No Diet Day: Free to be me (you)

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Paula Edwards Gayfield (2) (1)

Paula Edwards-Gayfield

No Diet Day was started by Mary Evans Young in 1992 and is an annual movement to reject diet culture. NEDA would like to encourage you to consider the impact diet culture has on your relationship with your body and join the movement to practice body kindness and acceptance.

It’s common to hear someone commenting about needing to lose a few pounds, discussing a diet plan they are following, or a new diet trend shared on social media. Images of diet culture continue to fill social media feeds with tricks to lose weight fast, edited photos to show thinness, and videos of people working out at the gym with overly rigid routines. Have you ever questioned if diets really work? Why consider a diet? I commonly hear “I want to be healthy” or they believe they should be a certain size based on BMI as a determinant of measurement (contrary to popular belief, you cannot tell if someone is healthy just by looking at them.) Body dissatisfaction, weight stigma, and fat phobia may contribute to one’s search for a diet and impacts all genders, ages, races, SES, and ability status.

You are not alone if you struggle with your relationship with your own body. We live in a culture loaded with weight stigma, ageism, and anti-fat bias, so it makes sense that you may have internalized these belief systems leading to body dissatisfaction. It’s difficult to navigate a world where you constantly feel as though you have to change to fit in or to be enough…it’s exhausting.

In addition to body dissatisfaction impacting self-worth, it can also be a risk factor in the development of an eating disorder. This doesn’t mean that everyone who experiences dissatisfaction will develop an eating disorder, but it is important to consider the impact of dieting—restrictive eating patterns, binge eating or emotional eating episodes, and engaging in compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain – on mental health. Diet cycling leads to a never-ending cycle of feeling good about “healthy changes, followed by a decline into disordered eating patterns that negatively impact mental health.

Dieting reinforces the message that “something is wrong with you”, “you will be happier if…”, or “you will be desirable when…”. Dieting is not the solution to improve how you feel about yourself or to correct a perceived flaw. We need to address the internalized, judgmental messages related to weight or thoughts about not being good enough. Understanding where these thoughts come from and the impact of these messages on your emotional well-being will allow you to make sustainable changes. Adopting new self-talk, such as re-appraisals of negative thoughts, can help you be kinder and more compassionate toward yourself and your body.

Your body is a small part of who you are, and you are so much more than your body shape or size. However, it is not uncommon that people believe that if they can change their body to achieve their ideal or perfect body (or maybe be happier with their appearance), they will be happier or obtain the life they desire. I’m going to encourage you to work toward self-acceptance – yes, the good and not so good parts – and being authentically yourself. Being exactly who you are will set you free from society’s unrealistic beauty standards. You ARE wonderful now.

You can make impactful changes today by taking a neutral approach to weight, spending time every day to gently connect with your body, engaging in meaningful and joyful activities, re-defining the purpose of exercise and activity, fostering an authentic identity, and building a supportive and encouraging social network.

I hope you will join me and NEDA in taking this stand against diet culture. We would love to hear from you on social media and invite your friends and loved ones to join this day of acceptance and body kindness.

Paula Edwards-Gayfield, LCMHCS, LPC, CEDS-S, is a Regional Assistant Vice President and Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair at The Renfrew Center. Ms. Edwards-Gayfield is an advocate for increasing awareness about eating disorders affecting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and is passionate about access to culturally sensitive, inclusive, and equitable care; an experienced presenter addressing eating disorders and diversity, as well as a contributor to the book, Treating Black Women with Eating Disorders: A Clinician’s Guide. She is a certified member and approved supervisor (CEDS-S) of iaedpTM and a former Co-Chair of the African American Eating Disorder Professionals – Black, Indigenous and People of Color Committee (AAEDP-BIPOC). She serves on the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) Clinical Advisory Council and serves on the advisory board for Eating Disorder Recovery Support (EDRS).