Why you should give up your diet and what to do instead

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Imagine ditching every food rule you’ve ever taught – and becoming the happier, healthier you than yourself as a result. A growing movement of nutritionists says you can do just that.

The term “counter-diet nutritionist” may seem like an oxymoron at first. But while “diet” in “dietitian” simply means “the food one eats,” the word “diet” has come to be associated with a strict diet intended to help you lose weight. This is exactly what anti-diet nutritionists are opposed to.

Anti-diet nutritionists encourage people to do so Avoid restrictive diets Instead, they practiced becoming experts in their own body. You don’t have to count calories, cut carbs, or cut portion sizes in order to improve health. Instead, you can decide for yourself what to eat, based on how your body feels, your personal goals and circumstances.

Sound simple? It’s not that easy when you live in a culture so focused on health and measure it only by your appearance. diet culture Everywhere, from the grocery store to the doctor’s office, it’s loud enough to drown out your intuition about how to treat your body, even at the expense of mental or physical health. Diet culture gets especially bad around the holidays.

This is why some nutritionists are now actively advocating against diets, even when it means sabotaging their training. Dalina Soto, registered dietitian and nutritionist, has built a niche by battling diet culture in person and on social media. She founded Your Latina Nutrition to help Latina women control their eating habits and rid themselves of guilt.

“Because I went to school for nutrition science, I definitely subscribed to the idea of ​​losing weight for health [at first],” says Soto, who also runs a practice called Nutritiously Yours in Philadelphia. Once I started practicing and working in the community, I realized there was a lot more to health than I was taught in a textbook. That’s when my whole career turned to that anti-diet message.”

I spoke to Soto to find out more about why dieting is dangerous and how a diet-free approach can help you get back on track if you’re struggling with your body.

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Dieting increases the risk of developing an eating disorder.

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Dieting risks

Diet culture values ​​thinness over everything else, including health and well-being. As part of diet culture, it’s common to cut out entire food groups (such as carbohydrates), reduce portion sizes or otherwise restrict your food in order to achieve this. Weight loss.

But the idea that being thin is the ultimate health goal is a myth. Health is so multidimensional that it cannot be reduced to a specific size or number on the scale. In fact, contrary to popular belief, you can’t tell much about a person’s health just by looking at them. And while it’s okay to lose weight if you want to (or do whatever else you want with your body), diet culture’s obsession with thinness is fraught with danger on many levels.

Food restriction – which most diets necessitate – is a “slippery slope” that can lead to an eating disorder or even a complete breakdown. eating disordersSoto says. “There’s only so much you can restrict until you want to restrict more, and you want to restrict more, and you want to restrict more. And what we’re seeing is that when you’re on a chronic diet, they have a higher chance of eating disorder.”

Diet culture uniquely affects people of color as well. “Unfortunately, eating disorders are not diagnosed in people of color, because we don’t fit the mold of looking really weak and young,” she says. “A lot of times, our bodies are different.”

Diet can also be unrealistic. Many people who diet end up in a “yo-yo dieting” cycle – where they frequently lose weight and then gain it back. This can be hard on your body, not to mention your mental state. “When you look at the data, most diets fail, about 95% of them, because people can’t live with such restrictions,” Soto says.

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The counter-diet approach allows you to tap into your intuition on how to nourish your unique body.

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Benefits of taking a counter diet approach

Freedom not guilt

Instead of diet, Soto teaches “intuitive eating,” a method that helps you develop eating habits that meet your individual needs, such as satisfaction, pleasure, and nutrition — regardless of size. Some anti-diet nutritionists also practice the “health in every size” approach, which promotes balanced, flexible eating habits without too much stigma.

Soto never advises her clients to restrict food, nor does she believe in “good” or “bad” foods. I’ve learned that all foods contain nutrients, and you should have a variety of foods in your meals (including lots of carbohydrates!). Instead of being restricted, Soto says you can always Add Nutrition, such as an extra fruit or vegetable, if it tastes good and you like it. This means no more guilt, which can be a huge relief for those who used to berate themselves for eating the “wrong” meal.

