Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Every Day Should be International No Diet Day

Happy International No Diet Day!

According to Wikipedia, the goals of INDD are to:
  • Doubt the idea of one "right" body shape.
  • Raise awareness to weight discrimination, size bias and fatphobia.
  • Declare a free day from diets and obsessions to body weight.
  • Present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficacy of commercial diets.
  • Show how diets perpetuates violence against women.
  • Honor the victims of eating disorders and weight-loss surgeries.
And these are all great goals. But it's depressing to me that we need a day for this. And it's depressing that a lot of women see this as a day to take a break from their diets. Some of the ways we're encouraged to celebrate INDD include:
  • Enjoy a food that you typically deny yourself
  • Eat at least three healthy meals and two snacks today
  • Give away clothes you've been waiting to be thin enough to wear
  • Don't compare your body to anyone else's. Remind yourself that you are unique
  • Pay someone a compliment based on something other than weight-related qualities
  • Do something you've been putting off until you're 'thin' enough to do it
  • Make a top ten list of things you love about your body
I think you should eat three healthy meals and a couple of healthy snacks every day. I think you should find things to appreciate about yourself every day. And I try to avoid complimenting people on weight-related qualities every day. There are so many way more important characteristics to a person than their weight.

When I was a personal trainer, clients would come in and tell me their goals and ask for a exercise and diet regime that would help them accomplish these goals. Often, toward the end of the first consultation they would ask "what would you do if you were me?" At the risk of them never taking me seriously as a trainer again, I would reply "I would avoid dieting." I would go on to explain that changing your eating habits to be healthy, moderate, and balanced should be a lifetime thing, and shouldn't require starving yourself or refusing to allow yourself an occasional treat in moderation. If the goal is fueling and nourishing your body in a healthy way, weight loss often happens as a secondary effect.

For one thing, getting your 5-9 daily servings of fruits and veggies and drinking a reasonable amount of water doesn't leave that much room for giant portions of fatty foods full of simple carbs and refined sugars. But also, telling yourself that you can have any reasonably healthy food in moderation as long as it's balanced by other healthy foods takes off the pressure and allows you to nurture your body instead of punishing it. And the fact is, when you stick to a healthy balanced diet and get a moderate amount of exercise, your body will return to the weight it wants to be (which may not be the weight you want it to be, or the weight our culture tells you it should be), and you'll sleep great, have tons of energy, and have strong and glowing hair, skin, and nails. In other words, health is beautiful at any size, and valuing and caring for your body rather than punishing it gives you a sort of confidence and centeredness that are visible and very appealing to others.

So regarding the first recommendation for celebrating INDD, I think the only foods you should be denying yourself on a daily basis are foods that are inherently unhealthy to begin with. I avoid foods with ingredients like hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and high fructose corn syrup everyday, but I don't deny myself a little bit of chocolate (real chocolate) or the baked goods I crave all the time or any other foods that are thought to be off limits because of their calorie content. I do eat them in moderation, but I don't deny myself althogether. But avoiding the trans fats and HFCS means that you can't eat the cookies and muffins from the bakery or the grocery store. It generally means if you want a cookie or muffin or piece of carrot cake, you're going to make it at home. And that means you can control the ingredients, tweak the recipe to be healthier, and control the portion size. It also means that you'll find yourself baking a batch of healthy cookies and muffins on the weekend and putting them into baggies in individual servings and freezing them so that your family can dole them out all week. But having access to healthy treats in reasonable portions is a huge benefit for someone like me who craves the baked goods but shuns the unhealthy crap used in industrial baking. And it changes your approach to food and to your body. Instead of shaming yourself for wanting treats and denying yourself constantly, you took the time to care for yourself at the beginning of the week and provide a healthy treat for yourself each day. And it makes the giant muffins at the coffee shop lose their charm when you know you have a healthy, reasonably-sized muffin or cookie tucked in your lunch just waiting to be savored with your afternoon coffee. So I intend to celebrate INDD not by allowing myself to eat some pre-packaged snack that's full of unhealthy crap (since these are the only foods I typically deny myself), but by eating the same way I eat every day.

Happy International No Diet Day!


  1. Lyndsay5/06/2009

    Ooh, I really love this entry. Lately when I read things like this, I feel quite outside this unhealthy aspect of our culture. (I think this is because since school ended, I haven't seen a couple close friends who think too much about weight). Rarely do I notice people's weight. Rarely do I think about my own. I think about food a lot as far as what I will buy and cook so I can make delicious nutritious meals. It all makes so much sense; I forget the culture's obssession with weight. It is amazing how we're influenced by the people around us when thinking of what matters though. I mean if nobody who a fat person spent time with made weight an issue and s/he didn't look at magazines, would s/he really feel that being fat is a bad thing? It's just a size.

  2. Meg'n5/07/2009

    The picture of the two women dancing in front of the funhouse mirrors is fabulous.

    And I love this post.

    That is all.

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  4. apoorva,

    Nobody here is looking for diet tips, and it's offensive when people like you come into spaces where healthy body image is the norm and try to shame people about their bodies and guilt them into abusing themselves with another diet. Take your advertising elsewhere.