The Damage of Diets

Hi there, and welcome to Module Two, the damage of diets where we will obviously be talking about the damage that diets can cause. So yes, there are folks out there that try diets for a time, decide to stop them and move along. And hey, if that makes you happy, and that works for you, fine. But for some, if not many people, diets are just a benign experience, they can and do lead to physical and emotional consequences and concerns. And that’s what we’re going to talk about here. So let’s start with the damage of diet culture in general. Diet culture is very often seen as toxic. And we’re going to talk about why, as we talked about in the last module, diet, culture, his roots are in racism, and it’s still promotes racism today, the beauty ideal is still thin and white. You could also say it’s elitist and classist, and all other kinds of interests as well. But it definitely still promotes the idea that white is the standard and black and brown is substandard. So it’s still heavily promotes racism. Diet culture, also heavily promotes misogyny. It’s always been aimed at women. Yes, I think it’s more directed towards men than it ever has been. But still, ladies, come on, more women die than men. And when you look at diet ads, it’s still mostly aimed at women. And this idea that women specifically should be focused on their appearance and their weight isn’t a coincidence, this is where I get political. We live in a patriarchal society that has always sought to keep women in their place, which means with much less power, and one way of doing that is to encourage them to put all of their time and energy into their appearance. So they’re not putting their time and energy into things that might get them more power. It’s hard to fight the patriarchy when you’re starving, right. So it’s also about hey, if we are chronically underfed, we’re not going to have the energy and the strength to go out there and smash the patriarchy so it works for them. And the beauty ideal gets harder and harder to achieve with the more power that women attain. Great example. Do you happen to know when the first Miss American pageant was? It was in 1921, one year after women achieved the right to vote, that is not a coincidence, women achieved power and then were reminded that they should only be focused on their appearance. Another example, the extremely thin model, Twiggy came on the scene during the women’s movement. So again, women were fighting for their rights and achieving some power. And then were shown a ridiculous beauty ideal that they’ll never reach. But showing them that ideal kept them highly focused on trying to reach it anyway. And again, it kept them starving. So the diet industry has always been part of the massage, misogynistic system that holds women back. Diet culture just continually promotes the message that your appearance is the thing that you should be focused on the most period End of story. And I mean, let’s think about how damaging and limiting that is, your looks in your size. are, are you’re you’re being told that those are the most important things about you things that let’s face it, you don’t even have much control over you know, remember we talked about the fact that so much of our our size in our setpoint is based on genetics like 70%, if not more. But again, the weight loss industry is making $72 billion every year convincing you that your appearance is more important than anything else. Again, something you can’t change, like 100%, or even close to an FYI, the cosmetics industry was estimated to make around 49 billion in 2019. And that’s just cosmetics that doesn’t even include skincare haircare etc. So companies are making billions upon billions of dollars off of you feeling bad about yourself, I say to my clients all the time, do you literally want to buy into this system any more. So again, with this much focus on your looks, women especially are spending less time energy and money on things that are much more valuable, right? Imagine if women took all of that time, energy and money and spent it on their education, athletics, art classes, travel, self care, running for office. I mean, you could we could talk about this forever. There are so many more important things out there. And this is why diet culture is so misogynistic, as we talked about above. If women were putting all of their resources into more important things, we’d be running the world, which is exactly why diet culture is aimed at us. I saw a meme recently and I don’t know whether it’s accurate or not. But it said basically, like the five most popular diets right now were created by white men. So I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me at all right? But what does that tell you? Okay, so diet culture keeps women feeling that they’ll never be good enough. You know, the phrase, you’re never too rich or too thin, the beauty ideal to some degree changes from time to time, but it’s always about being thin and white. And over the years, it’s just gotten thinner and thinner. I mean, most recently, it’s thin, white, and muscular. So even if you’re just thin and white, forget it. So not good enough. And the reality is, you could have 10, women doing the exact same exercises and eating the exact same foods, and they would all look different. Some of them would be larger than others, someone show more muscles than others. But just because you want your body to look a certain way doesn’t mean it’s meant to look that way. And no matter what you do, you’re not going to get to it. without some really damaging behaviors, right? So there’s a constant message that no matter what you look like, you could