Can you remember a time where eating was pleasurable, and you didn’t have to feel guilty about indulging in an occasional candy bar? No?
Today is the day where you can say no to dieting, and give your body the freedom it deserves.
May 6 is International No Diet Day, according to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). It was created to “express frustration with societal standards of appearance that pressure us to be thin, often with devastating results.”
NEDIC added that health care professionals can also use this day to encourage people to engage in healthy lifestyles, and to expose incorrect beliefs about food and weight.
Additional goals of this day are to “declare a moratorium on diet/weight obsession,” “increase public awareness of the dangers and futility of dieting,” and “celebrate the beauty and diversity of our natural sizes and shapes,” according to NEDIC.
Dr. Kim Dennis, a psychiatrist and CEO and medical director of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, said in an email that she believes it’s important for everyone to celebrate No Diet Day.
“Diets don’t work, and end up causing more problems than achieving any sort of sustainable health,” Dennis said.
She cannot think of any positive aspects of dieting, only negative. One of the biggest drawbacks is that dieting could in some cases lead to a “clinically significant” eating disorder.
“Many people find that they can’t starve themselves consistently, and take that to mean that they are lazy, stupid, fat or just plain bad people,” Dennis said.
“People who do diet and lose weight may feel good/in control/powerful/beautiful while they are dieting, and then terrible/depressed/even suicidal when they fall off the wagon and gain more weight than where they started from.”
So if you’re trying to eat healthy to support your body and also lose weight in the process, is that considered dieting? Basically, it depends.
“There is a difference between dieting (usually rife with strict rules, restrictive amounts and types of foods, short lived, associated with rebound bingeing/weight gain) and mindful eating,” Dennis said.
“I’m not quite sure what people who say they are consciously eating healthy mean — sometimes, they have a wide variety of flexibility in their food choices, enjoy their food, pay attention to body hunger/satiety cues, do not have good/bad food dichotomy, do not infuse morality into eating — which is more aligned with mindful eating.”
However, sometimes “consciously eating healthy” can be a cover-up for an eating disorder or dieting.
You might be wondering how this diet and thin obsession all started in the first place, and if there is any way to get rid of it. Dennis states that this is a societal issue, and the only real way to overcome it is through a grass roots movement, conscious consumerism and legislation.
“We have a false belief that thinness equals power, thinness equals beauty, and thinness equals success,” Dennis said. “And not only thinness, but emaciation. And, for most women, the body type they strive to emulate is far from their natural, beautiful, God-given body type.”
Stacey Rosenfeld, a clinical psychologist and author of “Does Every Woman Have An Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation’s Fixation With Food and Weight,” said in an email that dieting can take a toll on self-esteem, and generally it backfires.
“Dieting is restrictive and leads to deprivation - both physical and emotional - which can lead to overeating,” Rosenfeld said. “Some will get caught up in what we call the diet-binge cycle.”
She believes that it’s rare to have a healthy relationship with food, and avoid developing some pathological behaviors, while dieting. However, there is still a way to respect your body without putting it under the strain of dieting.
“Eating a nutritious diet is a value and choice, based on health, which is life-affirming,” Rosenfeld said. “They do not feel deprived because it is a preference. With dieting, there is a sense that you are missing out and, consequently, feelings of deprivation.”
“It is a time-limited period of restriction that isn't a lifestyle choice, but feels almost punitive, related to dissatisfaction around weight or shape,” she added.
She suggests more support for legislation that does attempt to curb body image issues, such as the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 (H.R. 4341), which demands an end to most digitally altered images of people in ads.
National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). International No Diet Day – May 6. Web. May 5, 2014.
Rosenfeld, Stacey. Email interview. April 30, 2014.
Dennis, Kim. Email interview. May 1, 2014.
Reviewed May 6, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith