Why I’m an Anti-Diet Dietitian – And What That Means

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People are constantly bombarded with information about nutrition, diets, healthy eating habits, etc. Naturally, most of these messages, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, fail to connect with people on an emotional level. That’s because a lot of reliable information about nutrition is often masked with pseudoscience. Plus, people don’t like being talked down upon by internet ‘expert’.

So, a backlash to the ‘let’s go on a diet’ trend was inevitable. So, is the anti-diet movement just about posting countless pictures of you stuffing burgers down your throat? Not quite. In fact, the anti-diet movement is way more rooted in nutritional science than most modern-day diets. That doesn’t prevent this movement from being victims of constant misconceptions and misinformation, though. However, what everyone must realize is that anti-diet doesn’t mean anti-health.

Is Anti-Diet Anti-Health?
Just as most diets claim to be about promoting health and wellness, so does the anti-diet movement. Yes, the name of the movement makes it look dodgier than it is. But, the essence of this aim to pursue independence. There are no weight traditions or actual restrictions on what people can or cannot eat. Each individual has their own dietary requirements.

Virtue signaling about certain diets often compels people to take up the wrong food habits. So, unlike most modern nutritional movements that focus on forcing certain diets, limiting calories, forcing people to join gyms, the anti-diet movement takes an un-idealistic stand. It focuses on healthy behaviors that are practical, individually controllable, and not condescending.

The Universal Appeal of the Anti-Diet Movement
Anti-diet nutritionists are open to addressing people of all weight-classes because their methods are universally applicable. Instead of pushing people to their extremes, these experts encourage their clients to hone their intuitions. If someone loses weight because of personal dedication, the goal of an anti-diet dietician is achieved. The anti-diet movement has a universal appeal because –

• It focuses on eliminating the practice of disordered eating.
• It promotes positive body images.
• The approach to eating is linked with emotional functioning.
• It’s more suited for diverse populations.
• Instead of promoting restrictions, the movement focuses on a healthy way to approach eating and food habits.
• Psychological wellbeing is treated just as important as physical wellbeing.
• The importance of consuming nutritious diets isn’t diminished by the movement.
• The idea is to link weight stability and self-care; going to extremes just to pursue weight loss/gain isn’t recommended.

The Importance of Being Anti-Diet and Creating Healthy Relationships with Food
Most anti-dieticians are professionals who were once part of the ‘let’s go to extremes to lose weight‘ movement. These experts know the dangers of blindly following traditional diets or putting your body through intense weight-loss measures.

More importantly, they know these methods are useless in the long run. Dieting is a short-term cure, and people who go on diets are more likely to regain excess weight in the future. It’s very important to be anti-diet because dieting has caused problems like –

• Weight cycling. People put their bodies through rigorous procedures only to gain weight a few months later.
• People who go on diets are always obsessed with what they eat and don’t eat. This type of obsession gives them anxiety.
• People who feel the need to put themselves through inhumane diets often suffer from low self-esteem. They crave acceptance, not extremities.
• Strict dieting promotes adverse mental health effects.
• A significant share of people who go on diets ends up suffering from eating disorders.
• Dieting is a short-term fix that messes up a person’s long-term relationship with food. The anti-diet movement doesn’t go against health. It simply promotes the viewing of health through broader lenses.

For too long, discussions about physical health have revolved around strict diets and exercise routines. There’s not enough focus on our relationships with food, mental health, and emotional wellbeing. If someone’s eating habits and exercise patterns aren’t making them feel better overall, is it worth it? The blind pursuit of physical health via dieting is unhealthy. That’s why the anti-diet movement is so important.

The notion of Body Mass Index (BMI) is a perfect example. In this generally accepted model, height and weight are used as metrics to determine health. Despite this model not accounting for race, gender, muscle mass, fat mass, gender, average fat distribution, family background, etc., it’s still treated as the gold standard by numerous dieticians! In truth, the BMI model is just a time hack – a quick way for ill-informed dieticians to dispose of their patients.

The Role of an Anti-Diet Dietician
All anti-diet dieticians need to oppose diet culture vehemently. For instance, fat-shaming is one of the many symptoms of the diet culture we currently live in. That’s why anti-dieticians have a very important duty to dismantle these myths and misconceptions. Some myths about dieting that need to be urgently dismantled include –

• Starving is unhealthy. People can call it a “detox” or a “lifestyle change.” Using romanticized terms doesn’t make the practice healthy.
• Dieting isn’t a long-term solution.
• People shouldn’t correlate intuitive eating with junk food consumption. The goal of anti-diet dieticians is to make people crave vegetables, grains, fruits, lean protein, etc.
• Intuitive eating isn’t about losing self-control – it’s about being comfortable with our intuitions and changing them for the better every day. Once people start creating psychological attachments to healthy food items, they won’t need quick fixes like diets.
• Different people experience hunger in different ways. Some peoples’ stomachs gurgle while others feel nauseated. Diets put hunger into one restrictive box. Such a restrictive view of an important human emotion is extremely unsafe.

Getting Started with Intuitive Eating
There are plenty of intuitive eating experts who are open to helping people become healthier by choice, not by force. Anti-diet dieticians promote healthy emotional and physical behaviours. To become an intuitive eater, people must first accept that adopting healthier food habits just to lose weight isn’t the right approach. People should adopt healthier food habits because they genuinely want to improve their health. Let natural instincts take their course!

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