still be thinner, you could still be stronger, you could still be healthier, which is another way of saying thinner. And of course, is their way of selling more products. And again, diet culture makes food and health a moral issue. Right. So what do I mean by that? Recently, I wrote a blog post called, why does my ice cream have a halo? And we talked a little bit about this in module one. So I was talking about Halo top ice cream, which is an ice cream that’s low fat, low calorie, low, whatever, whatever. Um, and, you know, of course, Halo top. So what does that make us think about angels, purity. And food is advertised in this way. All over the place. Chocolate is simple, low fat, and low calorie foods are guilt free. We’ve made food and our eating habits, a moral issue, just like food we talked about before food is moral, or amoral right? Now, our eating habits, and our health habits are a moral issue. I cannot even tell you the number of times the client has said to me, I was so bad last week. And I of course, I know exactly where they’re going with this. And I tend to get a little snarky, and I say, well, you were bad. What happened? Did you run over some with your car? Did you rob a bank? What happened? And of course, they tell me, of course not, and go on to tell me that they ate something that they shouldn’t have. And I always make the point that the way they were talking about their food choices was essentially saying they’re a bad person because of the way they ate, the way they ate. I mean, who who can’t like we shouldn’t even care about that, right? But we equate how we eat to who we are. And since dieting is presented in such black and white ways, if you eat good, you are good. And if you eat bad, you are bad, which is absurd, but incredibly damaging. I mean, people are walking around feeling like horrible human beings because they ate a cupcake. That’s insane. It’s insane. It’s not their fault at all. I mean, we’ve all been fed this line of BS, but it’s absurd. We aren’t moral or immoral based on food choices. And similarly, we’ve made health a moral issue as well, we’re all supposed to be striving to be our most healthy best selves. And if you aren’t, there’s something wrong with your character, which again, is crazy, you don’t have to focus on your health. If you don’t want to, you really don’t you don’t know anybody that diets make promises that they cannot keep. Again, they only work two to 5% of the time, but they never tell you that. What they do tell you is that if you follow their program to the letter, you’ll be able to achieve the size that you want to achieve, which again, like we talked about before, not not usually the case. diets also essentially promise health and happiness as well, which they can’t deliver either, you know, diets blame you for when they don’t work. You didn’t try hard enough, you didn’t have enough willpower, you ate too much, you ate too little, there’s always that one. Somehow it’s always your fault, which again, is incredibly harmful. This can lead to feelings of failure and shame, which often leads to more severe dieting and possibly disordered eating. And finally, diets tell us that we can’t trust ourselves and we can’t trust our bodies. Now what do I mean by that? First of all, diets make us believe that without them, we’ll just be gluttonous binge eaters who can’t control ourselves around food, which is ridiculous, because again, remember what we said the most common precursor to binge eating is dieting. So it’s diets that lead people to feel out of control with food and to be out of control with food. I like to talk about the idea Food freedom meaning having having a positive, flexible relationship with food, being able to eat, what you enjoy and what serves your body? Well, when we achieve food freedom, and food just isn’t an issue anymore. There’s generally no overeating or if there is, it’s like, well, whatever I was at a party, the food was great, who cares? There’s no guilt and shame associated with that, and there shouldn’t be. So again, diets tell us that if they if we don’t follow their their rules, their rigid rules will be out of control with eating, but it’s actually their rigid rules that create that dis control. So secondly, diets tell us exactly what how much and when to eat, they don’t at all encourage you to check in with your body. And this leads to so much distrust, right? So they might tell you, you need a three times a day, such as those times, and you’re not even checking in with your body to see if you’re even hungry at those times. And you’re certainly not allowed to check in and see what you might want. Because you’re not really allowed to eat what you want, right? diets tell us that they know best and we have to just follow along. Now. I mean, think about that. How can someone who’s never even met you tell you what you need? It doesn’t make any sense. Number one, everybody is different. So to have a one size fits all approach, like so many diets do doesn’t make any sense. And number two, how could anyone know how much we need to eat right now and what our body is craving, except for us right here and right now. So we should really be focused on what our own bodies need, not what some diet or diet company tells us to do, because they have no idea. Okay, so moving on to specific damage that diets can cause first looking at physical issues. Now, disclaimer, I am not a physician or a dietitian. So this list is based on what I’ve read, but not at all what I’m trained in. So disclaimer, and my guess is there’s far more physical issues that diets cause that I am missing. But again, it’s not my it’s not my area. So I’m