Smash the Wellness Industry
June 8, 2019 7:48 PM   Subscribe

The diet industry is a virus. "I’m still trying to separate my worth from my appearance. They are two necklaces that have gotten tangled over the course of my 35 years, their thin metal chains tied up in thin metal knots. Eventually, I will pry them apart." Jessica Knoll for the NYT Sunday Review
posted by bq (69 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed this article. Predictably, many of the replies in the NYT comment section are by men saying things like "It's actually not hard to stay thin, just eat vegetables" and "but... are biologically drawn towards thin women!" which is frustrating.
But those comments also offer a really good argument for why we have to continue to collectively push back against the obsession with physical aesthetics and lifestyle in the guise of "wellness" that, as the author communicates quite clearly, is actually really counterproductive to helping people live healthy lives.
posted by loquacious crouton at 8:02 PM on June 8 [15 favorites]

Aren’t dieticians that market the idea that humans without eating disorders have to be retaught to eat “naturally” over two years’ time accompanied by books and seminars about it clearly part of the diet industry?
posted by Selena777 at 8:04 PM on June 8 [29 favorites]

Lol yeah. The comment from someone who is healthy now because they grind their own wheat berries to make their own bread. That seems like a good, universal solution that everyone can just adopt.
posted by greermahoney at 8:29 PM on June 8 [20 favorites]

Aren’t dieticians that market the idea that humans without eating disorders have to be retaught to eat “naturally” over two years’ time accompanied by books and seminars about it clearly part of the diet industry?

the problem with capitalism is that if you don’t tear it out root and branch, you can only fight it with more capitalism - leading to situations like this, where you can’t treat disordered behaviors instilled by relentless marketing without resorting to relentless marketing
posted by murphy slaw at 8:33 PM on June 8 [42 favorites]

i mean we are at a point where we have to conduct public influence campaigns to remind people to drink water instead of the thousands of magic potions we’ve come up with to sell to each other
posted by murphy slaw at 8:35 PM on June 8 [37 favorites]

I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear “wellness.” This was before I could recognize wellness culture for what it was — a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems. But at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.

Margaret Cho concurs.

The search led me to a nearby dietitian who is considered by some to be one of the founding mothers of intuitive eating.

Um. No?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:41 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

In 2019, I want to propose a new kind of test. Women, can two or more of us get together without mentioning our bodies and diets?

Waaaay ahead of you. I'm talking about my body and diet these days because I'm pregnant and my embodiment is unusually interesting...but in general this is a topic that seldom comes up in my conversations.
posted by potrzebie at 8:48 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]

i mean we are at a point where we have to conduct public influence campaigns to remind people to drink water instead of the thousands of magic potions we’ve come up with to sell to each other

You'll pry my Brawndo® out of my cold dead hands!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:51 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]

In 2019, I want to propose a new kind of test. Women, can two or more of us get together without mentioning our bodies and diets?

I can't think of the last conversation I had with a woman friend about my body or my diet. Seriously. I don't even remember doing that when I was young and seriously insecure (as opposed to middle-aged and mildly insecure). I did tell a male friend recently that "everything hurts and I'm dying." But this writers' "small act of kindness and resistance" has been many people's choice for many years.
posted by crush at 9:06 PM on June 8 [30 favorites]

the idea that humans without eating disorders have to be retaught to eat “naturally”

If someone wants a professional to teach them to eat differently, that's not necessarily an eating disorder, but it does indicate that they're not okay with their relationship to food.

I haven't gotten the sense from the intuitive eating or HAES material I've read that every person needs help to feel less unpleasant about food. Lots of people, many of whom aren't suffering enough for an ED diagnosis, appear to be having relationships with food and eating that I can most honestly describe as "suffering."

I have typed and deleted a lot of words here because I can't work out which stories to tell or how. A large number of women and girls in my life, cis and trans, lovers and relatives and classmates and co-workers, have engaged in weight loss or wellness efforts that seem to me like an unending, unproductive font of misery.

If someone you liked a whole lot asked you about where they might turn next, having "failed" at diets and "not a diet" programs for years, how would you suggest responding? Any answer to the effect "roll my eyes at them for being less enlightened" can go eat raw kale straight out of a plastic container.
posted by bagel at 9:15 PM on June 8 [38 favorites]

can go eat raw kale straight out of a plastic container.
posted by bagel

posted by lalochezia at 9:19 PM on June 8 [11 favorites]

I think, considering how much misery eating disorders cause (including things like orthorexia) and the culture we live in that propagates and profits off of said disorders, having people trained in combating that scientifically like the dietitian in question is a lot better then usual diet-industrial complex that pushes women to be thinner and thinner and more miserable in the name of "health" that isn't health. We need more dietitians trained in intuitive eating. More doctors too.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:20 PM on June 8 [15 favorites]

Re: talking about dieting: I get it. I went on a serious diet about 9 years ago, and my friend did too. Every single conversation we had for about 6 months ended up being about calories. And I saw her multiple times a week. It was so freaking tiresome. I decided I never wanted to do that again. But sadly, my friend still goes on and off diets. Now keto. And quite a few convos end up being about what she eats. Still in the good/bad dichotomy. “I was so bad this weekend - Let’s get salads today and I won’t have a drink.” It’s a real thing that happens on diets. I may not need this article today, but maybe I could have used it 8 years ago. So I’m sure someone needs to hear this message today.
posted by greermahoney at 9:20 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]

My latest philosophy is this: my body isn't bad and broken for retaining fat. It's hyper-optimized for a world where food scarcity was real and fat was a survival tool. Because they had bodies like mine, my foremothers survived to make me.

Now in this historical time and place, and if we're lucky enough to get our fully automated luxury communist Utopia, this hyper optimization is unneeded. But probably not something we can retool without much better medical understanding than we currently have.

And I can't do anything about that. I have an old-fashioned metabolism that worked really well for millennia and is doing its best for me. I should appreciate that.

I have to push back on forces that want me to hate myself and cherish this amazingly functional yet fragile meatsack as best I can.
posted by emjaybee at 10:52 PM on June 8 [62 favorites]

Problem is, there's some really effective OTC treatments floating in a sea of green coffee bean-type scheisse.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:05 PM on June 8

Metafilter: antieponycarbsterical
posted by sammyo at 11:06 PM on June 8

Maybe instead of sneering at the concept of needing to talk to an anti-diet dietician we could acknowledge that when you’ve been led to believe that you can’t be trusted to know what to eat, when to eat, how to eat it, and all the bullshit we absorb from families, friends, and pop culture your whole life that yeah, hiring someone who understands intuitive eating is a valid choice?

I’m glad so many people in this thread don’t feel like they need help with this. Many people, especially those socialized as women, struggle with this. We raise kids without autonomy to choose if they’re done eating and we tell women if they crave sweets or salty foods or chocolate they should try eating an entirely different thing instead. Even men get that massively popular Eat This, Not That column and books. We are told that if you allow yourself to eat whatever you want then you’ll dive into all your forbidden foods and never stop and that you can never keep those foods in the house because you can’t be trusted with them. We are lied to about food addiction — in the absence of restriction it’s not real but the mainstream media talks about it all the time using distorted studies and books based on sugar addiction become bestsellers.

And when you start intuitive eating you actually do usually have a period of binging and feeling out of control and it can be very scary. You’ve been shamed for wanting to eat without restriction your entire life. Especially because you’ll probably restore the weight that you’ve been suppressing. And that first stage of feeling out of control around food takes six months to a year. So two years with an anti diet dietician to support you and reassure you that it eventually gets easier and that gaining weight isn’t as scary as you think — that isn’t a capitalist trick. It’s what it takes.

