Diet and Wellness Pressures from Culture and Society
Instagram celebrities, YouTube stars, Dr. Google, and Fitness trackers galore! How are we supposed to know how to take care of our bodies when there is just so much information out there?
It can be hard for anyone, and answering the questions of what to eat and how to move our bodies is extremely difficult for teenagers given the current cultural pressures placed on today’s teens. Expectations with school, grades, college prep, and performance in extracurriculars and sports isn’t enough – we also have extreme beauty and body standards that influence individuals of all genders.
It makes sense with all these pressures that we would turn to external guides to help us figure out what to do. There is so much nutrition and fitness information at our fingertips with the current world of social media; it makes it easy to fall into a pattern of following the rules of others to feel like we are taking care of our own body.
Two terms you need to know: “Diet culture and Wellness culture”
Diet culture: Phrase used to describe anything and everything related to the pursuit of a certain body shape or size and/or the encouragement that an ideal size or way of eating is better, healthier, or morally superior.
Wellness culture: Similar to diet culture, wellness culture is diet cultures sneaky best friend; Instead of focusing on body size/shape, wellness culture idealizes being “well” over everything else, and declares that we can all achieve a certain level of wellness if we do, buy, and eat the “right” things.
Why do I want you to know these terms? Because these terms are what makes it so hard to say “I’m am enough, just as I am.” Instead, we buy into diet and wellness culture. We can spend our entire lives trying to achieve unrealistic goals by often performing unhealthy behaviors like dieting and intense exercise regimens.
I hate to break it to you, but the programs and products DON’T WORK! Research has shown time and time again that diets of any kind don’t have long-lasting impacts on weight change, and we can’t exercise to sculpt certain body parts no matter what your favorite YouTube fitness star says.
We can, however, lose a lot of money, brain space, time and energy trying to fit the unrealistic mold. Another downside of this slippery slope is that we begin losing connection with our bodies’ own innate wisdom.
Your Body Knows What it Needs
You were born knowing exactly how much fuel your body needs to grow, develop, and stay healthy. As humans, we have an amazing regulatory system (our bodies) that helps us to maintain health through the automatic functioning of our different organ systems.
One of these systems is our digestive system. From birth, we are able to regulate our bodies energy needs through this system and cues like hunger and fullness. Just like you trust your heart to keep beating and your lungs to keep filling with air even when you don’t think about it, your body is also digesting nutrition and regulating hormones and signals to tell you when you need more food and when you have had enough.
This is a process called intuitive eating. No need for another diet or fitness program telling you what to do, you actually have all the answers within you to eat balanced, nourishing meals in a way that adequately fuels you.
If you feel like you have already lost touch with these cues, that’s okay! We all have the ability to return to intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is based on a set of 10 principles that support reconnecting with the body to maintain a healthy relationship with food, body and self.
10 Principles to Help You Free Yourself from Diet and Wellness Culture (The Principles of Intuitive Eating)
Reject the Diet Mentality – Refuse to buy into the hype of diet culture, fully accept that your body has a natural set point and that dieting is not a solution for improved health or the false promise of changing your body
Honor Your Hunger – Give yourself permission to eat any time your body signals that it needs food, not because you think it’s the right time or you waited long enough to deserve it.
Make Peace with Food – Stop the food fight, work to look at all foods as morally equivalent. We are not good or bad because of the foods we choose to eat.
Challenge the Food Police– Begin to notice the voice in your head that tries to tell you what or how you should eat, and question where that information comes from. Ask yourself if it is rooted in the diet mentality, and then choose to connect to what your body is telling your vs the Food Police.
Feel Your Fullness– Give yourself permission to eat until you are truly full, not just stopping because you think you should.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor– Take the time to figure out what you really enjoy eating, and then stay present during your meals and enjoy each bite.
Honor your Feelings Without Using Food – It’s okay to emotionally eat, we all do it, but this principle is about also making sure that you have other healthy coping mechanisms in place to tolerate and experience intense emotions.
Respect Your Body – Do things that show you care for your body no matter its size, your body deserves to be fed, nurtured and cared for.
Exercise and FEEL THE DIFFERENCE!– No more punishing movement done to change the way your body looks, instead think about the positive benefits that you get from movement from things like more energy and stress relief to having a blast moving your body (especially when done with friends)
Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition – Nutrition can be fun and caring for our bodies with a variety of foods helps us feel our best. This isn’t about obsessing or perfection, but rather finding balance that considers what makes us feel good and eating food we love.
If you are interested in getting more support reconnecting to your body and rejecting diet and wellness culture – check out Elyse Resch’s new workbook: The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens. If you feel that you could benefit from more support feel free to check out my website at Nom-Nomaste.com. I will be on maternity leave this summer but will be accepting new clients via telehealth for those living in the state of Texas beginning early Sept 2019. For more food, fun and body acceptance inspiration follow on Instagram.
**This blog post was initially shared as a guest post on Courtney Harris Coaching’s website. Check her out for more awesome content for teens and parents.