Today we’re going to talk about how to love your body. I know, it seems like a monumental ask in today’s skinny obsessed society. But in anticipation of International No Diet Day (May 6), I recently asked my mom what kind of pressures she felt to be thin back when she was a young girl and teen. My mom was a professional ballerina until she had me in her early-30s, so I was geared up to hear some pretty gruesome body-shaming stories. Believe it or not, despite the aesthetic expectations that came with her job, she suggested we all have it much worst today. Sure, she remembered her friends trying the cabbage soup and the grapefruit diets once or twice, or occasionally complaining about their baby weight, but that was pretty much all there was. Today, women have a laundry list of things they deem wrong with their bodies as well as a poo poo platter of restrictive protocols to test out. We’re worried about our lack of thigh gap, our flat butt, our cellulite and our cankles (whatever that is), and some of these diet regimes make mom’s grapefruit diet seem disturbingly benign.
Today, you cannot turn on a daytime talk show, open a magazine, scroll through social media, or even go to a family dinner without hearing about the most extreme diet du jour. And they all make it hard to love your body. Each protocol comes with a prescribed set of “rules” and dichotomized list of foods that are considered “good” and foods that are undoubtedly “bad”. As I’ve discussed in prior blog posts, giving foods a moral descriptor can lead to us extending those descriptors onto ourselves. Meaning, if I eat a “bad” cream puff, then I must be a “bad” person (if you need a refresher on what is actually “bad” and “not bad”, check out my blog post here). Once you get stuck in this rigid way of thinking, it’s incredibly hard to get out. We tend to get caught up in a cycle of unhealthy behaviours around food that goes a little something like this:
You can see why it becomes so hard to love your body when we go down a path like that. I don’t know about you, but I consider emotional health (aka. happiness) to be a huge part of overall health, and I’m sure you can all agree that the “Diet Cycle” takes the happy-happy-joy-joy out of food. And you don’t have to be a hard-core foodie to feel the detrimental effects here. Food is not only a vital part of our daily routine (you can’t really escape it), food is also deeply rooted in experiences of love, family, culture, celebration, work, romance, travel, self and so much more. An unhealthy relationship with food often can lead to an unhealthy relationship with almost every facet of your life. Why-do-we-so-easily-let-that-happen??
Photo Credit: Eating Disorders Coalition
On May 6, I would like to invite you to try something new. I’m not saying you should stop caring about your health, your weight, or the food you eat. I’m suggesting that there is a more healthful, effective and pleasurable way to do it. It’s called Mindful Eating and it can help you love your body. I’ve shared some of my top tips on Mindful Eating with you in the past, but as a review, Mindful Eating includes (but is not limited to):
1)Listening to your body for the subtle cues of when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to stop.
2)Ignoring what the clock says, or what the restrictive diet book says, or what your friends are doing, and listening to what your body is telling you about about your hunger and satiety.
3)Being flexible in your eating patterns and allowing yourself pleasure through food.
4)Never putting any foods off limits, and enjoying mindful portions of all foods (yep, even cake!)
5)Exploring physical activities you actually enjoy, rather than forcing yourself through vigorous workouts in the name of losing weight.
6)Learning to respect your body, love your body, and nourish your body.
7)Never feeling guilty about what you eat, your size or your shape.
To celebrate International No Diet Day, I reached out to a bunch of fellow Registered Dietitians to see how THEY will be celebrating and their top tips for inspiring a healthy relationship with food and how THEY love their body. Yep, we may have the word diet in our title, but you won’t catch us counting calories to lose weight! Read on!
