Dear Diet Industry and Diet Culture,
I write today to ask you, kindly, to please go F yourself. Now, I am at the ripe age of 31 and feel like over the last two and a half decades, (I can’t remember caring about dieting when I was a toddler, but maybe I did) I have been tricked into believing that counting, tracking, weighing, and restricting was the only way to find health and happiness.
For that reason, I would like a full refund of my money and my time, not to mention many feelings that cannot be monetized or re-payed in any way.
It has taken me 31 years to figure out that a prescribed diet is not the answer to a healthy lifestyle. An ideal body weight is not something that lives on a chart in the doctor’s office. And that food has zero morality. And let me tell you what, this realization took many attempts and many failures. I have tried just about every diet out there. I have read articles, researched online, listened to podcasts, read books, and talked to nutritionists to arrive at this truth. What I am saying here is, I’ve put in work, son!
I wish I could go back and tell you to F off when I was a young girl, but alas, better late than never.
I found myself,( as most women do) at a place in my life wanting to lose weight. It’s hard for me to remember the first time I considered dieting in some capacity, but I imagine it was very unnecessary at the time. Later, after more exposure to your BS is when the real desire to be smaller kicked in. This is when the real damage occurred. At about 16 or 17, I was no longer a competitive athlete and beginning to put on weight. In you came, bullying and shaming me. C’mon! High School aged girls are already vulnerable enough, you big jerks! That period for many young women is a time when all you want is to be viewed as attractive, i.e. skinny.That’s the time you swoop in and make us believe you have all the answers.
In you come, Diet Industry, promising that if I just restrict what I eat, exercise to the point of exhaustion, and conform to your bizarre one-size-fits-all justification of the “ideal body” that I’ll be whipped into shape in no time. After all, subscribing to a diet looks like gallivanting on sailboats and running around a park swarming with cute boys, right? That’s what the commercials lead us to believe.
Here’s where things went south. There I was, a 16 year old impressionable girl who was working at a gym, of all places and trying to sort through what healthy eating looked like. This was the first time I remember I officially going on a “diet” but it was not the first time I idolized the female bodies I saw in magazines and on TV.
I began exercising too much while eating too little. Sound familiar?
Fast forward through college and the period I call “eat all the things” or more appropriately, “drink all the things.” Yet again, I wanted to lose weight though this time it was more serious. I had rocketed to the highest weight of my life but would avoid being in photos and buying new jeans to protect myself from facing the music. I lived this way for many years until I was home from Hawaii for Christmas and my mom and I talked more seriously about weightloss and health. Enter, YoYo dieting.
I heard the message from you, Diet Industry, and I heard it loud and clear.
I jumped in head first into a popular dieting tool that assigns a point value to foods for a small monthly fee (eye roll). In hindsight, as I’m typing this, I am thinking what the actual F?! Assigning a value to our food that portrays foods being either good or bad further pulls us down the dark rabbit hole of disordered eating. I am lucky enough, that I never developed an eating disorder, at least as it is medically described, but I did become obsessed with counting, tracking, and losing which in and of itself is a version of disordered eating.
In the first year on this program, I lost 50 lbs. People commented on my weight loss left and right. But, I was miserable. I would literally think about food from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. This cycle of tracking, losing, and sabotaging myself would go on for years. I gained and lost 25 of those 50 pounds more than once.
At the time I remember thinking, “I will have to track every bite of food I eat forever if I want to maintain a healthy weight!” It was a daunting task to think about. I’d look at my naturally thin friends or see what others were eating for lunch and wonder what they knew that I didn’t. The diet industry has done a giant disservice to young minds telling us that our worth in the world is dependent on how many points we ate, or if we worked out that day, or what the number on the scale is when we hold our breath and step on it (yes, we all do this).
I talk all the time about how wonderful the Whole30 is, and I firmly plant that flag in the ground, but my change in mindset is so much bigger than the Whole30. I think of the Whole30 as the catalyst that got me digging deeper into understanding why so many Americans spend years of their life dieting only to be disappointed by number they see on the scale.
