Unhealthy eating has been linked to many medical issues, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but when we try to make better food choices we are often chastised instead of given support. Here are a few things I’ve heard when I tell someone I don’t want something because I am choosing to not eat sweets:
“Just try it.”
“You know you want it.”
“There is only one left. Eat it!”
“I ate four already, you can eat this one.”
“I bought this milkshake on the way home for you.”
Or, the more innocuous, but just as damaging:
“I made brownies. You can have one if you want it.”
I tell people – family, friends, coworkers – of my intention to eat better and they immediately try to sabotage me. When I opt to avoid dessert at a dinner, I often hear the words, “Are you on a diet?” I absolutely hate it when people ask this because I am not on a diet in the way they mean.
I want to be clear. I am not restricting my food intake to lose weight or to match some societal ideal of what I should look like. I look at food as the first medicine for my body and think about how best to nourish myself so I can be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
So, when I hear this question I often laugh and say no, but what I really want to say is, “Well, yes. Yes, I am. So are you and every other living organism on the planet. A diet is the food a person, or whatever, regularly eats. So, sure. If it makes you feel better, I am on a diet.”
I am not a nutritionist, but I do read a lot about food and its effects on the body. I spoke to my doctor and discussed how food can either help or hinder your health. I’ve read several books and watched I don’t know how many documentaries. While food choices might not keep away illness or disease, it does allow my body to have the best chance of staying healthy and fighting illness when I do get sick.
If you look past all the articles about how you can loose weight by eating *insert new diet sensation here,* you can find articles about how eating a healthy diet (not the restrictive kind) helps decrease the chances of getting several types of preventable diseases. You can find anecdotal stories of how people have even reversed the severity of diseases like cardiovascular disease or diabetes by eating more vegetables and less processed food.
Another reason I try to make healthier food options is because, in my mind, food options and exercise go together. When I exercise regularly, I tend to eat better and vice versa. I cannot seem to work out and eat junk or eat healthy and not work out. I get the benefit of both nourishing food and movement when I commit to myself. I feel stronger and healthier when I reduce the amount of sugar in my diet and move my body.
When did “diet” became such a dirty word? Why do we have to be on a diet if we want to make healthy choices? Why are we automatically sorted into a category of not loving our body if we choose to not eat foods that could be potentially damaging?
Again, we are all on a diet. Every single one of us. Whatever you put in your mouth on a regular basis is your diet, whether it is good or bad.
I fully support body positivity advocates. Our society does a horrible job of making people who doesn’t fit a certain, very narrowly defined, body type feel good about themselves. That should never happen. Nobody should feel shame because of their body. Nobody should feel like they need to restrict their food intake to meet an artificial standard of beauty.
I would like the same support. It is almost offensive to some people when I tell them I am not eating sugar, hence the comments I often receive and the pressure to eat the foods I am trying to avoid. I try to avoid all sugar because it is easier for me to go all in than it is to eat it in moderation, or even on occasion, at least for now.
So, in a sense, “Diet Culture” has ruined food eating for all of us. If we choose a diet that involves eating a lot of sweets, we get a tsk, tsk look and a finger wag. If we choose a diet that involves no sweets, we get a condescending comment about being on a diet.
So, the moral of this story? Live your life. Love yourself. Eat what makes you happy. And, don’t judge others for their food choices.
This post isn’t the first time I’ve written about my hatred of the word, “diet.” Read my original post from 2015, “Why I Hate the Word, Diet.”