How to Love Your Body for No Diet Day
“I plan to create a romantic dinner at home for my fiancé and I that includes all of our favourite foods served “family style”. That way, I can listen to my body for its clues for what it wants more or less of that night rather than predetermining how much I am going to eat and portioning it on my plate. I plan to turn off all of the electronics so that we can focus on the eating experience, and of course, on each other. Most importantly, I will tell myself that tomorrow is another day of delicious eating. I won’t label today as a “cheat day” with the mentality that I must eat everything delicious before it’s back to “healthy” eating tomorrow. If I don’t feel like finishing the mini pies I baked- no problem- I will have a sweet treat to look forward to tomorrow or the next day. ” – Abbey Sharp, RD, Abbey’s Kitchenhttps://www.abbeyskitchen.com
“I’m going to hug my girls and remember that life and well being are more powerful than weight or shape concerns. Dieting does not serve my life values. I would encourage people to reflect on their values too!” Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LDwww.rebeccascritchfield.com Washington DC
“Each time I look at myself in the mirror, I will tell myself one nice thing that I love about my body. Maybe it’s just a little muscle contour line on my biceps, or the shape of my shoulders, but each little affirmation will make me feel stronger, more confident and happier. ” – Abbey Sharp, RD, Abbey’s Kitchen www.abbeyskitchen.com
“Weighing yourself may seem like a healthy habit to practice, but in all actuality, it may be quite dangerous! Rejoicing in weight lost holds the same hazard as becoming depressed when you “fail” losing the weight you said you would. Don’t let a number determine your mood for the day by minimizing your worth as the beautiful person you are!” – Jessa Nowak, MS, RD co-founder of In Wealth and Healthwww.inwealthandhealth.com in Sunny Southern California
“Wait 20 minutes before going up for seconds. You have permission to eat whatever you want but allow your body to tell you if you really want anything more.” – Marisa Moore, RDN, Owner, Marisa Moore Nutrition (www.marisamoore.com)
“I think No Diet Day is a great opportunity to share a “day in the life” of what a dietitian really eats. So many of us on Instagram and other social media platforms are sharing our most beautiful, healthiest creations, hoping to inspire others. However, I worry it leaves the impression that all we eat is “perfect” food, which may leave some feeling that healthy eating is unattainable, and contribute to all or nothing thinking. I’d like to show them that dietitians aren’t all kale and tofu. So, for No Diet Day, I’ll post it all: Pretty, plain, generally healthy, but certainly not perfect” – Cheryl Strachan
“On No Diet Day, I will make an effort to compliment each person I speak to on something non-body related. I will tell them they’re wonderfully patient, or supportive, or generous, anything to make them feel good about something that has no basis in their shape or size. I want you to love your body the same way I want to love mine.”– Abbey Sharp, RD, Abbey’s Kitchen www.abbeyskitchen.com
[Consider creating a] “Non-scale victories board, where [you] are encouraged to post positive changes that don’t have to do with the scale. For example, people [can post] about finally being able to ride a roller coaster, being able to work out with Richard Simmons at an event, not going through as much salt, etc.” –Vincci Tsui
“Ditch the diet, lose the scale and get your life back. Eat whatever you want when hungry, stop when satisfied. And take care of your body mind and soul for emotional balance if you’re an emotional eater.” – Kasia Tupta, RD, Toronto
“I encourage people to focus on the amazing things their body does for them or getting in touch with how their body feels. [For example], my arms feel strong after shoveling snow, I walked my kids to school and it felt great to breath fresh air, I held a plank this week and smiled through it, I love feeling the sun on my arms when I wear a sleeveless shirt”- Kate Comeau, RD, Toronto
“My motto is: Have fun, be curious and keep playing with your food. To me, fun and curiosity are key to being able to learn how to eat intuitively and in a way that honours us.” Kerry Beake, RD, www.haeshealth.com
“I enjoy my favorite foods, like peanut butter and dark chocolate, every day…sometimes twice a day! I particularly like to include them at breakfast by adding them to hot cereal, smoothies or yogurt. Starting my day psychologically and physiologically satisfied always feels good!” – Emily Fonnesbeck, RD,emilyfonnesbeck.com, Utah.
“ As often as possible, I like to unplug and take a break while I eat. Given we need to eat every few hours, it serves as a great reminder to take a break from life and recharge. Clearing my head while fueling my body with satisfying foods allows me to get back to work with greater productivity. “– Emily Fonnesbeck, RD,emilyfonnesbeck.com, Utah.
“I only follow uplifting, inspirational, body positive, non-diet social media feeds. Since I’m fairly active on social media both professionally and personally, it’s wise to make sure my feeds are free of negativity, fads or food and body shaming/preoccupation – Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, emilyfonnesbeck.com, Utah.
“I plan to celebrate No Diet Day by practicing mindful indulgence. To indulge, I’ll eat one of my favorite baked goods, a homemade chocolate chip cookie, but will eat it mindfully. Rather than scarfing it down with guilt, I’ll allow myself to eat it slowly, eyes closed, to amplify my sense of taste. Every small bite will be chewed thoroughly and savored for the ultimate No Diet Day satisfaction!” – Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, Blogger at The Foodie Dietitian
How do you plan to celebrate No Diet Day? How will you start to love your body moving forward? Leave me a comment or tweet to me at #NoDietDay to share your stories, experiences and ideas!
A special thanks to my amazing RD2Be Nutrition student Olivia Cupido for creating the Diet Cycle Infographic!
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.