As I wrote in my last blog post, "Diet Culture: Examples of its Influence in Our Society," diet culture presents its influence in so many areas of life. Among many things, diet culture can result in experiencing size discrimination (weight stigma). Weight stigma can then lead to internalized weight stigma - in which the person being discriminated against believes the labels that have been placed upon them. Both weight stigma and internalized weight stigma may be harmful to their overall health.
Discrimination of any kind is WRONG. Since discovering Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size (HAES), my thinking has continued to evolve, and I am now a non-diet dietitian who specializes in Intuitive Eating with a HAES perspective. I listen to my clients, and try to understand more what it's like to live in their bodies. Then I take the passion that I feel from hearing what they go through each day and channel it towards helping clients make peace with food and their bodies, in addition to promoting equality for all bodies.
In addition to encouraging you to work with the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating and to explore the HAES approach, the following tips that I'm proposing are designed to help you push back at diet culture in a variety of the situations that I described in my previous blog post.
WAYS TO REDUCE DIET CULTURE'S INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE
If your employer is conducting a weight loss challenge, consider doing one or more of the following:
Talk to Human Resources (HR) and ask that your name and email address be left off of the email distributions.
Tell the HR department how this weight loss challenge makes you FEEL. Explain how it doesn't feel good to be working in an environment in which there is a contest to become as small as possible - implying that there's something wrong with being in a larger body. Add that weight discrimination is "...one of the most common forms of discrimination reported by American adults, especially women."
Share with HR that a review in the Journal of Obesity states, "...we argue that it's unethical to continue to prescribe weight loss to patients as a pathway to health, knowing the associated outcomes - weight regain (if weight is even lost) and weight cycling - are connected to further stigmatization, poor health, and well-being. The data suggests that a different approach is needed to foster physical health and well-being within our patients and communities."
Explain to HR that dieting - which is what occurs during these weight loss challenges - doesn't work for most people in the long-term, is a strong indicator of weight gain, is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder, and can lead to weight cycling which is associated with worsened cardiovascular health and premature death.
Reiterate that weight stigma, which is what is being experienced through this weight loss challenge - can lead to internalized weight stigma - which may be particularly harmful for the employees' physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Add that reducing the amount of weight stigma within the company may be a very effective way to empower the employees' health based on a growing amount of research pertaining to weight stigma.
You could express that weight is frequently a misguided indicator of health. You could add that focusing on implementing health-promoting behaviors that feel right to the employees - without focusing on body size or weight - could be an effective and respectful way to empower the employees' well-being at ANY size.
If there's a part of you that wants HR to understand that you're on a non-diet journey, you could explain that you're working on developing a healthier relationship with food and your body, and that this contest can negatively impact the progress that you've worked so very hard to make.
If your employer is conducting health screenings, consider doing the following:
Talk to HR to see if you can get out of being weighed.
If you are being weighed, kindly tell the health screener - before stepping on the scale - that you're not interested in trying to lose weight, do not want to hear any form of weight loss advice, and do not want to hear or see what you weigh.
Check out these tips for navigating a health screening by Street Smart Nutrition.
If possible, find a doctor who utilizes the HAES approach to support your non-diet journey. You can check out the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) link, "Find HAES Expert," to start your search.
Explore the worldwide review app, Ample, which was created to "...help people find all sorts of establishments that are friendly to marginalized bodies," to see if there are any reviews in your area for physicians.
If you're unable to locate a doctor who utilizes the HAES approach, contact some doctors' offices ahead of time, and explain that you want to honor your wellness through health-promoting behaviors versus focusing on your weight - and you're wondering if the doctor will honor this approach should you become a new patient. You can add that you prefer not to be weighed. If the healthcare team indicates that this is a problem, then continue to look elsewhere.
When you head to your doctor's office, you can decline being weighed. Unless you have a health condition like heart failure or kidney failure in which you're tracking your weight for fluid fluctuations, you might as well ditch the scale at home as well to support your goal of making peace with food and your body.
If being weighed at the doctor's office, prior to stepping on the scale you can tell the health practitioner assisting you that you do not want to hear your weight - and do not want to read your weight on any paperwork that you are provided with at the end of your appointment. Step on the scale backwards to avoid seeing the number.
When consulting with your physician, if you are told to lose weight for your health condition, ask what the doctor would suggest to a person in a smaller body for the same condition. If you find that your doctor is not respectful of your desire to focus on health-promoting behaviors versus your body size and weight, consider looking for another physician. ALL bodies deserve to receive respectful, quality care.
If it feels right, explain to your fitness instructor that you enjoy taking the fitness class that's being offered, but the diet talk that's occurring during the class is very triggering. Express that you would appreciate it if it stops. Another option is to explain your concerns to the gym's management team.
Focus on things like becoming stronger, more flexible, and increasing your endurance versus focusing on your body size.
When it comes to reading, get rid of any weight loss/diet-y books in the house and replace them with the non-diet classics, Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, and Body Respect - followed by gradually adding to this list.
Need some fiction book ideas? Check out these books that contain plus-size characters.
Time to relax by watching some TV or a movie? Ditch the weight loss-related shows, and check out shows like 'Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,' which promote the joy of eating and cooking.
Follow the social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself, and unfollow those that don't.
Check out these fabulous non-diet podcasts to keep your momentum going.
Learn how to talk about Intuitive Eating with others and how to navigate diet talk - so that you can set your boundaries and ask for the support that you need. I provide some tips for doing just that in my blog post, "Obtaining Support During Your Intuitive Eating Journey."
Whether you're investigating a restaurant for yourself or for others, research the restaurant ahead of time on the Ample app or the new mobile app, All-Go, to clarify if it will be comfortable and accessible for people of all shapes and sizes. All-Go is based in Oregon, but is looking to expand its services. Here's a video about the All-Go app if you would like to learn more.
If you are unable to find reviews about the accessibility of a restaurant online, call the restaurant and speak with the manager about whether or not there are sturdy chairs without arms, booths with moveable seating, and wide aisles.
If there aren't wide aisles, but the seating sounds satisfactory, you could try to reserve a table at the very front of the restaurant to avoid walking through many aisles.
I hope that you have found this information to be helpful. The bottom line is that ALL bodies are good bodies - and are worthy of being treated with respect, love, and care. If you feel like you could benefit from receiving more personalized assistance, work with a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. There are terrific dietitians, therapists, and other health professionals who would love to partner with you along the way.
To learn more about the virtual nutrition counseling that I provide, click here.