Unfortunately, it’s impossible to live in America and not be bombarded with messages about the new diet fad that promises to give you the security of “optimal” health. The idea that there’s something wrong with your body, is a toxic myth that makes billions for the diet industry and wreaks havoc on the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health of most Americans. The idea that health equals a certain BMI (lower) and that health excludes other BMIs (normal or higher) is sadly perpetuated by the healthcare system and ends up doing more harm than good. It’s impossible to navigate the medical establishment without being bombarded with the toxic message that thin equals healthy (an idea that is not supported by research, an idea that is rooted in systemic oppression of people living in larger bodies, and also rooted in racism).
This time of year, as 2023 approaches, many people think about what they want for themselves in the new year. Given the diet culture and thin idealization we breathe in every time we get online, watch TV or go to the doctor’s office, many people include dieting on their new year’s resolution list. The culture we live in, the medical system we are embedded in and this time of year set the stage for a perfect storm. As an eating disorder professional, my practice is aligned with the principles of Health at Every Size, which focuses on comprehensive health that also includes a person’s quality of life and mental health! The rest of the world seems to live by the principle of a narrowly defined and impossible to achieve idea of “Health” at Any Cost. The cost becomes engaging in dangerous and extreme diets and exercise, and for many people neglecting their bodies and health altogether when that backfires. One risk of pursuing “Health” at any cost is the development of dangerous and potentially fatal eating disorders.
3 Real Solutions to Replace Weight, Diet or Appearance Focused Resolutions
1. Commit to Knowing your Values: Take some time consider what’s really important to you. How do you want to spend your time? Who do you want to be around? Is there a place for love, including self-love starting today?
2. Commit to the Truth that Your Body is Perfect Right here and Right Now…Just…As…It…Is!! There’s a minefield out there called social media. Point being, today’s technology is largely run by algorithms that too often target adolescents and adults who are at high risk of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. This can lead to the exploitation of vulnerable people who then find fault with their bodies and search for diets that will “fix” those imperfections. A toxic minefield designed to make a few people very rich. And to keep you miserable. Start with the truth…there’s NOTHING wrong with your body!
3. Commit to Balance, Flexibility and Celebrating Diversity. The thin ideal, and extreme diets have been centered by our culture, and the advertising industry for decades. This falsehood hurts you whatever your size is. This falsehood systematically oppresses people of size and those who belong to historically minoritized groups communities. The anecdote to hate and rigid control is love. Celebrate size diversity. Celebrate balance with eating and joyful movement. Know the truth that flexibility is a hallmark of health. Denounce sizeism, oppression and exploitation.
Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS is a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in treating addictions (substance, process and food), eating disorders and co-occurring disorders. She has helped thousands of remarkable people with their illnesses. Her knowledge of eating disorders and addiction isn’t just limited to her academic and clinical experience, having had her own personal experience as a woman in recovery from an eating disorder and alcoholism. Today, she is able to combine her personal journey with her medical training to help SunCloud Health patients become emotionally strong, responsible problem-solvers, who are inspired to create fulfilling lives for themselves. She believes in and maintains a holistic perspective in the practice of psychiatry, incorporating biological, psycho-social and spiritual approaches into the individually-tailored treatment programs for each patient at SunCloud Health. She is currently co founder, Chief Medical Officer and CEO of SunCloud Health.