No Diet Day takes place annually on May 6th. It is a day for us to celebrate our bodies just exactly as they are without criticism or judgement. It is a day I hope can turn into many days, free to believe we are enough despite our size, despite what we eat. No Diet Day is a day I hope we can put aside our food judgements, a day we can enjoy and savor ANYTHING we choose to eat. As I’ve been told many times, food is food. It sounds like it should be that simple, but is it? I wish I could say yes, but we live in a diet-focused culture that shames us for what we eat. It shames us of our size.
I am in recovery from disordered eating. My eating disorder began at the age of 15. I am now 55. Because of the journey I am on, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to live in a diet-focused world. Everyday I am dedicated to staying aware of how my thoughts dictate what I eat and how I feel in my body. Each day brings its challenges, as I am up against diet talk continuously. The circle of women I work with are also victims of diet-focused culture and the negative messages it promotes. The body shaming seems endless, as one after the other express dissatisfaction in regards to their body. The diet talk is repeated daily. This diet and that diet are shared amongst them. I wish I could get them to see and believe that diets don’t work.
Because of the continuous chatter, I often find it very hard to not get caught up in it despite my greatest intentions. There are times that it’s too much. So, to take care of myself, I get up from my desk and go for a walk outside the building. I stop and take in a few deep breaths and slowly exhale. I focus my attention on my surroundings. I look up and feel the sun’s warmth on my face. I smile. Perhaps there is a breeze causing the trees to sway to and fro—I imagine they are dancing. I take in the smells and sounds around me. I get out of my head. I feel grounded and ready to go back to work.
But these daily challenges also giving me the strength to strive to be part of the solution, and to fight the diet culture mentality. I am a member of COPE (Community Outreach for the Prevention of Eating Disorders). I am involved in the planning of the NEDA Network No Diet Day. I’ve attended NEDA conferences. I attended the NEDA Body Project Training. It is my passion to be part of the movement of bringing awareness to the dangers of the diet culture we live in.
Early on in my recovery, I worked at a healthcare facility that promoted weight shaming and dieting. A “wellness” program was put into place to promote weight loss and encourage employees to achieve the standard BMI measurement of a healthy weight. There was a monetary incentive put into place for individuals to strive to meet the unrealistic goal of being the “right size.” Every year I witnessed my coworkers struggle with diets. As the required weight-in day drew closer, there was so much anxiety, anguish, and frustration. If they didn’t meet the weight loss requirement, they were penalized monetarily.
When this program began, I was still very sick with my eating disorder. The day I was put on the scale and praised for my low weight, I knew something was wrong with the system. What was being promoted was not only unacceptable but unsafe as well. At that time, I decided to write the company expressing my concern with rewarding someone who was very sick. I pointed out that someone of size could certainly be much healthier than someone who was at a low weight. Size does not determine who is considered healthy and who is not. My letter was acknowledged with what seemed to be an understanding of my concern, and the program is no longer in place.
So, on May 6th, let us fight to put aside the rules and judgements. Let us stand up and fight for who we are and celebrate every body. Let us be free of the diet mentality. Let us stand up and say, “Enough!”
You are enough. I am enough. We are enough.
Join the NEDA Network in rejecting diet culture by promoting No Diet Day on May 6th.
Linda Mitchell lives in Daytona Beach, Florida. She is a member of COPE (Community Outreach for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), and is in recovery from a life long battle of disordered eating. She enjoys yoga, photography, and creative sewing.