An "Anti-Diet" Dietitian's Advice for Wellbeing

Each January brings the arrival of resolutions: “New year, new you” is peppered into media cycles, social networks, and our brains, like tea slowly steeping. Much of this dialogue can be characterized as an example of “diet culture,” a set of customs, rules, and values—some of which contradict each other—that equate body shape or size with moral value and health. Often, this is done by promoting weight loss, vilifying certain foods while exalting others, and stigmatizing those who don’t match its suggested image of what "healthy" looks like.

Diet culture is bolstered by the health and wellness industry, which in the U.S. alone is an annual business of $707 billion. Yet evidence that most diets are unsuccessful—in fact, they are the leading determinants of weight gain—highlights that aiming for a certain body size is an inaccurate prescription for improved health. (Research supports that tracking BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, is another faulty model of determining physical condition.) What’s more, these external rules usually come at the expense of disassociating from internal cues, like hunger, food preferences, and energy levels. And for all of the aims taken at specifying or promoting an “optimal” path to health, the term itself is innately vague: highly individual and subjectively definable by environment, income and lived experience, to name a few.