Nutrition

The Difference Between Health Culture And Diet Culture

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“If I just had more willpower I’d be in better shape.” 

The reason people are uncomfortable with their weight rarely has to do with willpower or lack of knowledge. Think about it, there are countless tools and resources available to change the weight and shape of your body. 

As an Integrated Nutrition health coach, you’ll never hear me talk about calories and portion control. That is diet culture speaking, not a health coach. It is not our place to tell someone how much they should or shouldn’t eat. In fact, most women don’t eat enough calories; what’s happening is they’re eating the wrong type of calories for them. 

How many diets have you been on over the years? 

Most women start dieting around age 9. NINE! This means prolonged restriction of calories, and most often carbohydrates, the very nutrients that keep the gut in a healthy balance. The nutrients are also what allow us to properly make and process hormones that keep the mind and body running optimally.

Often these restrictions aren’t based on deep research or scientific fact and result in binge eating, thus exacerbating the cycle of weight gain and loss, and mucking with the chemistry in the brain. Is it any wonder we have so many teens on medications these days?

When we operate from a place of mindfulness, we eat until we’re full. We eat foods that are both delicious and good for us. After all, if we’re eating enough nutrients for our bodies, we shouldn’t get harsh cravings and feel the need to resort to binge eating. We have treats in moderation. We enjoy life and food is a part of that. 

Diet Culture is All about Control (and that’s bad)

A strict focus on weighing, measuring, or counting foods based on calories, points, or macros and micros is about control. Controlling our impulses and our bodies. And more often than not, that need to control our body is focused more on physical appearance than how well it’s functioning. 

We don’t like bloat because we don’t fit in our pants or we don’t look a certain way. Runner-up is “my body feels uncomfortable.”  Rarely do we think, “my body isn’t functioning at its best.”

Diet culture has taught us that the way a body looks physically is more important than how it operates. It has also taught us to stop trusting ourselves — we cannot be trusted to make the right decisions, and what our body needs is secondary to what the mind wants. Relinquishing control also assumes that someone else has the answers to helping us manipulate our body into doing what we want it to do. However, let’s be honest, the people with the answers are usually trying to sell us something (ex. a diet plan, a gym membership, a new food product); they aren’t interested in our long-term health.

When there is a problem with the food we put in our mouths, it’s often due to a problem with the food we feed our minds.

Let’s review Primary and Secondary Foods:

  • Primary foods are foods that feed the soul. Our relationships (with ourselves and others), spirituality, purpose, and creativity — the things that bring us joy.

When there is a problem in Secondary foods — which is where most people start their journey because they feel like they want to change their weight or their appearance, or they feel their eating is disordered — it’s because something is off in Primary foods.

When you are nourished and happy in the ways that truly matter, food becomes secondary.

We need to look at what is derailing you from keeping healthy standards. You may have lost touch with your body and its cues. You may be stuck in a stress cycle that needs to be broken. It could be any number of factors! Once we start to address these issues, changing your diet comes more easily and your body and mind as a whole begin to feel better.

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