My mission: I want to rid the world of the diet mindset
I feel free and confident ever since I let go of the idea that I ‘should be at a certain weight’. The idea that everything would be perfect (or okay or just easier) when the scale would stop at a certain number.
It’s an idea that is planted in many of our minds at a very early age, a billion dollars industry is built around this idea… and my vision for my work at HealthCreators is to tear that idea down!
I want to rid the world of the diet mindset… and that vision started when the Bridget Jones books were made into movies (that is why I recreated the movie poster in the picture above)
For me it was all very familiar and recognizable, especially at that time:
I studied journalism and lived in a student house.
I often drank too much and then did stupid things.
I found a 2-person bag of pasta with instant sauce and a whole block of cheap blue cheese a great meal for 1 person: I could finish that easily.
I trained at times (alternating with longer periods of doing ab-so-lu-te-ly nothing).
I fluttered from relationship to relationship.
I regularly committed painful blunders, preferably as publicly as possible. On TV, for example (although that took till early 2000’s).
Miserable about my weight
We are surrounded by diet culture, we breathe it in like it is oxygen throughout the day. It is estimated that you come across between 500 and 5000 advertisements per day (and we are not even talking about the people you follow on social media). We are presented with an ideal image in most of those advertisements. The ideal image for women is young, tall, slim, perfect skin… white, often blonde.
Add 30 pounds
So, then my favorite books were made into ROMCOM-movies and the American Hollywood actress Renee Zellweger was cast as the British Bridget. I admit immediately: she is hilarious in the role! But it also surprised me … especially when I read that she had to gain somewhere between 20 to 30 pounds to portrait Bridget.
By then I had also grown up a bit more and developed a little further and had made an observation: I was not at all overweight or fat in the periods that I had been so unhappy with and fixed on my weight! When I see pictures from then, I really don’t understand why I didn’t realize that. My philosophy was, therefore, that Bridget did not have to be overweight at all … even with her it was in her head. And could that not have been beautifully displayed by a Hollywood actress? That it is in all your head, that it is your diet mindset that makes you insecure and unhappy. But no, Renee stopped exercising and stuffed herself full of junk food … to look like me. That is what the ‘ideal picture of dietary culture’ must do to look like me. Ough!
For the record: even with the extra kilos, Bridget / Renee looks normal. That is why it was quite confronting that Zellweger adjusted her weight for the premiere and the red carpet again. Funny story: at the Dutch premiere of the second Bridget Jones film I asked her this question during a press conference (which I covered for EditieNL). Renee Zellweger did not really understand what I was talking about, emphasizing that Bridget had a normal weight, that no male actor ever gets questions when he gains pounds for a role. She literally did not understand that my question was not about her … but about Bridget … and about me!
Wake up call for millions of women
My question was about the fact that a majority of women, even models, especially models… are insecure about their appearance, in a Bridget Jones-style…
The movie could have been an excellent opportunity to let the picture of what Bridget look like and the thoughts she had about it, be a total mismatch.
When a Hollywood star that looks like a Hollywood star, as the embodiment of dietary culture, would have the same thoughts and behaviors in a movie as I do...
That the silver screen would show me how an actress without extra weight, would have all those thoughts about having to lose weight to be worth it, to be good enough …
That it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you weigh, what size you are… that you can still have those thoughts.
The realization that losing kilos is not the solution for that recognizable, typical Bridget Jones mix of feelings that swing back and forth between ‘I am amazing’ and ‘I am the most worthless person on earth “… What could be a wake-up call for millions of women!
And maybe that is precisely why it didn’t happen.
Diet culture is everywhere
Diet culture is everywhere. It influences what the words that come out of our mouths, how we exercise, what we eat, what we wear and even how we think, feel and what we say to ourselves! We are in it every day, and despite that … a lot of people don’t realize that this is the case. It is completely normal to us…
What it is? It is the system of beliefs and values about body weight, shape, size and: about health and well-being.
It is the standard that we hold to each other and ourselves to.
The value that we attach to being slim is a result of the diet culture.
The idea that some kinds of training are for certain people: strength for men and cardio for women, is a consequence of the diet culture.
The focus is on the appearance, not on how you feel or your inner goals. For example, I have never received as many compliments as when, some 15 years ago, I lived for weeks on end on espresso and carrots. I had become super slim … but I was also a trembling heap of misery that had to cry all the time. That’s why almost everyone has a ‘weightloss-goal’ … whether it’s 40 pounds or those ‘stubborn last pounds’.
You do not have to be on a diet, to have a diet mindset
And even if you don’t have a ‘weightloss goal’ (not even covertly), you probably have or recognize elements of the diet culture. The way we talk about food: “I actually didn’t deserve that piece of cake, because I didn’t exercise today” … or something like that. Even the famous ‘balance day’ is an example of this.
If you’ve ever felt guilty about something you’ve eaten, it’s because we are steeped in diet culture and diet mindset.
Or when you’ve run an extra round because you’ve ate all the chocolate mousse … diet culture!
When you say the following sentence to someone you haven’t seen for a while on the autopilot: “You look good ! Have you lost weight? “… diet culture! (And that sentence comes from my mouth more often than I like … followed by an extensive excuse, but still).
And … we all pay a price for the diet culture, because many of us force ourselves to spent money, time and to focus attention on something we don’t like at all: such as weird crash diets and hours spent on cross trainers in the gym, just to burn the calories.
Where do we start to change? Tips!
That you have read all the way to here is hopeful. Thank you. Here are some tips for action to become more aware of the diet culture, your own diet mindset, and what you can do about it:
- Stand up against the diet culture. Throw away all your diet products (yes, also your healthy bowel movement tea that you binge drink half a liter of in order to get rid of what you ate as quickly as possible). While you are at it: toss your scale after it. It’s a useful tool, but a lot of people don’t weigh their bodies but their self-esteem … and that’s not what scales are meant for.
- Pay attention to what you say. Listen to what you say yourself: out loud or in yourself. Do you moralize food? Do you call it good or bad? Participate in ‘Sinfull Sunday’, which is diet culture. Do you find that you have ‘earned’ food or drink through good behavior, as compensation for a stressful day or because you have been exercising?
- Be aware of ways you make others or yourself feel guilty about their food choice. For example by saying things like, “Sure you want to eat that?” or “Don’t you think you’ve had enough!” This includes advice to people to lose weight or compliments about whether they have lost weight …
- Discover your Food Freedom. This is also the ultimate goal of the Whole30: find out how you react to certain types of food and then make choices that are right for you. That’s why I keep repeating that Whole30 is not a diet, but a way to find out what works for you, regardless of what is being called from the diet culture. See eating and training as selfcare (instead of punishment). Find out why you eat salad … because you really like it or because you value a certain appearance. The same for sports: would you do it if it didn’t change your appearance at all? Set traininggoals beyond your appearance.
- Look for people who have ditched (or want to ditch) the diet culture. Start online and follow everyone who unleases fitspo on you: unrealistic, supposedly inspiring and motivating posts, after which you feel icky. Surround yourself with people who have a more positive message and are interested in more than your jeans size.
Sounds simple, it’s not easy
Stepping out of the diet culture and your own diet mindset sounds pretty simple, but I promise you: it is quite hard because you will be surprised how deep it is rooted in you! I, too, regularly catch thoughts and statements from the diet culture in my head and out loud… How to correct: feel your feelings about it, learn a lesson if necessary and move on. Keep focusing on why this is important to you … and take the next step.