It’s deeply frustrating to see takes here from people who have apparently no clue what intuitive eating is beyond assuming it’s just the hunger and fullness mindfulness diet. There are a few shitty actors and it’s easy to spot them because they all mention weight loss. The dietician that Knoll talks about does not. The dietician also correctly categorizes “emotional eating” as a neutral coping skill. This is a good article and it’s an extremely radical message for the NYT. If you want to judge the people making comments about it over there perhaps consider why we need to discredit it here from other angles.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 11:08 PM on June 8 [98 favorites]

There is an actual human who runs (or used to run) a blog called "The Fat Nutritionist" at

Like most humans she is part of the capitalist system, but you can read her blog for free.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:23 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]

Secondig the fat nutritionist. She's amazing. Her work on the blog has slowed down because she's been studying a master's or something similar.

I like this article, watered down and easy to read as it might be. I'd push back against the idea that men don't talk about their bodies are diets though. I dislike the gendered conclusion to the article in general but as people upthread have mentioned it's was written in the context of white feminism and pretty explicit pro-capitalism and for what it is, it's good.
posted by Braeburn at 12:34 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]

From a writer who worked at Cosmo. Sure, Jan.


I'm in a weird place with this. I've normally veered away from diets for the sake of thinness. I've experimented with certain diets for health reasons (once to see if I did have a gluten intolerance) and there was a point where I went pescetarian just cause I lost the taste for meat, though I had to stop that after 6 months because I still wasn't getting enough iron despite my best efforts (I already have iron issues) and was getting ill. But otherwise - I like food. I don't eat a TON of food at once (American portion sizes scare me) but I like to enjoy a variety of flavours, grew up in a culture where food is at the heart of everything, love to try different things. I was an intuitive eater before it was a Thing - my body can have a slight craving for something, I fulfil it once or so, then it's happy, it's exactly what it needed.

I recently got diagnosed with metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance. I've been told to go low-carb low-sugar to manage the condition. I spent the first couple of weeks barely eating ANYTHING because I got stressed out over "omg is 13 carb HIGH or LOW". When I finally saw the dietician, she was all "stop stressing so much, you're not at the point of needing to read nutrition labels, just avoid having too much added sugar and change some carb options around but also don't deprive yourself of birthday cake". Her portion sizes are way more than my usual ones. Even then, there's still a part of me that's all OMG I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS WRONG - not from a thinness standpoint, more from a "I don't want to fuck up my insulin" standpoint. And I find myself inching closer to the "good food/bad food" dichotomy that I've been trying to avoid all this while.

Some doctors, no matter the reason I see them, keep harping on about how I need to "lose weight". I'm not even that overweight!! Why does the MRI DOCTOR care?! But I'm sure that even if I do the insulin resistance diet totally correctly, if I don't conform to Thin, it will be my fault if I end up as diabetic as my parents or my aunt or a chunk of my family. Even if I have close friends who are rail-thin and still diabetic. The dietician was open but not all doctors are.
posted by divabat at 12:55 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]

I go to a physical trainer type person every week, just to make sure that I'm not going to end up with lopsided muscle development as I coast through middle-age. I just want core muscles strengthened, joints stretched, and a good sense of how strong my cardiovascular system is.

Occasionally he'll start scolding me for my weight, or want to weigh me. I've taken to just smiling at him and saying "That's not what I'm here for, Paul." Help me strengthen my fat body, not guide me to a weaker thin one, dude.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:36 AM on June 9 [28 favorites]

I use a somewhat modified keto diet to control diabetes and it's pretty amazing how effective if it is. The rest of my family are on insulin and don't do any kind of special diet but just eat what they want.
When I used to read about intuitive eating, I remember reading a lot of washing over the actual research research into how high sugar and processed food diets impact long term health
; I can't read this article though so maybe this one is better at addressing the actual research because I am of the mind that the standard American diet is in fact fairly scientifically demonstrably harmful to people's health in very direct measurable ways.

So I have mixed feelings about the idea of ignoring the amount of chemical and sugar laden foods we are saturated with by the industrial food complex, combined with the following diet industry complex shaming people for being impacted by the sugar/chemical/processed industrial food complex that is making money to influence and feed people garbage. It's like when you walk into the convenience store and you see all the sugary foods, processed food and sodas lined up next to al the medicines you have to take because you're eating what they sell you.

Basically people are going to get money to shove harmful crap at us whether they are physical or emotional crap modules. And then we will be blamed for it whether we try to make the exhaustive effort to avoid what they're launching at us or whether we fail.

We will be doing it wrong and someone will tell us about it.
posted by xarnop at 5:38 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]

I was very thin my entire life. At 5’2, I didn’t break 100 lbs until my mid-20s, and didn’t break 110 until my mid-30s...when I went on prednisone for an allergic reaction that was giving me chronic hives. I’ve also been on various types of birth control pills since I was 20. So I spent my entire adult life forcing myself to eat when I wasn’t hungry, in order to maintain a weight that didn’t make me look terrible, and then took medication that made me starving hungry ALL THE TIME. I was constantly shaming myself for not being able to go even an hour without wanting to eat. And I like food, too.

So now I’m in my mid-40s and about 20-25 lbs overweight, and it’s a testament to my metabolism that it’s not at least twice that much. And the mental dialogue is so difficult. No, it’s not as simple as just eating vegetables. At this size, I have to exercise just as much as anyone else to lose literally half the calories as your typical dude, and the calorie margin between “weight loss” and “weight gain” is razor thin. One slice of bread and there goes half an hour of cardio. No wonder it takes up so much head space. I’m trying to relearn what it was like for me decades ago, when I only ate when I was hungry.

I call the constant diet talk “Gramwatch” as an ironic reference to news stations that have to dramatically break into a broadcast in order to announce the latest storm conditions. I acknowledge this tendency in myself even as it bugs me when others do it.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:47 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I really liked the article and saw a lot I could recognize.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:52 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of thoughts on this.

First, the entanglement of weight and health is so goddamn pervasive. I am someone who will probably never be considered overweight. I was underweight most of my life (not due to an eating disorder). Always eat as much as I want, sometimes a little more (especially recently, as I’ve lost ten pounds in a year without trying to) and never even approached the point where the doctor starts talking shit. In college I pretty much lived on hot dogs, Cheezits, and bagels—didn’t gain a single pound.

Felt like shit, though! And so after college I started researching how to eat healthy to feel better. And my god, it’s literally impossible to find information about eating healthy that doesn’t have a weight loss assumption built in. I’ve tried using food diary apps to get a sense of how what I put in my body is making me feel, but they’ve all got calorie trackers front and center and every day tell me I’m 500 or so over my “limit.” Great, still lost 10 pounds that my doctor is concerned about. Because of my gut problems, I’m supposed to eat 6-8 small meals a day instead of 3 big ones. I was trying to research how to, you know, do this practically, and all I got were ten million articles crowing "eating small meals doesn't actually help with weight loss so don't do it!" Motherfucker, I'm not here to lose weight, I'm here to stop running to the bathroom 15 minutes after eating. Christ.

