Diet Culture Wars — Do We Need It?

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The Diet Culture Wars are on!

It’s that time of year.  After all the indulgences of the holidays, many find January a good time to get their health and nutrition back on track.  “Dry January” became a thing for a reason alongside all the ads for fitness equipment and diet aids.

The different plans fight for new members, clients, and customers.  Of course, one dishes on the other, and culture responds.

What We Know:

Calories Matter

If we eat more than our bodies can utilize in a day without kicking it into storage, we gain.  If we eat fewer than our bodies can utilize so it has to access what we have in storage, we lose.  That’s a basic principle, AND some plans allow for more calories than others due to chemistry.

The big question is:  What does MY body need?  How does my body respond to X-number of calories, these ingredients, this much fat, protein, or carbohydrate, this much exercise, this type of exercise?  Does my body react to certain foods more than others?  Understanding what works for YOUR body is essential for long-term maintenance.

Too Few Calories Do More Harm Than Good

Few people can succeed when they drop their daily caloric intake under 1200 calories for extended periods of time. 

My friend, Jan, wanted to lose quickly, so she dropped her calories to 900 per day and stopped eating by 2:00.  She did lose quickly, but when she reached her goal and raised her calories to her maintenance level, she gained just as quickly.  She said it was like there isn’t enough food to fill the space. 

That’s not emotional eating – that’s the body’s self-preservation seeking required nutrients.  One hypothesis suggests it’s our need for protein, and that’s part of why we can’t get enough to be satisfied.  Most comfort foods are higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein, so it takes more volume to fill the need.  If you’re not getting enough of what the body needs, it will drive you to food.  It can be very strong, can’t it? 

Slogans Are Easy to Say

The Non-Diet and “Intuitive Eating” are worthy long-term goals, and it can take a lot of healing, self-awareness, and practice to succeed. 

After years of dieting, a non-diet way of eating requires a completely different mindset.  Granted, it may be the one you were born with, but ask anyone who has to relearn how to walk due to illness.  It requires re-training, practice, and desire. 

The world of health and fitness needn’t be a toxic environment.  True health wouldn’t be, would it?  Focus on your motivation, needs, installing good habits, and finding the kind of encouraging support and accountability that works for you.  Do this for you – and the culture won’t become toxic.

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