Intuitive eating can help you learn to listen to your body without shame. “Every day you’re going to have different needs and different wants. We’re humans, and obviously we’re not robots, so we’re going to spend energy differently every day,” Soto says. On days when you use up a lot of energy due to stress or excessive movement, for example, you may feel hungry and need to eat more.

As you develop sustainable eating practices, you will find and stabilize your normal body weight – no more yo-yo dieting. Weight loss may or may not happen, no shame either way.

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There are no “good” or “bad” foods, according to the counter-diet or intuitive eating approach.

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Your health on your terms

If health isn’t about weight, then what is is being that about? According to anti-diet nutritionists, you have the right to decide what health means to you and how much priority you want.

“It’s really hard to let the fuss go, so I often challenge people to really ask themselves: ‘What would health be for me when you weren’t in looks and not in size? “Because you can always make it happen without restrictions,” Soto says.

For many of her clients, she says, health includes feeling comfortable in their body or being able to do certain activities, such as walking up stairs without losing their breath. These goals are often difficult to achieve under the strict rules of diet culture and dietary restrictions.

It’s also important to note that there are many different dimensions of health, and only some of them are under your individual control. There are also “social determinants of health,” such as where you live and how well you access health care, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the principles of the HAES approach is that health is not a moral imperative – no one is obligated to strive to be healthy, especially when health is inaccessible to many groups of people.

“Health is very individual,” Soto says. “We have to abandon this idea and the idea that everyone will be healthy, and to be worthy and treated with dignity by the medical system, we must be healthy.” She adds, “There are people who are born with chronic problems, have genetic diseases, or for whatever reason will never be ‘textbook healthy.’ But that doesn’t mean we have to treat them differently or that they are less valuable as a human being.”

If you have a medical condition that requires a special diet, counter diet nutritionists are qualified to help with that as well.

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Many traditional cultural foods do not fit into the diet culture, but they are packed with nutrients.

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You can enjoy your own cultural foods

The diet culture in the United States does not make much room for people of non-American and non-European cultural backgrounds, whose traditional foods often do not fit into the MyPlate model of nutrition. In fact, many cultural staple foods are debunked by health enthusiasts as being “unhealthy,” such as white rice and beans. But by trying to “health” traditional foods, people of color risk erasing their cultures and losing the nutrition that was already packed into those meals, according to Soto.

Also, says Soto, traditional foods aren’t the real cause of the health disparities that have plagued many communities of color. “The main issue is health equity. We have to look at the big picture here and look at who has access to quality health care and who can’t. Sometimes it is out of our control which definitely affects our health.” “Health is affected by much more than just what we eat and how we move.”

“How is it in our country, people don’t eat our food, but then they come to the United States and they are?” She asks.


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How to find an anti-diet nutritionist

If you want to improve your relationship with food or work on your health away from the stress of diet culture, a counter diet dietician might be worth a try.

Soto is just one of a growing number of anti-diet nutritionists across the United States. To find one in your area, look for a registered dietitian who practices “intuitive eating” or a “health at every size” approach. Other key terms to look for include “weight inclusive,” “fat positive,” “body positive,” “non-dieting dietitian” and of course “counter-diet dietitian.” Some registered dietitians take insurance.

Soto also emphasizes that finding a culturally competent dietitian who respects and understands your traditional foods can be just as important as finding one that is anti-diet. “If a dietitian is willing to learn and understand what your cultural foods are, I think whether it’s anti-diet or not, that’s the first step,” she says.

By doing your research and asking questions, you can find the right dietitian for you, no matter what your health goals are. “In the age of the internet and reviews and things like that, it’s a lot easier to find someone who’s willing to listen to you and fit in,” Soto says.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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