That said, I think there is value in looking at what you're putting in your body and how it makes you feel. I don't believe in "clean" or "sinful" food or whatever. But I do know eating nothing but bagels and cream cheese does, after a little while, make me feel awful. Eating vegetables generally makes me feel better than eating chips. But my focus has never been on avoiding or restricting certain foods, just increasing other foods. For me, a lot of the reason I eat stuff that makes me feel like shit is that it's easy and I default to it, not 'cause I want it. So changing my diet has been a lot of making other foods more available and consciously reminding myself, "I bought pears and a few different yummy cheeses because sliced cheese and pears is a delicious and filling snack, I should do that instead of chips and dip." That said, if I'm craving chips and dip? I have it! And probably because I'm not restricting myself, I don't get those cravings that often. I actually end up letting my """unhealthy""" foods go bad sometimes because the cravings are so infrequent and easily satisfied.

The only thing I avoid is excessive sugar, and that's because I figured out a few years ago that more than, say, half a donut, will send me running to the bathroom within the hour. I have rapid gastric emptying, and my GI doctor recently explained to me that sugar does something in specific to my gut it doesn't do to most people. So I do limit that, but in a, "Okay, I know if I eat too much I am going to feel very sick, and I don't wanna feel very sick right now." Occasionally, I'll be like, "Eh, fuck it, I've got nothing to do this evening, I can afford to get sick." On the other hand, I've gotten so used to this that I can be satisfied with just a few bites of donut now, so half a dozen donuts lasts me forever.

Okay. That's my experience. Here's the other side.

My partner gained a lot of weight after going on birth control and antidepressants. Even after switching to an antidepressant that supposedly isn't linked to weight gain, they haven't been able to lose it. And yet every single doctor is pressuring them to. Worse, there are multiple doctors that won't do anything more for them until they lose weight. They've been looking into breast reduction surgery for back pain that they've had since a teenager, but the surgeon and insurance company are not going to consider it until they lose weight to "see if that helps." Their GERD doctor keeps telling them the only thing that's going to make them feel better is losing weight so there's less pressure on their stomach (also, don't wear clothes that put pressure on your stomach! BECAUSE WITH J BOOBS YOU CAN GO AROUND WITHOUT A BRA??).

My partner and I worked for years to get them past their body image issues, but in recent months it's all coming back because they keep having doctors tell them, "The reason you feel like shit is because you're fat." That's really, really, really hard to ignore. They know very well that diets don't work, how weak the link between weight and health is, etc. But they're still trying to lose weight. Not because they're not "enlightened." But because they feel like shit, and it turns out the only way anyone will help is if they get thin enough. And I really can't judge them for that. They're trying to do it as safely and mentally healthily as possible--increasing exercise, eating more vegetables and less sugar, paying more attention to overeating (but not restricting themselves so that they refuse to eat when they're hungry), etc. I'm kind of afraid it's not going to work, though ("afraid" because I know they'll be extremely discouraged, not because I think they need to lose weight). Because as many people have said, eating healthy often does not result in any kind of weight loss. Often, the only way to lose weight is to be extremely unhealthy about how you approach food and exercise, and it often doesn't stay off.
posted by brook horse at 5:54 AM on June 9 [17 favorites]

Aren’t dieticians that market the idea that humans without eating disorders have to be retaught to eat “naturally” over two years’ time accompanied by books and seminars about it clearly part of the diet industry?
Define "without eating disorders". I think an awful lot of women are walking around with low-grade eating disorders, and that's probably especially true of women in the creative industries in New York and LA. And it is really hard to break out of that mindset when you're in a culture that constantly reinforces it. I also pretty much never talk about diet or weight with my friends, but that's largely because of conscious decisions that I have made about who I will be friends with. And I still have to negotiate that hellscape that is my workplace wellness program, which is just constant eating disorder triggers.

I dunno. I should probably avoid this discussion, because tbh, I'm struggling a bit with body stuff right now. But holy fuck. Maybe hold off with the "there is no solution to your problems other than to smash capitalism" shit when you're talking about problems that you don't face?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:05 AM on June 9 [19 favorites]

The Fat Nutritionist is a Mefite. One who has been treated pretty poorly here in the past.

On that note, I’m not going to be reading any comments that start equating weight and health or talk about the industrial food complex without actually having read the fucking article or engaged with the huge amount of money made from convincing us that we can’t be trusted with a bag of Doritos because of some magic combo of sugar fat salt.

What I will say to that is that I don’t trust Big Snacks anymore than you all. But I also found once I addressed the disordered eating patterns taught to me by diet culture that I could be in a room with unlimited junk food and not give a shit. The link between binging and restriction is undeniable.

But instead of engaging with the article which has links addressing these things this conversation has gone into talking about diets and weight loss and skepticism about whether fat people can be healthy. It’s not surprising but it’s deeply fucked up to people in marginalized bodies.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:22 AM on June 9 [30 favorites]

And I want to be clear. People in marginalized bodies are your fellow Mefites. And when you come in to this conversation to further stigmatize our bodies and eating habits you do real harm. Your comments about restrictive diets that “aren’t a diet” do harm. Consider why you need to comment here and what voices you are driving away (like The Fat Nutritionist who as far as I know isn’t active here) in favor of talking about weight and health without having read the article.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:26 AM on June 9 [31 favorites]

@bagel says
Any answer to the effect "roll my eyes at them for being less enlightened" can go eat raw kale straight out of a plastic container.
Suggest they learn to sit for a half-hour at a time without moving or thinking about food, or really thinking at all? Not a solution by itself, to be sure, but it's a start.

Rolling your eyes at them would hardly be productive, but more enlightened is what they need?
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 6:46 AM on June 9

I felt like it's a little unfair to be blocked by a paywall from an issue I care about and have read a lot about but then I discovered I could get access without paying. So as someone who has dealt with having a marginalized body and who has dealt with tons of health issues and diets like a lot of us here- (and who found a way to read the article without having to pay)- I think it's fair to be perplexed by the idea of intuitive eating which is something I have looked into and read a lot about. We're all trying to figure this stuff out and there is lot of mixed and confusing information. I love a lot of the ideas about intuitive eating and I think the movement is needed.

100% this: "The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too. " NPR recently covered how shaming people for their weight causes weight gain even in people who not "overweight" to begin with.

Where I get confused is where I can see how high sugar foods directly make my insulin soar, and then I have to decide how I would interact with some statements I read in intuitive eating that I'm supposed to believe food has no impact on health which directly contradicts what I read in the science and what I see happen measurably in my body. Reading the 10 guidelines for intuitive eating I feel like you can do a lot of these principles, while also believing that what we put in our bodies does in fact impact our health and creating a diet of whole foods. I feel like being restricted to never allowing yourself to make conscious food choices about what we eat is another form of ping ponging back and forth with more restrictions. A movement doesn't have to be perfect to get my support, but I do feel like there are a few restrictions the intuitive eating guideline gives that I can't support for myself and I wonder if this turns off some people who might benefit from it.

I also wonder if what you get when you go to a intuitive eating dietition is more permissive of making conscious choices about eating than what you see online where the focus is on demonstrating how ok it is to eat anything without thinking too hard about it because so many need to hear that.

