Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

After years of trying the latest fad diets and feeling frustrated, you’ve decided it’s time for a change. You’re choosing nutritious foods and listening to your hunger and fullness signals. You’re trying not to focus on the number on the scale. But while you may not be following a specific diet plan, you still feel a sense of anxiety about food, nutrition and health. What gives?

Despite trying to break free from diets, you may still be stuck in the diet mentality. Diet culture is all around us, and it’s not surprising that it influences our thoughts even as we actively try to avoid it. Here are three sneaky ways that the diet mentality shows up in our lives – and strategies to break free from it.

1. You compliment people on weight loss.

 “Wow, you look great! Have you lost weight?”

 Complimenting people on weight loss is a social norm. However, despite what many of us have been taught, losing weight doesn’t always mean someone is healthy. Weight loss can also be related to illness, stress, eating disorders and financial struggles.

 Compliments about weight and body size also imply that a person is somehow “better” than they were at a higher weight (even if that wasn’t your intention). The problem with making changes in weight or body size the focus of our compliments and conversations is that it reinforces the need to control the size of our body. Often, this train of thought can send people spiralling back into Diet-Town.

 Shifting the conversation: Instead of focusing on weight-related changes, choose compliments that are related to the things you truly love about people (like the way they make you laugh or their fantastic baking skills).

 2. You still think of food in terms of whether or not it’s “good” for you

 “I’m not dieting, I’m just trying to eat more real/clean/healthy food.”

 We often talk about food as if it has moral value. If we feel that we’re eating food that doesn’t fall into our definition of “good”, we often try to justify our choices. While this isn’t dieting per se, it can still take up a lot of mental energy and can lead to an unhealthy fixation on food.

Pressing pause on judgement: Instead of thinking about food in terms of whether it’s “good” or “bad” for you, try to think about what that food does for you. Does it pack a lot of nutrients? Does it bring you pleasure? Does it give you the energy to get through a long day? All foods serve a different purpose, and at the end of the day, food isn’t “good” or “bad” – it’s just food.

3. You’re trying to eat intuitively but don’t feel satisfied

Imagine this. You’re at a birthday party and pieces of your favourite cake are being passed around. You’ve recently started trying to eat intuitively, so you check in with yourself and realize you’re not actually hungry. You pass on the cake, but secretly wish you could have had some.

Honoring your hunger, fullness and satiety cues are important principles of intuitive eating. However, physical fullness is only one component of what signals our bodies to stop eating. Satiety (or “the satisfaction factor”) involves our “mental fullness” – whether or not we have enjoyed our meal and are mentally satisfied.

Letting go of perfection: Eating intuitively means that sometimes you’re going to over- or under-eat in order to feel truly satisfied. It’s important to view these experiences without judgement and to remember that food is an important part of pleasure and celebration.

The bottom line

Breaking up with diet culture isn’t easy. After all, the diet mentality can sneak into our thoughts even as we actively try to avoid it. On a social level, this can lead to internalized weight stigma, or fatphobia. Part two of this blog will explore what fatphobia is and how we can address it.

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Sarah Morland, RD

Registered Dietitian

Sarah (BSc, RD) is an Edmonton-based registered dietitian and blogger for Nourish Move Thrive. She believes that food should nourish both the body and soul, and that physical activity should be fun. She enjoys debunking nutrition myths and translating scientific evidence into practical advice.

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