Today is International No Diet Day – a day to raise awareness for positive body image and the pitfalls of fad diets popularised by celebrities, media and the weight loss industries. Being a dietitian, I am often asked my opinion on a variety of diets; from diets specific to a person’s blood type to liquid detox diets. Many ‘diets’ that exist often demonise certain food groups or follow a set of ridiculous rules (remember the straw diet?). So why are we so easily suckered into these?
Maybe it’s the hype that weight loss is good for us but seemingly ridiculously difficult to achieve and diets are the magic pill for that. There is a mindset that if we lose weight, we will look better, be happier with ourselves and be healthier since we are an overweight and obese nation. Sadly, life is never that simple and clear cut.
After I had been diagnosed with diabetes, I started obsessing over my weight. I thought that if I lost a bit of weight, perhaps I could reverse my diabetes. (Yes, there was actually a point in time I actually thought that!) I weighed myself everyday, tried to cut every food that raised my sugars (cringe!) and took pleasure in feeling hungry. In my mind, I associated the feeling of hunger to losing weight. I was determined to stop my diabetes medication. I was too young to have diabetes!
But I was also miserable.
Turns out that food isn’t just a fuel source for our body. In our society, food plays a huge role in our social interactions. Food is our way of life. I remembered watching my family indulge in dessert teary eyed, thinking they were trying to upset me. Really, I was just tired, cranky and hungry.
It took a long time to accept that my diabetes was here to stay and that I could be awesome(r) with it. It took an even longer time to focus on being healthy rather than numbers on a scale. I started to practice mindful eating and portion control and found a new appreciation for flavours in smaller bites. Exercise became something I looked forward to doing rather than a chore to burn calories. More importantly, I started to accept and seek the support of my family, loved ones and healthcare professionals.
Now each time I have a client telling me that they should lose weight, I will always ask them why. More often that not, I get quizzical looks. But my role as a dietitian is not to solely help you lose weight. Dietitians are here to help and support you in achieving your best health. And that is what we should be focusing on.