I think that this discrepancy probably sends a lot of people who would need intuitive eating away from it, and talking about it is good. I would also agree that this is not a good topic to make drive by comments about without having spent a lot of time knowing either for yourself or reading others experiences what it is like dealing with these issues.
posted by xarnop at 7:03 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]

I feel like being restricted to never allowing yourself to make conscious food choices about what we eat is another form of ping ponging back and forth with more restrictions.
I don't think that Intuitive Eating says that you can never make conscious food choices. The tenth principle, "Honor Your Health", is about what they call "gentle nutrition," which is the idea that you can make healthy food choices without engaging in all-or-nothing thinking or demonizing some kinds of food. That's really challenging, but I think there are ways to do it. For me, a lot of it is thinking about nutrition in positive terms, not negative terms. I ask myself whether I'm eating all the things that my body needs, rather than thinking about avoiding food that I think of as "bad." If I'm eating the things that my body needs, and I'm listening to hunger and satiety cues, then my diet is probably fine.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:18 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]

Intuitive eating doesn’t say that you can eat any foods without affecting your health. Intuitive eating definitely doesn’t say that people who notice that certain foods cause them to feel badly should keep eating those foods. I think it’s hard to convey this message online in briefly outlined steps but I can say a bit more about it and maybe explain what it does say about nutrition.

I think the confusion about this, if you read really broad overviews of intuitive eating or follow some of the popular voices, is that “gentle nutrition” is step 10 for a reason: talking about nutrition before talking about the basics of just eating “normally” can lead to people continuing to restrict food. Getting to the point of understanding the link between food and health requires a lot of work in between unlearning diet culture’s influence over what we think food can do for us. One piece of this is the nocebo affect from diet culture means a lot of people eat something and experience real side effects because they’ve been told repeatedly that they will.

Also note that when we talk about health, diet AND exercise only make up 25% of what we can influence. Social factors, genetics, access to healthcare, the environment, etc — things we have less or no control over — make up the other three-quarters. When people talk about food as medicine they’re missing a HUGE piece of the puzzle. When we (we being most of western culture) talk about something like nutrition for managing diabetes we don’t talk about weight stigma’s role or genetics or the environment you grew up in, and even acknowledge that larger body size is correlated but doesn’t cause diabetes. We tell people they caused it by what they eat.

So a lot of what you read online about intuitive eating focuses only on the first pieces of giving yourself full permission to eat because talking about nutrition’s role in health isn’t as important as we think it is. It doesn’t meant it’s not a factor but people wildly overestimate what nutrition can do for our health (outside of something like celiac disease). It’s really common for people to just want a prescription for how to do intuitive eating and to turn it into the hunger and fullness diet so you rarely see dietitians talking about the nuanced nutrition because people will ignore all the other aspects of it just to get that one final piece.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:28 AM on June 9 [17 favorites]

Coincidentally, one of the Washington Post's food columnists talked this week with several professional nutritionists: "There’s no such thing as ‘bad food.’ Four terms that make dietitians cringe."
posted by PhineasGage at 7:29 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]

From the article: I think loving our bodies is not only an unrealistic goal in our appearance-obsessed society but also a limiting one. No one is telling men that they need to love their bodies to live full and meaningful lives. We don’t need to love our bodies to respect them.

This kind of jumped out at me, I've never thought about it in this way. I put a lot of pressure on myself to feel a certain way about my body in the name of self-love. But sometimes it's just another way to beat myself up, to put all this pressure on myself to feel a certain way about my body when I'm swimming in societal messages about how this or that part of my body doesn't measure up.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:14 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]

No one is telling men that they need to love their bodies to live full and meaningful lives.

There’s a certain amount to pick apart there but I’m going to cautiously generalize and say this is not true for gay men. I don’t think we get it from childhood the way women do but once you’re dating age you get a lot of messages that the shape you’re in determines whether you have all of that glorious 10% of the population to serve as your dating pool or are a sub-subculture/fetish.
posted by Smearcase at 9:23 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]

Smearcase, definitely-- and I'm not sure I took her to be saying that men don't experience feelings around the appearance of their bodies, but rather that women are constantly *also* told that they Should Love Their Bodies. In some cases this is empowering, absolutely, but it's also a message that has been coopted by marketing and the fitness industry in general and in my experience sometimes it just feels like another thing that I can't do right.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:53 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]

When about something like nutrition for managing diabetes we...tell people they caused it by what they eat.

We do, and it is bullshit. I have been close to some Type 1 diabetics, who have been shamed and generally treated poorly for giving themselves diabetes or making bad choices or whatever - and that's not how it works. Type 1 is where someone has an onset event that causes their body to mess up the pancreas. Onset events appear to be autoimmune and happen when the body is stressed - things like infection, fever, and pregnancy. No amount of healthy living can prevent it or cure it. This group will need insulin forever because their bodies don't make it.

I am currently close to a person who is likely to be Type 2 at some point, because they've been prediabetic before and it often worsens with age. Type 2 is the kind that's strongly inheritable, and that involves the pancreas functioning less well over time and/or under heavy load - it's possible to need meds to manage it and then not need them later.

This person has been using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for a while to work out what their body is doing, and at one point had a bunch of spare sensors and stuck one to me. I ate a lot of modern industrial junk food, and didn't get over 112 in those ten days.

Health and virtue aren't connected. I don't have normal blood glucose or gluten tolerance because I've done anything right, but because I have been lucky. It is terrible and unfair that I can eat bagels without consequences and others cannot.
posted by bagel at 10:04 AM on June 9 [21 favorites]

Calvinists really do fuck up everything they touch.
posted by mikelieman at 10:10 AM on June 9 [20 favorites]

I’m obsessed with what I eat because I’m insulin resistant and for about 15 years I had no fucking clue and couldn’t stay at a healthy weight no matter what I did. I used to think I had an eating disorder because I was preoccupied with food and trying to keep weight off but now I realize I was just trying to feel normal. Now that I know what my problem is I either have to keep to a strict, insanely healthy diet or my entire body goes completely haywire. People I talk to don’t seem to comprehend this and just assume I don’t want to eat certain foods or certain amounts of food for vanity reasons.

Ok well it’s also vanity reasons but mostly I don’t want to feel like absolute crap.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:06 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]

"but... are biologically drawn towards thin women!"

One of the things that really reinforces what a bubble I live in (and why I'm unlikely to leave it) is how put off I am about the idea that I should conduct myself as if male attraction and approval are what give my little female life meaning.

Health and virtue aren't connected.

I live in a multigenerational household -- after twenty years of living 3000 miles from my parents -- and one of the more fascinating aspects of that has been observing my Boomer mother's attitudes toward food and appearance, even in her 70s. She's still mildly mindblown that I don't fret over my "problem areas" or starve my way back to the dress size of my early 20s.

I had to have a talk with her and my Boomer mother-in-law when my daughter was a toddler, and I explained that it was fine if either of those ladies wanted to attach values judgments to themselves and their food qua their dietary choices, but in this house, the only way we referred to food itself was as "growing foods" and "sometimes foods" and we never attached value judgments like "good" or "bad."

("Growing foods" was an inducement for my child to think of food as a net positive for building muscles and "long, strong bones," and for providing "fuel for fun." The goal was to help my daughter think of food as a pleasurable and vital part of being a human being, not an enemy to be vanquished at every begrudging meal.)

It will never not amaze me that even something as fundamental as eating can be jacked up by gender toxicity and larger moralizing.
posted by sobell at 12:18 PM on June 9 [31 favorites]

Young Kullervo, I have the same issue with a lot of anti-diet friends in my circles that actually interrogate me if I refuse to eat sweet things. It can get weird either direction honestly and I feel like people are policing me no matter what I do, so I'd rather do what keeps my blood sugar healthy and feeling good even if it means eliminating food with added sugar and high processed carbs. I definitely feel very judged by both the extreme side of the pro and anti diet crowds who all have very strong opinions about whether my food choices make me dangerously diseased albeit for opposite reasons. Somewhere in the middle seeing the harms of diet fads, thin obsession, and wellness culture as well as the way certain kinds of highly processed diets do in fact produce more or less disease in people seems my goal.

