Today is International NO DIET Day. Research shows that kids can start developing a desire to be thinner starting at the age of 6 years old, and that this feeling is often predicted by how they perceive their own mothers think about their own body. At age 6! To me, that research is so scary. Enlightening, eye opening, and scary. These thought can lead to things like disordered eating, bullying, anxiety, and other very scary things. It also makes me want to change this cycle.
“I just need to lose 10 pounds.”
“Ugh, no, I can’t eat that. I’m so fat right now.”
“I was good today, so I get to eat whatever I want.”
“The pandemic was not good for my diet.”
“I feel huge in these jeans.”
Sound familiar? If you haven’t said or thought one of these things, you have heard someone else say them. Probably in the last few days. Maybe even in the last hour.
Not going to lie, I’ve never really been huge on diets. I grew up doing pretty serious ballet and have very close family members struggle with eating disorders since they were 10 years old. I was painfully aware of how messed up the ballet environment was in regards to young people’s bodies, and always tried to set a good example for my family. I try to eat and talk about my body with intention and kindness, especially when I am around my daughter, cousins, nieces, nephews.
But diet culture is insidious and lives deep in our society. It is a sneaky little thing. Diet culture lives in the shows we watch, the books we read, the pictures we see of bodies around us. It exists in our family traditions and holidays, at our doctor’s offices, the park, the beach. Even though I try to call out fat-phobic comments when I hear them, sometimes it slips in. Sometimes I find myself looking at my body, so different from what it looked like even just a few years ago, and wish that it was different.
Then I think about all the awesome things my body has done. I think about where I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, even 1 year ago and am grateful for who I am today. I am grateful for how my body wakes up every morning, loves up on my daughter, says hello to new people, builds community. I am grateful that my body tells me when I need to rest, when I need to eat more, when I need a good dance party.
So when I hear folks focusing on changing their bodies, restricting their food, or just being plain rude to themselves and others, I know I need to stop it. It’s not easy, folks. It depends on my relationship with them (easy to tell my mom to quit it, harder to tell someone I just met). It’s even harder when that person is myself.
On this International NO DIET Day, let’s start by talking about our bodies with the same love and tenderness that we use when talking about our little ones. Let’s give them the words they need to grow up confident and strong.
“You are strong, capable, and unique.”
“Food makes us healthy and helps us grow.”
“All bodies are good bodies.”