Diet culture - I see you. You are embedded in our language and that language gives you away every. single. time. Let's take a look at some of the words that indicate diet culture.
Here's the deal: our language creates our reality. The words we choose impact and reinforce how we feel about whatever we are talking about, including our food choices. Most people believe it’s the other way around: I think this way and my language just shares that with other people. But that’s not the case. The words you choose keep the stories and beliefs in your mind alive and well.
The "c"-words of diet culture
Does this sound familiar? (and if so, it's super common. You're in good company 🙂 )
You want to make healthy changes to your food choices, and as soon as you start eating differently or following a meal plan or trying to adhere to the rules of diet culture, you start using what I call “The C Words of Dieting”.
You know them: Can’t. Cheat. Calories.
- “I can’t eat that.” Oh my goodness. It’s no wonder sticking with lifestyle changes feels hard. Diet culture tells you that you have to deprive yourself to be healthy. Messages about restriction and deprivation lead you straight to desiring the thing you're saying you need to avoid. It’s disempowering and for many, it creates a feeling of rebellion and soon, the healthy changes are out the window.
- “I know I shouldn’t, but I’m going to cheat.” Are you a cheater? Do you want to tell yourself and others that you are? A healthy diet is not a game. There is no cheating. Cheating has the context of being wrong or bad. Humans are not motivated by criticism. We are motivated by appreciation.
- “How many calories are in that?” Who cares? I know. That may sound crazy. I was raised in the “calories in/calories out” weight loss era. But now we know that there’s way more to it and that our body does not utilize and store calories from all foods the same way. And seriously, if it worked, we’d all lose weight with calorie restriction and/or increased exercise.
I hear you, you think they are just words. But they are not my friend. They have a much bigger impact than you know. They keep you feeling stuck, frustrated, resentful, and maybe even a bit hopeless.
The "c"-word to use instead
The good news is that a small change in language can make a big difference.
Here's the word I recommend using instead: Choose.
You are in a place of choice. You can eat anything you want. You choose to eat foods that fuel your body and help you feel your best most of the time. No more “can’t.” No more “cheat.” Just focus on what you prefer to put in your body and choose accordingly.
This applies to therapeutic diets as well. For example: If you have celiac, it is damaging to your body to eat gluten. I get that. But avoiding gluten is still a choice. You can put a wheat-based product in your mouth, but it’s much better for your body that you don’t. Therefore, you still benefit from changing your language: “I have celiac, so I choose to stick to my gluten-free diet to keep my body healthy.”
You can do anything you want. There is no such thing as cheating on a diet. Calories are not king. As you embark on making changes to your relationship with food, lead from a place of choice and empowerment. It’s so much better! And when you hear yourself saying, “I can’t have that,” switch it up: “Actually, that’s not true. I can totally have that, but I’m not choosing it today.”
Being mindful of language and shifting how you think and talk about your relationship with food is part of step 2 of my process for finding food freedom: Choice! You can learn more about that step HERE.