I imagine as the thorn bushes have roses has said, there are probably a lot more people practicing intuitive eating that are flexible and understandable about the fact that many of us want to make active food choices towards fresh veggies and fruits and whole foods, and practice a more moderate version of this then what happens online where the whole conversation has to happen in a heated and loaded context where diet culture and fat shaming often still dominate the consciousness and subconsciousness of those in the discussion. One of the rules says not to comfort or stress eat, yet in the article it says a dietician said stress eating is totally ok and should not be judged (which is what I agree with). When I see a list with 10 principles to follow I get the same reaction of back off my choices that I think some people get from diet culture so it's just a reaction to how judgy our culture is and how it feels to me being told that I'm pathologically disordered if I don't want to eat ice cream that will make my blood sugar spike. I have a friend who is definitely on a soap box about interrogating people about whether they are pathologically eating disordered if they turn down candy or sweets and it gets... weird. I know she means well, but I think the judging may be just as harmful whether it's pressuring people to eat or not eat things.

And our whole advertising and food additive industry is designed to coax our tastebuds into overconsuming things that haven't been a part of the human diet until very recently so any diet recommendations that tells me to ignore that and not have any judgements about the quality or health aspects of things I might eat leaves me feeling like a big part of the cause of disordered relationships with food is being missed. Like most important things, these are hard complex issues that require nuanced thinking.
posted by xarnop at 12:59 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]

I don't think that intuitive eating is aimed at people who currently have a healthy relationship with food. If what you're doing is working for you, that's great. It's super rude to interrogate anyone about their food choices, and you don't have to justify your eating habits to anyone. I really wish people would not feel the need to announce that they are making active food choices towards fresh veggies and fruits and whole foods, because the whole topic is both triggering and boring, but your actual food choices are swell. You are not the subject of this discussion. This is a discussion for and about people who are trying to recover from the damage done by diet culture. If that's not you, then you don't have to pay any attention to any of it. There is no reason for you to read the ten principles, because they're not about you.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:20 PM on June 9 [18 favorites]

Ugh. I hate when people feel the need to chirp in about the proven negative health effects of sugar, and how that proves that "There are no bad foods" is some malicious lie.

I'm fat. And my vitals have been moving in the direction of metabolic syndrome since I was diagnosed with high blood pressure 10 years ago when I was Not Fat. I actually regularly got high blood pressure readings prior to that. But doctors would shake their head BECAUSE IM SO YOUNG, help me through a breathing exercise, and get a normal blood pressure reading.

My adrenals are through the roof. My cortisol levels through the roof. I was always a bit of a worrier, but no one in my life actually thought to check if my anxiety was normal. And for me, it was all normal. I didn't realize that I was always experiencing anxiety, and what I thought was anxiety, was typically dissociation. The thing your body does when it literally believes it's going to die.

When you dissociate, there are a number of grounding techniques. Since I've started actually getting professional help, I've been able to learn effective ones. But still, to this day, the fastest way to come out of a dissociative episode so I can function is junk food. It engages all five senses, and five minutes later I can actually process the words my supervisor is telling me.

All my life, I've been shamed for using sugar and salt as a coping mechanism. But it's been far less destructive than drugs, smoking, alcohol, gambling, compulsive risk taking, suicide. And I don't really want to pit maladaptive coping mechanisms against each other. Because the answer isn't simply to invent the perfect coping mechanism when the issue is this large. It's to reduce the amount of stress Americans are expected to handle.

I'm currently working on bringing my underlying issues that force me towards choosing the least bad coping mechanism. But damn is it a lot of work that is not compatible with our exploitative working environments. And it's work I can only afford to do because I fell into a position that provides good health insurance and good disability insurance. Because the typical working environment doesn't really allow you to take 20-30 minutes to come down from a dissociative episode, especially if you're having them 6-8 times a day.

So no. I am not under the illusion that Junk food provides the same sustenance as proteins or vegetables. But you are in no position to decide if it's not the best option at that moment. We have so much evidence that shame exacerbates the problem, and the largest issues are structural. So really, take a few minutes to think about whether you really need to post that comment about how actually cutting out X could save the world, or a subset of it. You just make 'healthy' foods taste like shame.
posted by politikitty at 1:40 PM on June 9 [21 favorites]

I'm not super familiar with the intuitive eating movement, but I am familiar with disability discussions around health, and it sounds to me like some clarity can be found by separating "it is morally okay to eat whatever you want" and "you will feel good emotionally and physically eating anything you want." I don't think intuitive eating is saying the latter. They're saying that it is your right to eat whatever you want, and it does not make you a bad person. Similarly, in the disability community, we often say "health is not a moral imperative."

I have a chronic illness for which one of the treatments is exercise. My doctor told me I needed to start doing 45 minutes of high-intensity interval exercise 3-4x a week. What she said, "You're going to feel like shit for the first couple of months, and then you'll feel better." I had just started grad school. I couldn't afford to do that. So I didn't. I made the choice to be "less healthy" and that doesn't make me a bad person. I expect many people make similar decisions surrounding food, whether due to situations like politikitty, or because their relationship with food is so fraught that the mental harm a change in diet could cause isn't worth the (as the thorn bushes have roses highlights) marginal physical benefits. And that's fine.

Nobody is arguing they can live on a diet of Twinkies and feel awesome (physically, mentally may be another story). But they are arguing that the decisions people make about their health are none of your business. Unless they specifically ask you for advice on how to be healthier, your opinion is not needed. Further, you will never have enough data to be able to accurately determine if making a change towards a "better" diet will actually benefit them overall. Those diet changes may have mental effects, or the energy required may outweigh the benefit (please don't come at me with "eating healthy is easy" because it's really not). Even if a "better" diet would actually benefit them overall? People still have the right to reject it without being told they're bad people.

I'm saying this as someone who has seen significant benefits from changing her diet. I still say it is absolutely, 100%, irrevocably okay to eat whatever the hell you want. If you ask me what I did to feel better*, or want suggestions for how you could make changes that might make you feel better, sure, I might talk a little about diet and offer some things to consider. But if you don't want to make those changes? If you decide it's not worth it? That's fine! Health is not a moral imperative. You do not owe health to me, or anyone else.**

*What I did to feel better includes taking two horse pills worth of salt a day, prescribed by my doctor, which is another reason it's impossible to determine what's "healthy" for another person.
**Obvious exception for vaccines and things that actually impact other people.

posted by brook horse at 2:00 PM on June 9 [21 favorites]

I'm glad the author of the op-ed is working away from the binge-purge cycle. Her way away from it won't work for everyone, though.

Emotional eating is a coping mechanism. We’re told it is an unhealthy habit, one we must break, but that’s another wellness lie. It is not vodka in our morning coffee.

For some of us, emotional eating turns into compulsive overeating, which is the functional equivalent of alcohol in coffee. Compulsive overeating is, on its own, an eating disorder. It is not always caused or exacerbated by dietary restriction.

And it can lead to loss of good health, jobs, relationships, and even an early death the same way alcohol can. This is not because of the weight gain that it can cause, either: the sufferer is "checked out" almost in the same way an active alcoholic is. The obsession can take over your life completely.

