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Using therapy to move past diet culture into healthy, mindful eating

A plate with a sad face and fork on a pink background.

If someone told you about a procedure that would change your life for the better, but would be uncomfortable, costly and have about a 5% effectiveness rate long-term, would you go for it?

Given those terms, probably not! However, those terms actually describe what we call ‘dieting’ for weight loss. The dieting industry generates billions of dollars convincing people that they can do what research and evidence tells us: we actually cannot change our bodies to permanently look the way we want them to. Genetics account for so much more than the diet industry wants us to believe. Talk about brainwashing for profit! Diet culture has become so ingrained into our society that acting against it can feel rebellious and even scary. How sad it is that loving acceptance of one’s body is so foreign to most of us Americans!

This can change, however, and, as a therapist, I have witnessed this change for many clients. We are able to change our focus from what we look like to how we behave, as our behavior, unlike our appearance, is totally within our control. And isn’t that what therapy is really about, using emotional and intellectual insight to make positive changes to our daily lives? So what really is mindful eating, besides a buzz term we’ve all heard? It is, simply put, eating what you’re hungry for when you’re hungry for it, and stopping when you’re full and satisfied. That is in direct opposition to diet culture, which says we can only eat certain amounts of certain foods at certain times.

Learning how to eat mindfully is, therefore, a novel concept for most of us, and one that we may need support in implementing.

So here’s where therapy comes in, providing an objective, supportive person who can help us to identify how diet culture affects us. A therapist can help us to learn how to make conscious choices to act against diet culture, and towards mindful eating instead. When we mindfully eat, we don’t feel deprived and don’t find ourselves obsessed with food. We, therefore, have more time and energy we can devote towards loving and accepting ourselves the way we are, so we can work WITH Mother Nature, not against her. After all, she kind of knows her stuff.

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