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Resisting Diet Culture In the New Year

The U.S. weight loss market is now worth a record $72 billion. And we are coming up on one of it’s most lucrative times of the year.

The end of one year, the beginning of a new one – this can be a difficult time for those in eating disorder recovery, and even for those who are weary from years of dieting, rigid – often punitive - food rules, and/or body image distress. Your ears and your eyes will be inundated with diet talk. It’s a big money-making time for the diet industry and they will not miss their opportunity to feed on your insecurities. It’s important to be a very aware consumer of what you are about (or may have already begun) to experience through various forms of media and even from people in your own life, setting their own diet-related New Year’s resolutions.

Recognize that many false promises will be made. Much of what you will see will make it seem that happiness, peace, fulfillment, and acceptance are yours for the taking just on the other side of these weight loss promises. Fear and shame-based presentations will entice the inner critic to punish you for “your holiday sins.” Be conscious of what these promises might bring up in you – it can feel very enticing to believe that the answers are that “simple” – that they are tied up diet goals, exercise goals, and weight loss goals. Be aware of terms like “weight management” and “detox” and how they often mean constrictive rules and truly the loss of your freedom, happiness, and presence. Notice how they feed your inner critic. Be gentle with yourself if you notice that these promises feel enticing. Acknowledge what it is you are really desiring. For example, what I am really desiring is acceptance. Is there a non-destructive way for me to seek this need in my life?

Resist urges to prescribe morality and self-worth based on your body size and shape or on the food you are eating. Meaning, notice anything externally or internally that implies you are “good” for eating certain things and you are “bad” for eating other things. Also, notice where exercise is being labeled as some kind of punishment. Truly healthy movement is a way of celebrating you, your body, and what it is able to do – and should be something that is enjoyed, not a punishment for or even permission for something you ate or plan to eat.

Instead, consider setting some intentions and/or body positive goals. Some examples below:

  1. In the new year I will prioritize my mental health by seeing my therapist at least two times a month.

  2. In the new year I will identify one body-related gratitude per day.

  3. In the new year I will seek treatment to address my ED.

  4. In the new year I will be more open with people about my ED recovery in hopes of helping others.

  5. In the new year I will do one thing daily that feels like self-care or coping.

  6. In the near year I will focus on my value of family.

  7. In the new year I will commit to not missing out on things like swimming and birthday parties because of fear foods and body image distress.

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