Everyone eats for emotional reasons sometimes. The compulsive overeater does it frequently enough to where it causes other problems. The author is correct that characterizing emotional eating as "bad" will absolutely not help the sufferer. But characterizing it as a disease if, for the sufferer, that is how it manifests, can save lives.

I know many people for whom the only route away from compulsive overeating involves some combination of a) refraining from eating certain foods b) making sure they get enough of other foods and c) regular check-ins with a fellow sufferer. Some of these people were headed toward bariatric surgery, but instead have maintained 100+ lb weight releases without it for years.

I gave up most high-sugar foods and a few other foods that tended to trigger binges about six months ago. My weight has been stable for months now. The mood swings that were contributing to suicidality are no longer a problem, and I am not on medication. I can even run again for the first time in years (just a few steps and when I need to, sometimes with Doc Martens on!)

I don't need to vilify high-sugar foods in my head to stay away from them. That never worked, anyway. I just have to remember how bad eating them made me feel.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:40 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]

if you don’t need to vilify high sugar foods in your head, could you please refrain from doing it outside your head as well?
posted by politikitty at 4:47 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]

The clinical treatment for binge eating disorder is literally permission to eat. You linked to a definition of compulsive eating that is from a business treating non-clinical “eating disorders” and it’s full of pseudoscientific bullshit.

95-98% of diets fail. It is almost statistically impossible to lose 100 pounds and keep it off for more than 1-2 years without incredibly disordered and objectively unhealthy behaviors. There is rigorous, large scale research behind this — Weight Watchers own data shows that even the most faithful dieters will regain more than they lost after two years, which is why they publish weight loss results after six months before weight gain occurs — and I’m not going to link it for the hundredth time just because someone wants to give anecdotes about how the Good Fatties they know lost weight by eating healthy which is totally fucking irrelevant to this topic.

It’s also completely irrelevant whether the people who lost weight were “headed towards bariatric surgery” because bariatric surgery is something prescribed to every fat person for every condition even though it’s also completely ineffective at keeping people thin long term!

This kind of misrepresentation of intuitive eating and eating disorders with a side of fat shaming is completely irrelevant.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 5:02 PM on June 9 [17 favorites]

The Fat Nutritionist is a Mefite.

was a MeFite...


There was a thread about her in 2012 (relevant to this post, actually) and some of the responses were so breathtakingly nasty it's a pretty good example of why I only lurked until 2014.
posted by frumiousb at 5:04 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]

Ugh, that’s such a loss. Michelle (aka The Fat Nutritionist) is one of the smartest people out there talking about our relationship with food. I can’t imagine how lovely it would be to engage with her here and get that kind of perspective. I guess in exchange for being able to have interesting and complex conversations about food and mortality with someone who knows her shit inside and out and is talking about truly fascinating links between fear of death and dieting we can talk about cutting out sugar and losing weight and making fun of lady writers (Cosmo lol!)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 5:22 PM on June 9 [13 favorites]

95-98% of diets fail. It is almost statistically impossible to lose 100 pounds and keep it off for more than 1-2 years without incredibly disordered and objectively unhealthy behaviors

See, I believe that, but I am trying not to. Because I think, if I can't lose this weight does that mean that I have to live the entire rest of my life being shamed and denied basic things that I need (health care, work, relationships, basic decency) because I'm trapped in a fat body? And feeling worse and worse physically as I age because my body is really starting to feel the strain of extra weight? So I keep jumping on the diet and wellness bullshit train. And failing. Or I make some progress and I hear "diets don't worrrrk" and cold panic and hopelessness hits me again. I can't see any way out of this and it is terrifying.
posted by Feminazgul at 7:11 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]

Feminazgul, that makes so, so much sense. I think you might find a lot of comfort and a LOT of solidarity in the Food Psych podcast . There is a real mourning at what is often referred to as “the fantasy of being thin” — there is no denying that people in larger bodies are discriminated against. The Food Psych podcast has such a wide range of experts in the field of weight science as well as a ton of dietitians and eating disorder specialists and other smart people; Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor are two scholars who have been on who are incredible if you like a scholarly approach to things.

On the less scientific but still well-researched side of things, Kai Hibbard’s episode about her time on the Biggest Loser is fascinating. I also really admire fat activist Ragen Chastain’s episodes (I think she’s been on twice) because she came to fat activism through researching every single diet that had any studies she could access to find the best one and discovered she couldn’t find a single study that showed any weight loss by any diet over time. Not a single one. She goes in depth about how reporting weight loss in the first few months is used when studies show again and again that weight loss is actually the best predictor of weight gain in the long run along with the serious health effects of dieting. (Sorry I’m not linking to those episodes but they’re easy to search for on her site so I’m saving my sanity as I’m using my phone.)

When I listen to inspiring people on that podcast I find a lot of ways to feel hope. Resilience against weight stigma comes in many forms and Food Psych has given me a lot of ideas about what forms to pursue. For me it’s focused on building fat community (my Metafilter profile is all about Portland fat community), following thin allies on social media to be reminded that not every thin person thinks I am a burden on society, seeking out talented people who are fat, looking at media with fat bodies until my body seems less of an aberration. I moved to Portland solely because I knew it was an area with fat community — I just spent the weekend camping with a group called Fat Girls Hiking. 20 fat people camping together is how I resist the urge to try another diet. I know I’ve been commenting a lot in this thread and want to acknowledge that I am taking up a lot of space. I do it because I think we need to know that there are others out here who have rejected diet culture and not let this conversation ignore real issues in favor of talking about cutting out sugar.

Choosing to pursue weight loss, whether through surgery or disordered eating patterns or excessive exercise or drugs or any combination is so understandable for exactly the reasons you said. I don’t blame a single person for wanting to lose weight as long as they’re honest that it’s coming from a place of fear of losing the privilege that comes with lower weight. It is a valid choice. I obviously won’t shut up about it not being about health because it’s rare to see anyone pushing back against that message and it’s a very important one. It’s okay to be fat regardless of health status.

I like my body and my body does amazing things. But I would choose to be thin over being fat in a heartbeat if there was a way to do it that didn’t have serious health concerns and no guarantee of sustainability. I would make more money and have more job opportunities. I would spend less money on clothes, public transportation, well made furniture...on therapy, too. Doctors would treat my symptoms and not my looks. Strangers would be kinder to me because everyone I met wouldn’t have to overcome massive engineered bias against fat people to interact with me.

If anyone reading wonders why I’m so angry and so passionate about this, consider that I know everything that I don’t have because of weight stigma. Consider that after a lifetime of disordered eating and compulsive exercise and bending over backwards to be seen as physically acceptable and worthy of respect that I am still treated as less intelligent, less trustworthy, and a bigger drain on healthcare systems than my thinner peers. These are all things we know people believe about fat people and when you write comments on Metafilter or elsewhere, fat people get the message loud and clear: no matter how well written a NYT article or any of the thousands of articles/books/podcasts/blogs/vlogs out there with real science behind them, you won’t give up the thin privilege you have without a fight. So that’s why I fight so hard here.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:35 PM on June 9 [27 favorites]

There are lots of conditions that are not curable. Honestly we’re all made of fragile meat sacks that are eventually going to fail us.

Profiting on people by providing false hope is unconscionable.

