It never fails. Another summer, another season of obtrusive ads and messages from the diet industry to get a
“bikini body” or “lose weight and feel great.”
These messages lie.
They promise that diets will lead to health and happiness when in fact, they don’t. The reality is that diets don’t work and they are harmful.
Don’t believe me? Here are some dieting facts:
- Dieting for weight loss is often associated with weight gain, due to the increased incidence of binge-eating. (Field, et al., 2003)
- 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (so, in other words, 95% of diets fail in the long-term). (Grodstein, et al., 1996)
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting (that is, disordered eating patterns). Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (for example, Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder). (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995)
- Adolescent girls who diet are at 324% (yes, that is 324%… that is not a typo) greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet. (Stice, et al., 1999)
Diets leave many women feeling particularly low and downtrodden about their bodies. Women get frustrated and angry that their bodies will not conform to an unrealistic thin ideal that diet culture breeds and that our media perpetuates.
Diet culture’s messages obliterate women’s self-esteem and body-image by the masses.
These messages can be particularly devastating for mothers whose bodies have changed through the course of pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding. After all, our bodies are meant to change as they grow and stretch to accommodate babies during pregnancy and childbirth.
This is not to overlook how bodies also change for those mothers who did not carry or birth their children. The joys and stresses of raising tiny humans, not to mention the natural aging process that we seem to forget impacts all humans, also changes our bodies.
Thanks to diet culture, the pressure for mothers to return to their pre-baby bodies is immense and completely unrealistic.
Our lives change after children. The way we care for our bodies change. The way we move our bodies change. The way we eat changes. The amount of sleep and rest we get changes. Oh, and did I mention the natural aging process? Given all this, it’s only to be expected that our bodies change.
And this change should be careful not to be judged as “bad.” This judgment tells us that our worth is contingent on our weight. It tells us that we are a failure if we cannot obtain or maintain a certain type of body. This judgment is what breeds hatred towards our bodies and ourselves. This hatred does not do us, or our children, any good — in fact, it’s downright harmful.
Rather than getting caught up in hatred toward our bodies and trying to change our bodies, what happens if we care for our bodies? If we move in a way that feels good to us? If we give ourselves permission to eat what tastes good and feels best to our body? If we take time to go to the doctor and rest when we need to?
What happens if we run and splash and play with our children without giving a second thought to what our bodies look like while doing so? How much more present are we… in our life? … with our children?
So, diet industry, no.
No, I don’t need a particular type of body to wear a bikini. No, I don’t need to “lose weight to feel great.” In fact, I find working to lose weight is the antithesis of feeling great — it’s a sure-fire way to preoccupy my mind away from all that really matters to me — being present with my children and making awesome summer memories.
So, mama — this summer (and beyond), I invite you to shed the diet mentality rather than those “last few pounds.” I promise, what’s to gain is so much more then what any diet has to offer — self-esteem, self-care, self-respect, self-acceptance — you know, all those things we wish for our children.
Want to know more about rejecting the diet mentality and moving towards self-acceptance? Some great books I recommend reading are “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and “Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight” by Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD. Evelyn Tribole also has this informative video titled, “Warning: Dieting Causes Weight Gain.”
Field, A. E., Austin, S. B., Taylor, C. B., Malpeis, S., Rosner, B., Rockett, H. R., Gillman, M. W. & Colditz, G. A. (2003). Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112(4), 900-906,
Grodstein, F., Levine, R., Spencer, T., Colditz, G. A., & Stampfer, M. J. (1996). Three-year follow-up of participants in a commercial weight loss program: Can you keep it off? Archives of Internal Medicine 156(12), 1302.
Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The spectrum of eating disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3), 209-219.
Stice, Cameron, R. P., Killen, J. D., Hayward, C. & Taylor, C. B. (1999). Naturalistic weight-reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 967-974.