By Alex Raymond, RD, LD
Dear Dieting Industry,
I’m done. If I wasn’t before, I definitely am now.
I think I was put over the edge when I had 3 different 10-14 year olds come into my office over the course of a week with early signs of the development of an eating disorder. A ten year old!! It amazes me, the great lengths you go through to make people feel miserable about themselves. To make people feel like they aren’t “good enough” until they lose weight or sculpt their bodies. Logically, it doesn’t make sense for someone’s self worth to be defined by how small, big, muscular or fat they are. But, sadly, dieting industry, you make us think that’s the case. It makes me so incredibly sad to hear not only clients, but friends and families and even health care professionals, feel that the way their bodies look has to be the very thing that makes them happy.
I’ve had clients crying in my office because they can’t lose weight. Or they were told they needed to lose weight. They tried one of your diets, then another diet, and then another, only to end up feeling more shitty than when they started. You leave people feeling completely worthless. Dieting industry, because people “failed” you, they are left feeling like in some way, there is something wrong with their character. It’s not them that failed you. You failed them from the beginning. With false promises and hope of happiness. When in reality, you were just taking the happiness away from them, little by little.
And did you know that you play a huge role in the development of eating disorders?
I’ve gotten to know so many amazing people who started on a diet to “lose weight” as an “innocent” thing. Or just wanted to eat a bit healthier. The diet stuck, and it kept getting more and more restrictive. You left them with a full blown eating disorder. I do have to say, all of my clients are incredibly strong and amazing, so when I see them able to fight back against your mentality, it’s wonderful. Because they’re able to stand up and say they are worth more than what their eating disorder tells them.
You’ve made intelligent, compassionate health care professionals believe that weight loss will make people healthier and stronger. That weight loss is the only answer to a long and happy life. The secret that you hide so well: Weight loss is not the answer. There is so much research out there supporting a weight neutral approach to health. Additionally, even the research that mentions “weight loss” as a way to improve health is unclear.
It’s truly behavior changes that make a difference.
We really need to take a huge step back from using weight as what defines health.
I do have to say, one positive you brought me was forcing me to take a look at the way I practice. As a dietitian, do I really want to help people achieve weight loss? Absolutely, not. I am a strong supporter of size diversity and health at every size. I could go into this, but that would be a whole other letter. So all of you reading this, if you want more information, I encourage you look up health at every size.
Dieting industry, because of you I have had clients who have felt completely dismissed at a doctor’s office or therapist’s office or dietitians office because of their size. They were told that if they lost weight, everything would be okay. Well, that’s something they have been told THEIR WHOLE LIFE. They are sick of hearing it and also it’s so not helpful. It backfires and makes them feel completely shameful. It’s so much harder to form healthier habits when you are feeling negatively toward yourself.
Have you thought about that?
Food is supposed to be something that is enjoyable and uncomplicated. But you’ve taken food and made it into the enemy. Food. The very foundation of what keeps us alive. The very thing that allows us to breathe, our hearts to beat, our brains to think, our arms to hug.
You can take amazing, intelligent, and beautiful women, and make them feel like they mean nothing because of their body size.
How is this okay? I mean just look at Oprah. Look at everything she has done with her life. A number of incredible things. And she is still fighting with her weight. Still thinking weight loss in the way to go. Still thinking she can’t be completely fulfilled unless her body looks a certain way.
We have a tendency to believe that if you look good, you will feel good. When we as a society completely have it backwards. And that’s on you dieting industry.
You put this on us and it’s time for a change.
What if we were able to accept (and maybe even love) our bodies just the way they were? What if we were able to embrace the fact that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes? That beauty is more than the surface? And we are more than just “bodies”!! What if we were able to unapologetically accept who we are, and instead of changing our bodies, we tried our best to simply live our lives? Think about it. I think each of us would feel a whole hell of a lot more at peace. With not just our bodies. But every area of our lives.
When my clients come in my office, I don’t label them as overweight or obese. A person with a problem they need to fix. I learn about their lives and how much they love their families. How much they care for other people and are literally willing to give anything or do anything to make their loved ones happy. I see the strength they have to come to me to get help. And be open to changing how they view food. Many of them recognizing that something isn’t right in this world full of diets and disordered eating behaviors. And are starting to slowly come around to the idea that they are more than their weight.
Gosh, but, honestly, so many of us cannot even fathom the idea that weight isn’t important. We’ve been told the opposite our whole lives. Again, that’s all on your dieting industry. You’ve held so many women and men back from their full potential because weight and food have been holding them back. I think this is the true problem that needs to be fixed.
So what do we do about it? I’m not sure I have the answers. There are great people out there who are truly supporting the movement of size diversity and decreasing weight stigma. I know plenty of you reading are fed up with the dieting industry too.
Let’s speak up.
Use our voices or our writing or our social media platforms. We need more people to at least be open to the idea that we are more than our bodies and we need more health care professionals to at least be open to the research that health isn’t all about weight. We need more compassion and understanding when it comes to people of different sizes. Each and every one of us has something so very special to offer the world. I truly believe that. And that last thing I want is for food and weight to hold you back from doing the amazing things that you are capable of.
I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the dieting industry. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 301-474-2499.