What it comes down to is letting go of the number on the scale and tuning into how your body feels and responds to stimuli. I changed my eating habits drastically about a year ago and I’ve never looked back. There is a steep curve involved with becoming okay with eating a whole avocado or putting coconut oil into my coffee after being told for years that’s a huge no no because it’s “fattening.”
But, once I got over that hump and stopped listening (as much as I can) to the message diet culture is delivering, food freedom was finally within my grasp.
Today, I choose to feed my body a nutrient-dense diet of unprocessed foods. I choose to significantly limit my sugar intake, both processed and natural. My preference is to eat plant based carbohydrates and limit things like breads and pastries even if they’re gluten free. I don’t make these choices because they will likely make me lose weight. In addition, I choose to eat this way because my face breaks out less, I have less (or zero) heartburn, I sleep better, and I don’t wake up with headaches or back pain nearly as often.
The way I choose to eat does affect the number on the scale, but I care less about that than I ever have before.
If you break your arm do you get put into a medically induced coma to recover? Nope. There’s no reason to treat one data point like the BMI chart in the same way. It is one data point in a sea of information. Frankly, it’s a small one too. I recently stepped on the scale, which I do only every couple of months to find I weigh less than I did when I was obsessively dieting.
I will admit some old feelings of joy did pop up when I saw this number, but it will no longer dictate how I feel about myself. Diet culture wants us to feel joy excitement and pride when we step on a scale to see a lower number and feel shame and sadness when we see a bigger number.
I am worthy of all the goodness in the world regardless of my weight. You heard that right diet culture, you don’t get to tell us the smaller we are the better we are anymore. I’m over it.
Now, I could end this letter here but I want to be truly honest and discuss the things I eat and drink and do that don’t always fit within the guidelines I’ve drawn for myself. I like wine. Ok. I love wine. Like a lot. I don’t drink it every night, but when I do I love every sip I take. I also love the occasional bowl of real pasta, and I always eat the cake at weddings.
Obviously, these things are less nutrient-dense but are a part of living life. I don’t recommend eating pasta and drinking wine everyday, but I am not in the business of telling anyone what they should or should not eat. I think you should follow my lead, diet industry. Instead of creating artificial ideas like food values and instilling unfounded morality in foods, let’s shift that power to educating people on using food as fuel, why healthy fats serve as protective factors in so many illnesses, and how we can completely avoid taking supplements if we eat a nutrient-dense diet.
One of the most horrifying messages that diet culture has somehow instilled in our growing brains is that we simply cannot be trusted to make good decisions around food.
You want us to believe that you know exactly what each of us needs to eat everyday to be healthy and happy. Diet culture promises to take the burden of choice off our shoulders and give us a plan at a reasonable cost. The only catch is, no you cannot eat the cake at the wedding because it’s bad.
But, as soon as I tell you not to think about cake, guess what you think about? So many diets tell you to completely cut out food groups not because they are not ideal for individual health but because they are bad or off limits.
Food is not inherently bad or good.
Carrots don’t sprout out of the ground thinking they’re a higher class than the donuts at the bakery. So, why does the diet industry project these ideas onto food?
It has been proven that 99% of a prescribed weight loss programs DO NOT WORK. That’s right; 99%!! In a world where numbers and research mean so much in things like test scores for students why the hell do we all think we’re the 1%? I’ll tell you why. The diet industry has taken that $19.99 a month we’ve been paying for their “plan” and converted that into marketing. Good effective marketing. Oprah, one of the savviest and wealthiest women in the world is on TV right now telling us that dieting works. Love you dearly, O, but we all know you’re full of it.
So, in summary, whether you’re suggesting we use an app on our phones, a fancy food diary, or any sort of arbitrary value assigned to foods, I think you, Diet Industry, need to shove it. The jig is up. Your methods are no longer considered proprietary.