just going by what I’ve what I’ve read about. So obviously, there can be nutrition deficiencies. If you’re following a strict diet, you’re probably not getting the nutrients that you need. And some people experienced fatigue, and like a feeling of brain fog, that is often due to not eating enough or not eating enough variety of foods, specifically carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the things that fuel our brains, they need them. Um, you could certainly have blood sugar swings, if you’re not eating regularly and not eating enough, some people experience hair loss with with diets and fast weight loss can also lead to gall stones, which I definitely have seen in many, many clients. Now one of the main issues with chronic dieting is what we call weight cycling. And this is also called yo yo dieting, you might have heard that as well. This is the cycle of weight loss and regain a loss and regain that so many chronic dieters experience and it’s thought that weight Cycling is actually more damaging to your health than just maintaining a higher weight. First of all, it’s been shown to increase inflammation, which is a risk factor for such conditions as heart as heart disease and diabetes. Weight cycling has also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems and a higher mortality from all causes, not just what we consider to be weight related causes. And finally, a huge study looking at this, in of 6.7 million people in South Korea found that those with the greatest degree of weight cycling had a 53% higher risk of death from all causes 53% and a 14% greater risk for heart attack and stroke than those with a stable weight, no matter what their body size. So again, even people in higher sizes were healthier than those that were going up and down, up and down, up and down. So again, it really seems like weight Cycling is far worse for you than just maintaining a higher weight. And sadly, no one tells you this not your diet program. And sadly, probably not even your your physician, right. So it really is thought at this point in the medical research, that the up and down, loss and regain is far worse for you than just maintaining a higher weight. So moving on to emotional issues. dieting can definitely go hand in hand with depression and I think there’s a few different reasons for that. First of all, physically if you’re starving your body that’s messing with your hormones, which could definitely impacts your mood. But also, if you’re constantly buying into diet cultures message that you aren’t good enough, if you don’t learn to look a certain way, that could obviously easily lead to depression. If you’re constantly looking, looking in the mirror and not seeing what our society considers to be an acceptable body, you could definitely feel depressed. And certainly, there’s so much fatphobia in our culture, that people are out now discriminated against bullied, insulted, made fun of and treated differently, because of their size, our culture is unsafe for many people who don’t fit the beauty standard. And obviously, that can be traumatizing, and can lead to depression. And finally, if you’re constantly telling yourself You can’t eat, that’s depressing, especially if food is something that you enjoy. to constantly tell yourself that you don’t get to have something you want is horrible. So dieting can definitely lead to depression for multiple reasons. dieting can also lead to anxiety. And again, there’s a lot of different reasons for this. diets are scripted black and white programs that you’re supposed to follow to the letter that can be extremely anxiety provoking for people. What if I’m not doing this, right? What if I can’t follow it? And then there’s anxiety about what if I do this, and it doesn’t work? And for some people, what if I do this lose weight and my life doesn’t change? Because again, diet cultures, culture makes promises that it can’t keep if you just lose weight, life is going to be great. So what if I do all that, and nothing changes. And of course, the there’s anxiety about weight regain, especially if you’re someone who is already weight cycled, of course, you’re going to wonder if this time is going to be any different, right. And I truly think that that anxiety often causes people to eat. And it just turns into this vicious cycle that doesn’t stop. People look to diets to help them gain control over their eating. But the opposite very frequently happens. People feel even more out of control and obsessed with food, the more they diet. That’s not freedom. Remember, we talked about food freedom, that’s not food freedom. People, I feel like people aren’t really sure what to do if they if they consider themselves to be an emotional eater, or a stress eater or a binge eater. They don’t really know what to do about that. So they turned to diets, which doesn’t, doesn’t help any of that. And and, and as we’ve talked about before, it can often make it even worse, right. But it seems to be sort of the only thing out there that people go to to help with any kind of eating issue. But it’s so very often causes people to become even more obsessed with food. I hear that all the time. And I would love for people to stop obsessing over food and their bodies and just enjoy their lives. This doesn’t happen while dieting. People very often feel guilt and shame about their eating. Because again, food is made to be a moral issue, we should be able to eat whatever we want, we should never feel guilty about enjoying food, food is enjoyable. But if you’re eating what you want, you’re considered bad and gluttonous. And of course, that leads to guilt and shame, which can lead to