Here at Momentum, we are still jumping for joy over the success of our BEYOUtiful campaign. On October 18th, we joined forces with Handful Activewear to celebrate National Love Your Body day—and to encourage everyone everywhere to accept their bodies. But, we get how hard it is to do that. So today, we continue that conversation with Deborah Fisher, a registered dietitian with tips on how to balance the relationship between food and body positivity:
“I’m fat.” “I don’t want to gain weight.” “I just hate my body.” These are some of the most common phrases I hear as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). As a RDN, people come to me for help with their food and nutrition. It always starts the same: a client says they want to eat healthier and take better care of their body. Then almost without fail, one of the three phrases above is uttered. And all of a sudden, food is no longer a safe topic, but one that brings out anger, sadness, guilt, and numerous other negative emotions. Food is no longer nutrition, it’s an enemy that is fought with on a daily basis. And there I sit with yet another beautiful person that is unable to love their body or food because their body negativity has spread to food negativity.
This is why body positivity is so dear to my heart. All too often, I see that a lack of body positivity also means a lack of food, nutrition, and the ability to find joy in eating. And similarly, I’ve seen where a lack of food positivity means a lack of love for one’s body, size, and self.
Food positivity and body positivity go hand-in-hand and are irreplaceable pieces of the same puzzle. Here are three points I share when people are struggling to balance the two:
1) Weight should never be the main focus. This is probably the single most important truth related to food and body positivity: Weight is literally just a number. It is not the sole indicator of health. Furthermore, an obsession with weight cannot coexist with a food/body positive mindset. Weight fixation will always negatively affect your relationship with food, making it impossible to respect your body through proper nutrition.
Can you manage your weight and still be food/body positive? Yes. But you need to focus on healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes like eating more fruits and vegetables or committing to walking with your kids each week. Also, you need to make sure your reasons for wanting to manage your weight are related to overall health and wellness, and are not an obsession with the number on the scale or a certain body type.
2) Nutrition is more than just calories. One of the easiest and most dangerous traps to fall into is making nutrition solely about calories. While calories can be a helpful tool, people struggling with body/food positivity need to avoid making food and nutrition only about calories. Calories are just a snapshot of what your food is actually providing your body. They say nothing about the quality of food you’re eating or the type of nutrition your body is receiving. They can leave you fixated on a number, rather than the big picture.
A good alternative: Make food about ALL components of nutrition and how it works to make your body beautiful. For example, fats keep skin and nails healthy. Proteins strengthen muscles for running, hiking, and dancing. Vitamins boost your immune system. Minerals keep bones strong and muscles working properly. Focusing on the amazing things that balanced nutrition has to offer your body is a much more positive way to view food.
3) Diets need to be ditched—completely. It might seem weird for a dietitian to say stop dieting, but diets are not long-term solutions for healthful eating habits. They're also not beneficial for body positivity. Most diets place morality on foods, which means that foods are put in “good” or “bad” categories. This way of categorizing food inherently makes us “good” or “bad” based on what we’re eating. This affects the way we view both food and ourselves, and it’s based entirely on external restrictions placed upon us. Not on what our bodies are telling us they need. Diets also consistently contribute to feelings of guilt, deprivation, and shame—none of which contribute to body positivity.
Instead of dieting, try responding to your body's natural hunger and satiety cues. Honoring your body when it’s hungry and when it’s satisfied, rather than restricting and overeating, is more conducive to a body positive mindset.
This list isn’t magical.
It doesn’t automatically cure a negative body image or relationship with food.
This is a list of small, practical steps to think over and to try implementing in your own life. They all pave the way for a healthful food/body relationship that can significantly improve food/body positivity.
One final thing that’s true about being body and food positive: it grants others around you the freedom to do the same. Never underestimate the powerful influence we have over one another. Love your body and love your food, friends.
Do it for you and for everyone else around you.
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