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Using Therapy to Move Past Diet Culture Into Healthy, Mindful Eating

Diet culture taking a measurement of her waist.

If someone told you about a procedure that would change your life for the better, but they said it would be uncomfortable, costly, and have only 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 can’t do– 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 this culture can feel rebellious (and even scary). How sad it is that healthy, loving acceptance of one’s body is so foreign to most of us Americans! 

However, this can change. Therapy can help. As a therapist, I have witnessed this change for many of my clients. We all have the ability to shift our focus from what we look like to how we behave. 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, healthy, mindful changes to our daily lives?

So what really is mindful eating, besides a buzz term we’ve all heard? Simply put, it is eating what you’re hungry for whenever 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 if we want to remain healthy. 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 into play. Therapy provides us with an objective, supportive person who can help us to identify how diet culture is affecting us personally. A therapist can help us learn to make conscious, healthy choices that push back against diet culture and guide us towards mindful eating instead. In therapy sessions, we can explore our own beliefs about our appearances, healthy eating, diet culture, and societal expectations. When we mindfully eat, we don’t feel deprived and don’t find ourselves feeling 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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