The Fat Nutritionist has great analysis on how diet culture succeeds because it preys on our fear of death. She’s interviewed on Farm to Taber, with Sarah Taber, which does a great job discussing terror management, class and race.
posted by politikitty at 8:38 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]

Diets fail because people don't stick to them. The reason why people don't stick to them is that most calorie-restriction diets are miserable. Who would want to stick to a cup of Special-K with half a cup of nonfat milk for breakfast? But nobody can permanently change their weight with a temporary diet. If you go off the diet, then it "fails". Going back to your normal eating habits means going back to your normal weight.

The classic advice from thin people who have never had to struggle to reduce body fat is to "eat less and exercise". That's also great advice if you want to increase your appetite, which acts in direct opposition to the goal of the diet. Also see, "eat in moderation". It's useless, meaningless, and entirely non-specific advice.

Human bodies are highly individual and respond differently to different foods. Assembling a set of habits around food and diet that get the results you want (health, metabolism, longevity, weight, etc) is a very individual pursuit, even if there lots of well-meaning people who will insist that only their preferred "one true way" will get you what you want. The above-quoted principles of Intuitive Eating of observing and paying attention make a lot of sense. Finding the foods that agree with you and avoiding foods that don't, this demands a lot of attention and observation.
posted by theorique at 5:33 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Diets fail because people don't stick to them.

Seriously? Seriously?! You think this is an appropriate or constructive statement? You sound pro-ana, with your "set of habits around food and diet that get the results you want." Some people are gonna get the results they want the same day I get Chris Evans' hips: we do not have the technology to make some changes happen.

Diets don't produce medium-term or long-term weight loss in almost anyone for a lot of reasons, some of which we don't understand well. One reason is that humans are strongly optimized to seek out and retain macronutrients in order to, like, survive famines. Almost everyone who radically decreases the amount of food they consume is prompting their body to demand a return to the former amount, and to keep making that demand. It's like giving yourself intrusive thoughts - ones that don't diminish over time. A huge number of people don't seem to "adjust" to a new metabolic normal, just feel hungry, tired, and cranky, for weeks, months, or years.

When people return to eating until they're not hungry, there's some evidence that their bodies may demand food and store it as fat even more aggressively than before - clearly, this is a place with famines, better gear up for the next one.

It's not about a specific inadequate meal. It's about feeling terrible, physically and/or emotionally, because your body is doing its best to keep you alive.
posted by bagel at 8:02 AM on June 10 [9 favorites]

Saying that diets don’t work because people don’t stick to them is actually inaccurate. When humans restrict their energy intake, regardless of reason (the body sees restriction as starvation even if you’re already fat) and does a shitload of things to conserve energy. You burn less calories because you’re colder, your stop getting signals to move your body, etc. so while yes hunger signals ramp up big time so you have less “willpower” you would have gained the weight back even if you didn’t eat more.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:02 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]

Bagel, thank you so much. I am exhausted. Why are we still talking about calories in calories out on this fucking thread?
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:03 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]

When you reduce fat people down to “people who can’t stick to a diet” despite massive scientific evidence to the contrary it reinforces the narrative that fat people are weak, sloppy, and careless. It harms us. Even if your intention is to be sympathetic about how hard dieting is for everyone.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:06 AM on June 10 [12 favorites]

I think y'all have misinterpreted theorique here. They're saying that restrictive diets aren't compatible with enjoying one's life, and so it doesn't make any sense to "stick to" them. They're not blaming people; they're saying hey, realistically, this practice is miserable and nonsensical, so of course people will not "stick with" something that is miserable and nonsensical.

And this, which is so true and cruel:

The classic advice from thin people who have never had to struggle to reduce body fat is to "eat less and exercise". That's also great advice if you want to increase your appetite, which acts in direct opposition to the goal of the diet. Also see, "eat in moderation". It's useless, meaningless, and entirely non-specific advice.

posted by witchen at 8:29 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]

I agree with theorique's wider point, but the issue is that when we reduce failed diets down to "people don't stick to them" without recognizing that even people who stick to their diet's eating plan perfectly have metabolic changes happening that cause weight gain over time, we've again reduced a failed diet down to a personal responsibility failure.

People who regain (and then some) the weight after a diet-induced weight loss internalize that failure as a personal one and so does the wider culture, and it leads to more weight stigma, not less, when people just insist if you can find a "wellness" plan and "not a diet" you can still lose weight. It's a very common reduction of what causes diet to fail and it's exactly what the wellness culture has seized upon to try to trick us into believing that if you don't call it a diet, it won't fail like a diet.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:46 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

Sorry if I started off my comment in a way that sounded a bit harsh.

The point is that most "diets" are no fun for the practitioner, and aggressive calorie restriction inevitably makes the diet harder and harder to stick to over time. (Increasing cravings and risk of binges.)

It's not the fault of the dieter, it's the very structure of the process. People don't stick to calorie restrictive diets because they can't - and indeed probably shouldn't!
posted by theorique at 8:49 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]

I admit that Peak Capitalism is my lens for understanding everything wrong with the current world, but I'm not completely wrong.

A lot of what is sold as food is fake stuff specifically designed to make you eat compulsively. Doritos - they probably have little to no nutritive value but lots of salt, fat, flavorings, crunch. Potato chips, Cheetos, Nutter Butters, the whole aisle of crackers and cookies, breakfast cereals, cheese-ish slices, yogurt that you might think is good for you but is so full of sugar, ice cream has the better part of a freezer aisle in the grocery store, as well as frozen pizza (which is seldom even very tasty) and chicken nuggets in a fat+grain coating. If there are potato chips in my house, I will eat them as fast as I can, even the salt-n-vinegar ones that make my mouth sore. All these over-processed foods are higher in profit margin than a a bag of rice, some veg, oil, soy sauce, maybe a little meat. The produce dept. used to be just real food, but now branding is making a lot of headway. You can buy salad greens, or a branded bag of salad greens, crunchy bits, cheese, dressing, maybe some other stuff. More packaging, more calories, more profit. I even hate the labels on apples.

I'd be happy to learn more about intuitive eating, and there are a few sites that look not too bad, but any diet-related concept will be monetized and corrupted, because there's huge profit in diets and making women and men believe their bodies are vile and disgusting, and they can buy their way out of it. I make an effort to avoid food with added sugar, and to cook at home. Partly because of limited income, but also because it ends up tasting better, and I feel better, and it costs a lot less. The rules of intuitive eating make sense, but not if you include the Cheetos and stuff because that stuff is full of lies and whatever intuition you have doesn't cope well with that much over-stimulation.
posted by theora55 at 1:01 PM on June 12

I totally get that, theora55, but I have to reiterate that almost everyone who is introduced to intuitive eating says something about it sounding great but what about these foods designed to make us feel out of control? And intuitive eaters go through that phrase of Eat! All! The! Junk! Food! (I don’t actually think any food is junk now or use that term but past me did). All of the foods I know are highly engineered foods like Coke, potato chips, anything with a ton of MSG, the shit with just the right mouthfeel and hits of saltiness...all those things don’t cause me to overeat anymore. And I used to binge so this is huge to me. And I feel it’s important to say again.

There’s a lot of intuitive eating Facebook groups you can join if you’re curious and don’t want to buy anything, and the belief that Cheetos are different than, like, being out control around cheese, is a very very common concern. So I think it’s worth hearing from people on the other side (like me) if you want to explore more. It bums me out to hear people say they don’t think intuitive eating is going to work for them because junk food is designed to be so hard to stop eating — I totally understand it and agree that it is, but literally every person I’ve heard share their experience with intuitive eating shares that once they’ve gone through the honeymoon period of full permission to eat that they no longer feel out of control around any foods.