You’re not special.
What would make you special is using your power for good, diet culture. For starters, how about actually helping the millions of Americans that desperately believe they need to be smaller to be worthy. I believe a diet is something you should never have to jump on a bandwagon with 100,000 of your closest friends to be successful with.
Sure, there is great benefit to working with a nutritionist or health professional to develop a plan on an individual level. But, food intake, at its core should be individualized and supported by real data that we obtain only by getting to know our bodies. Consumers do not need Jessica Simpson, Jenny Craig or Valerie Bertinelli telling us what we should eat. We deserve a little more credit than falling for your dated marketing tactics.
Want a diet that really works? Let go of the program, familiarize yourself with ingredient lists, find out what foods make you feel the best, and eat them. I could charge you $19.99 to shell out that snazzy tip but I’m not a dick.
PS- You’re still thinking about cake aren’t you?
If you’re still here, you rock! I will be giving away a grocery store gift card to whoever has the best comment below! May the odds be ever in your favor.
Love U, mean it.
EmmaMarch 4, 2018 at 12:56 pm
Totally agree with you. I think it’s such a shame that so many of us are socialized to think that a punitive diet culture is normal. Nutrient dense, unprocessed foods all the way!
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm
You got it! Turns out if we eat real food, we don’t need to measure or track it.
AshleighMarch 4, 2018 at 1:17 pm
YES! You ARE worthy of all the goodness in the world regardless of weight. It’s so hard in a world that focuses on a number vs the health of the person by mere perception of how they look on the outside. You do you and eff all those who say otherwise. xoxo
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:24 pm
Thank you Ashleigh! And thank you for helping me sort through my fitness journey too. Let’s get some yoga in real soon!
LauraMarch 4, 2018 at 2:18 pm
So proud of YOU for this post and all it entails for you, and this blog in general. Keep it up, you’re inspiring!
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:23 pm
Thank you, Luar! It’s been a looooong time coming. Thanks for being here.
JamieMarch 4, 2018 at 2:41 pm
*starts slow clap* too often we jump from fad to fad to lose the pounds but will easily slip because “it’s not enough” and won’t be enough until we accept and love ourselves. Beautifully written and well received from someone that is still on the path to self love! Thanks for the eye opener ❤️
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:23 pm
Hi Jamie. Thanks for the kind words. You’re so right- it was never enough when it was tracking, counting, guessing, shaming, etc… With a little elbow grease we’ll all find out what works best for us as individuals. Keep killin it!
Cassie LaBellaMarch 4, 2018 at 2:59 pm
I have been struggling with my weight since I can remember. I was recently watching old home movies with my family and in one I am around 8 years old. Already bigger then everyone around me. Not necessarily fat just..bigger. Bigger then my sister’s, my friends…everyone. Then puberty hit. Ohh man. At that time they didn’t really have clothes for bigger girls my age. So in every picture I am literally wearing clothing from the women’s section at Dillard’s. The old womens section. I was tired all the time and so depressed I often went days without speaking. Always quiet, trying to hide. Highschool came along and I was so determined to look like my friends that I often didn’t eat at all during the day until I was so starving by 9pm that I’d eat anything and everything in sight. After being pushed to try different diets, pills, restricting certain types of foods, I finally went in and found out I had/have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Finally, a reason why. All I ever wanted was to know WHY and I found it. I continued to fight my body though. It worked for some time, I lost 60lbs in 5 months once only to gain it back. Why? Because I wasn’t listening to my body. I never appreciated it for what it was. I never loved it. Just now at the age of 31 I have found out how to listen to my body. I have found out that my body can do amazing things (like make a human, an incredibly amazing little human) I have found that I am beautiful the way I am. I excersise and eat now exclusively to FEEL better and surprise surprise…..it’s working!
