, since we can't control our body size the way diet culture tells us we can). Instead we think, "how much do I want right now? Am I still hungry/not satisfied yet?" And "I'm full," or "I'm all set on the cookies [or chicken, or veggies, or pasta, or whatever] for now."

If you haven't yet made peace with food and given yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods in whatever amounts feel good to you—or if you haven't yet recovered enough from the physical effects of disordered eating to be able to notice subtle hunger and fullness cues—you might not be able to feel the signals of "I'm full" or "I'm all set on the cookies" just yet. But trust that with recovery, support, time, and practice, it will come.

Once we rid ourselves of the diet mentality, we also rid ourselves of the need to control our weight in any way—including efforts to *maintain* our weight.

Trying to maintain your weight is a sneaky form of the diet mentality.

If it tells you what to eat, when to eat, or how much to eat, it's a diet—even if you're not officially "on a diet."

When we're free from the diet mentality, we trust our bodies to be whatever size they're meant to be at this stage in our lives, and we buy clothes to fit them as needed.

It's like I always say: It's the clothes' job to fit YOU, not your job to fit the clothes. 

Make the clothes do their job. If you're eating less of something to try to avoid needing new clothes, you're treating it like it's your job to fit the clothes, and that's the diet mentality at work.

This week on Food Psych, I talked to body-acceptance activist and yoga teacher Amber Karnes about many of these same topics.

We discussed the process of mourning the thin ideal and accepting your body size and shape, how you can overcome internalized weight stigma and diet mentality, finding clothes that fit YOUR body, and lots more. 

Check it out right here, or wherever you get your podcasts!