Again, no argument that there are foods out there so outrageously engineered to make you want more and more and more. And they have research behind them showing they affect our bodies in shitty and surprising ways. But restriction does that too. And the research behind food addiction gets sensationalized. The media ignores that food addiction studies were done when the subjects were restricting or they report on things like pleasure centers lighting up as if a hug from a loved one didn’t show the same response in the same degree. The profits from the book Sugar Fat Salt are far more than the books written about Intuitive Eating. Etc.

I’m just begging anyone reading to recognize that people who are intuitive eaters — e.g. me — aren’t saying you can eat whatever you want without consequences. Or that a lot of western food has low nutritional value and a shitload of marketing behind it. And we’re not saying that spending money on intuitive eating coaches isn’t expensive or that shady folks aren’t out there capitalizing on our food fears so they can sell us our body hatred and a solution to it. But I’m an intuitive eater and it feels like I’m being gaslit about my experience or lying about it at this point.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:29 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]

Thank you very much to The Thorn Bushes Have Roses and Bagel for doing so much heavy lifting on this thread. I absolutely agree that sharing one's personal diet here is, at best, stupifyingly ironic.

I loved the article. I struggle with emotionally supporting my friends who are still on the diet hamster wheel. They never seem to remember that I asked them nicely not to discuss it with me. I hear it casually all the time though, for one thing whenever someone leaves treats in the work lounge.

I really think that 'wellness' takes the emotional and logistical place of a hobby for some people. With extra hazards...
posted by Salamandrous at 2:31 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

I've begun reading the Intuitive Eating book. So far it's making a lot of sense.

One of the principles stands out as a little bit strange, though.

From the 10 Guidelines:
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
I find it strange that they single out one macronutrient here.

Why not "adequate protein" or "adequate fat?"
posted by theorique at 6:38 PM on June 12

I guess because carbs are the current most faddish targets of vilification?

But honestly I'm not sure here is the place for hashing this out either.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:50 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Some good info about that here, theorique, from Christy Harrison, the RD who runs that podcast I linked above. Here's some good quotes to answer your question:
I want to say first that there’s nothing wrong with carbohydrates. On the contrary, carbs are extremely important to the body, as they’re the exclusive fuel source for the brain and nervous system, and the preferred form of energy for all other physiological functions. There are no “good” or “bad” foods, but when it comes to fueling your body and your brain, carbs are aces.
The primary driver behind these cravings is a glitch in your body’s hunger signals, likely caused by extended periods of unhealthy dieting and deprivation. When you’re hungry, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called Neuropeptide Y (NPY), which stimulates food intake — particularly carbohydrate intake, since carbs are so important to the body. NPY is released in response to any period of food deprivation, from the severe forms seen in anorexia nervosa to the normal “fasting” period between going to bed and eating breakfast.

For “normal” eaters, NPY levels go down once they eat. But longer-term deprivation, like the kind involved in disordered eating as well as on-and-off dieting, can cause chronically elevated NPY levels that don’t change after a meal the way they should.

So if you’ve spent a period of time restricting calories, carbs, or all of the above, your body is producing larger amounts of NPY, which in turn is driving you to select more high-carbohydrate foods right now.

This physical drive to eat carbs is compounded by the fact that psychologically, you’ve trained yourself to expect a period of restriction after any period of letting go.
There's important context in the whole article about a balanced diet.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:47 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

It's true that restrictive diets are so punishing and horrible that they're not worth doing, but also, I think this bears repeating, they actually do not work for a lot of people. The human body is just more complicated than that. We're not machines. Food is not fuel. The fat on our bodies is not a fuel tank. "Calories in, calories out" is just too simple a model. It seems to be true for some people and not true for others. And that indicates that the underlying mechanisms are just. complicated. We don't have the whole story.

I don't have the will to dig up cites for this but like. There's so many things that science has gotten wrong in this arena. The science of the human body is not a closed book. It really isn't. Gut microflora in particular is an open frontier of things we don't know.

We're just now coming to find, for example, that cholesterol in food doesn't really affect cholesterol in the blood, and even if it did, lowering cholesterol somehow doesn't actually lower the risk of heart attacks, and there's some underlying mechanism that's more complicated than that. And untold numbers of people have been forcing themselves to eat egg whites for fifty years for nothing.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 9:49 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Thanks @the thorn bushes have roses. It looks like in the link from Christy Harrison she links directly to more detail in the book. (It turns out that my place in the book was about three pages before that exact citation!)

The closest analogy with Intuitive Eating I can find is to the intended equilibrium state of "Food Freedom" in Whole30. These methods come at it from very different angles - for one thing, Whole30 is obviously a diet, albeit a time-limited and calorie-unrestricted one. One of the cool things they have in common is that they dive deep into a person's relationship with food and the activity of eating from the emotional and behavioral standpoint. They both address the issues of deprivation and hunger as well.
posted by theorique at 3:31 AM on June 13

I went and looked at the thread from 2012 about Michelle's work, and the blog post she wrote in response. Wow. Wowowowow. 2012 wasn't even that long ago, but I can't imagine 70% of those comments making it through moderation today. Jeez.

In both that thread and this one some people seem weirded out by the whole "intuitive eating" concept as attributed to the FN, and for at least some of them it seems to be because they equate intuitive eating with relinquishing control or just embracing unexamined eating habits/food choices.

This is not what Michelle/the IE movement as a whole is actually encouraging. You can agree or disagree with her stance on an issue or her defintions of certain terms, but she is emphatically NOT out there telling people to just inhale Cheetohs and Coke Classic any time they feel stressed and BOOM they'll fix their relationship to food and eating. Her overall argument as I understand it is that we need to decouple moral value judgments from food choices, to free up that part of our hard drive to really examine how we experience food(s), how it makes us feel physically and emotionally, and use THOSE sensations, rather than our culture's incredibly distressing and complex moral rules, to guide future choices. Another assumption she seems to be making is that as this process progresses, people will learn to recognize that certain foods (which won't be the same for everyone!!) DON'T actually make them feel that great, and adjust accordingly.

She's not making an argument, for example, about the relationship between food choice and weight. I suspect this is in part because HAES seems to be something she embraces and which informs her work. Some people also reject HAES as a concept, but there's nothing bizarre or irreponsible in, "food is not inherently morally good or bad" + "not all foods are right or wrong for everyone" + "weight has no inherent moral value either and staying as skinny as possible is not the right guideline for making choices that also lead to improved well-being".

She actually covers a lot of these topics on her blog (admittedly sometimes in the comments section where it's not immediately apparent) :

- "All foods[...]are real. No, this does not mean that all foods are nutritionally equivalent, or that all foods are good for all people in all situations, but it does mean that choices around food must be individual, that all food choices can be valid, depending on the person and the circumstances, and that universal pronouncements on a food’s relative realness are not helpful or, well…real." (emphasis mine)

- "In my mind, food that makes you feel weird or off — no matter how good it tastes right now — isn’t food you can unconditionally love. Amounts of food that make you feel bad aren’t amounts of food you actually want to eat. And if you find yourself continually sacrificing your well-being for the lovely, immediate feel and taste of food, it’s a sign that something has gone wrong."

The incredibly intense reactions I've seen to her work, both here and elsewhere, are a striking and very sad testament to how twisted up the US is as a culture about food, nutrition, pleasure, appearance, and health.

On preview: what brook horse said.
posted by peakes at 6:05 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]

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