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:22 pm
Cassie, thank you for sharing your heart! You are gorgeous and you always have been! Trust me, I’ve known this since we were littles. I am sorry that you have had to deal with PCOS. It sounds like you’re really learning what works best for you- which is the best diet out there! And I agree, your human is pretty amazing 🙂
Heather JamesMarch 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm
Wow! This hits me on so many levels! I’ve been overweight for over 30 years. I don’t know what happened that caused me to start gaining weight. I’ve always been the funny one who makes friends super easy. I’ve tried every diet out there. I’ve counted calories, bought tiny portions of food for obscene amounts of money, hell, I’ve even had weight loss surgery. No matter what, the weight always came back. Now at 40, I no longer am striving for that number on the dreaded ideal weight chart or ripping pictures out of magazines of women with the body I want. I’m eating healthy, moving more and most importantly giving myself grace when I have a bad day. Thank you for your post.
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:20 pm
Hi Heather! You got it! Grace is the best thing we can give ourselves. Don’t forget to be proud of yourself as you continue your journey to what healthy looks and feels like for you. There’s no finish line.
DelaneyMarch 4, 2018 at 3:53 pm
As I read this post I continue to think “yep, i’ve done that” or “oh yeah, I think that all the time”. It is crazy what the dieting industry can do to a persons confidence and their overall thought of themselves. V, I think you hit it right on the head. I have tried Weight Watchers, Beach Body, Keto, South Beach and just about every one has failed me. I’ve spent money on gym memberships and personal trainers. I have done it all. But you are so right when you say shove it. With the help of useful bloggers, like you Valerie, and finding a meal plan that works for me , I am on my way to a body that I am comfortable in! Thanks for posting every week and giving me something to look forward to and a new tip to dry. My dry brush is in the mail. And my collagen peptides are in my amazon basket!! Love it!
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm
Hey you! Thanks so much for reading. If I just one person finds my tips and information useful, then I’ve done my job. Keep me updated on the collagen and dry brushing.
JessMarch 5, 2018 at 8:12 pm
I’ve been overweight my entire life and have really been thinking about “diets” lately because the weight won’t come off. But that’s the thing, I didn’t gain all the weight overnight and I’m not gonna lose it overnight. I need to just keep eating Whole30ish, and my body will thank me. Since I’ve found whole30 I feel so much better, I sleep better, and I’m not starving. I’m starting to move away from thinking of foods as “good” or “bad” there are just some foods that aren’t worth the consequences and that’s fine. Sure people have judged my food choice but it’s my life and if I want to order a burger without the bun and cheese I’m gonna. Thank you for posting this! Maybe if enough people keep bringing it up the food industry might start shifting towards healthier.
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:17 pm
Hi Jess!! CONGRATULATIONS! YOU WON THE GIVEAWAY!!
I am happy to hear you’re starting to realize that starving yourself isn’t the way to be healthy and happy. Keep up the good work. It’s a moving target somedays, but you’ll keep learning about yourself and that’s what is important.
AshleyMarch 5, 2018 at 8:55 pm
Girrrrlll, Oprah is gonna come after you 😉
Serious note. There hasn’t been a time in my whole 28 years of living where I have loved, accepted or even felt comfortable in my body. I have been with my husband for over a decade and I still get all nervous and self-conscious when we do the deed- and he has seen me give birth twice. I did Slimgenics with my mother at one point, then moved on to CICO. It worked but then I just became obsessed with being further and further under my goal calorie number that I ended up running on fumes. Within the last two years I have gone from losing over 65lbs to gaining almost all of it back. It just keeps coming back to not controlling what I put into my body. I know what I need to do- but damn the struggle is real!
The FruGalMarch 9, 2018 at 3:16 pm
Hi Ashley! The struggle sure is real. Don’t lose sight of of the incredible things your body is capable of like creating and delivering two HUMANS! Wow!
Z-dogMarch 25, 2018 at 10:27 pm
This was great! Fuck the diet/self-help industry!
NadirahMay 30, 2018 at 1:32 pm
AMAZING!!!!!! This is the best letter and so accurate.