Prioritize Your Individual Well-Being: Reject Diet Culture
I follow a body-positive creator, Brittani Lancaster, on Instagram and TikTok. Lancaster has been in recovery from two eating disorders for the past four years.
Now she uses her social media platforms to inspire recovery for others. She normalizes accepting every part of your body. I love following her page because she is honest and trans-parent, and it’s a beautifully positive corner of the Internet. I tend to get wrapped up in comparing myself to others, especially on social media. I look at pictures of others and forget how grateful I am for what my own body does for me.
Through Lancaster, I learned the term ‘intuitive eating.’ Because everybody is different, everybody needs different amounts of exercise, different portions of food, and different nutrients. Brittani Lancaster and I could eat the exact same meals and do the exact same workouts, and we would still be different sizes.
Healthline defines intuitive eating as “an eating style that promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image. The idea that you should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Though this should be an intuitive process, for many people it’s not.” Dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch created the intuitive eating model in 1995, defining it as “a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought.” Through this framework, Resch and Tribole reject diet culture, which can be extremely detrimental to peoples’ health. The goals of intuitive eating are to recognize and honor your hunger signals and cravings, stop eating when you’re full and satisfied, mend your relationship with food, eating, and exercise, and honor your health.
Having that freedom in how you eat can be overwhelming for a lot of people. As the Healthline article says, eating is not an easy process for everyone. It’s also not necessarily that easy to just switch up eating habits. But over time, with help and practice, Tribole and Resch’s ideas work to “cultivate attunement to the physical sensations that arise from within your body to get both your biological and psychological needs met and removing the obstacles and disruptors to attunement, which usually come from the mind in the form of rules, beliefs, or thoughts.”
Social media and societal expectations warp the realities of food and eating. “Good vs Bad” foods populate our minds. But food has no moral value. By assigning it a moral value, we feel either proud or guilty eating those foods. Intuitive eating is designed to remind us that all food is fuel. Sure, some foods are less nutritious than others, but that does not mean they’re bad or that we can’t have them. Lancaster’s favorite phrase is “balance is key.” It reminds me of what my mom always tells me: “everything in moderation.” Nothing is inherently bad for you if you don’t eat it excessively.
One of the biggest parts of intuitive eating is letting go of the anxiety and enjoying your food. There is so much stigma around weight, weight gain, bloating, and portion sizes. But when you shut all that out, you can choose foods that make you feel good, stop punishing yourself for eating carbs or dessert, and fuel your body with healthy portion sizes.
Social media, particularly Instagram and Tik-Tok, has popularized intuitive eating in the past several years. Perhaps because people are starting to realize that the diet industry is toxic. Perhaps because people realize they need more energy than they can get from eating too few calories. People like Lancaster have taken to social media to fight against diet culture and push for body positivity and intuitive eating became more prevalent through their efforts. The most important thing about intuitive eating is that obsession with food and body image does not take over our lives. As novelist Jessica Knoll wrote in a New York Times Op/Ed, “Women, can two or more of us get together without mentioning our bodies and diets? It would be a small act of resistance and a kindness to ourselves.” We all have uniquely beautiful bodies with different nutritional needs; it is time we shut out the diet industry and all its fallacies to celebrate our bodies and fuel them with foods we both want and need.