depression and negative body image and all kinds of not good stuff. Again, diet culture has done a great job of convincing dieters that they’re the problem, you have failed, if you couldn’t stick to it. You don’t have the willpower, or the motivation or the motivation. It’s your fault that this failed, not ours. So of course, people feel like failures if they fall off the wagon, or if they didn’t reach their goal weight. And again, that feeling of failure can lead to depression and all kinds of other things. And you know what? diets can change your relationships, like we talked about before. There are many social reasons that diets don’t work. And if you’re really sort of hell bent on dieting, that can change your relationships, if you and your partner used to go to dinner for date night, and now you can’t do that, because it’s too hard to stick to your diet, things are going to change. If your girls night out always involved pizza and wine and you won’t let yourself have those things it’s going to change. So diets can impact relationships as well, which you know, impacts your mental health. Relationships are very important, obviously. So moving on to the idea of body image. I mean, I don’t think I have to say this, but diets absolutely contribute to negative body image, period and story. Let’s face it, if we all felt good about our bodies, no matter what size they were, we wouldn’t die it now would we we wouldn’t even be thinking about this stuff. So negative body image is absolutely at the heart of this and it keeps us feeling badly about ourselves. And it keeps us comparing ourselves to others and it really keeps us at war with our bodies. I really tried to work on body image with clients from the beginning because if you hate your body, you’re not going to treat it well. I always say that. I want my clients To eat in a way that serves them well physically and emotionally. And that means that they eat foods that their body likes. And that makes them feel good physically, and also that they eat foods that they enjoy. So they can feel good emotionally. But if you hate your body, you’re going to have a hard time getting to that place, because you’re always going to feel the need to shrink yourself. And that’s definitely going to impact your food choices and impact your ability to exit diet culture. And as we’ve already said, diets keep you focused on your weight, obviously, of course they do, which means there’s a right weight, which you’re probably never going to get to because there is no such thing. I can’t tell you how many people I have had, who doesn’t matter how much they’ve lost, there’s always that last five or 10 pounds, that last five or 10 pounds, that last five or 10 pounds, and it just never stops. And that leads to these feelings of you’re just not good enough and your body isn’t good enough. I get calls from clients all the time saying that they want to work on their binge eating or their emotional eating. But the real issue is that they want to lose weight. And that’s all about their negative body image. Yes, sometimes they tell me that they have serious health concerns that are impacted by their weight. But even that, again, I’m not a physician. But I don’t trust that when people come in and say, Well, my doctor says I need to lose weight for X number, you know, for whatever reason. You know, I always tell people, I’m not a physician, but you know, weight doesn’t equal health nearly as much as our medical community seems to think it does. And if you’re interested, there’s I would if you’re interested in this in this, in the medical issues, definitely check out Dr. lindo, Bacon’s books. they’ve written the book body respect, and the book Health at Every Size. And those books are fantastic and really poke holes in the facts. I’m using air quotes that are medical that our medical community really buys into. So if you’re interested in that, I would definitely check out those books. Finally, dieting can lead to disordered eating and eating disorders. And those are beyond the scope of this, of this ecourse. But just a couple of facts. 35% of normal dieters have progressed to disordered eating, which again, you know, when I started off this module, I said, Yep, there are people out there who can go on and off diets, and it’s not a big deal, but 35% of normal dieters have progressed to disordered eating 20 to 25% of normal dieters develop diagnoseable. Eating Disorders, and girls who diet are more than 12 times as likely to binge as those who don’t. So again, the biggest precursor to binge eating is dieting. Eating disorders are very serious conditions that need very specific treatment. And if you have any concerns that you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please seek help and find someone who specializes in eating disorders. You can start with the National Eating Disorders Association. Their website is www dot National Eating disorders.org. But if you’ve had any concerns about that at all, definitely find someone to talk to. Okay, so that’s the end of this module. And again, you can head to the mini workbook that accompanies the course and answer the questions that correspond with this module. They focus on what your experience has been like with diet culture and the damage that you’ve experienced. I mean, that sounds like fun, right? You don’t have to do you don’t have to dig into that. But you certainly can. Or you can head to Module Three, where we’ll be focusing on how to quit diet culture for good. So that’s going to be a very positive module for a change. So So again, you can go to the workbook or you could just meet me in Module Three. I will see you there.