International No-Diet Day – get involved in the conversation

international no-diet day6th May was International No-Diet Day.

I thought this might be an awesome opportunity to update on the non-diet approach.

It’s a great time to let you know what health professionals are up to in this space and how you can get involved.

So let’s chat no-diets.

What’s International No-Diet Day?

How it started

I only recently heard via Kerry Beake from HAES® Health (thanks to her Instagram post!) about the origins of No-Diet Day. It started in 1992 as a national day in the UK and was organised by Mary Evans Young. Mary was the Director of a group called, “diet breakers”.  The group apparently met in Hyde Park, London with the aim of raising awareness of chronic dieting and it’s harmful effects.

Fast forward and there is a growing movement of health professionals and activists interested and working in a non-diet approach. No-diet day is now celebrated internationally.

What’s involved?

Of course, like any day, it will mean different things to different people. Some of the main themes are:

  • honouring the work other health professionals and activists have put in over the last few decades to drive this movement forward
  • continuing to keep the conversation open about the risks of dieting and being clear on what the evidence actually says about BMI/body weight and health
  • making it clear there should be NO Diets for everyone (all bodies, all sizes, each and every day. period).

What can you do to raise awareness about this non-diet approach?

  • When the conversation with friends or family turns to diets (e.g. Aunty June has just started the 5:2 diet), swiftly re-direct the conversation. You could:

  1. If you feel able, share any previous unhelpful dieting experiences you’ve experienced.
  2. Talk about the lack of evidence for diets. Something like, “Oh – did you know many health professionals don’t promote weight loss diets anymore? I’ve read it’s best to focus on health, rather than weight “
  3. Totally get off the diet-talk with, “That’s nice. I’d love to talk about that wonderful time we did…..”
  • Be weight-neutral in your descriptions about body size

Despite the science showing you can’t judge someone’s health by their body size, as a society we haven’t caught up.  One thing you can do is to start to be weight-neutral in your language. Examples might be starting to use words like thin bodies, fat bodies, larger bodies and smaller bodies. All of these are acceptable descriptors that generally don’t stigmatise.  On the flip side, “overweight”, “underweight”, “healthy weight”, “correct weight”, “healthy weight range” and “obese” are all making judgements about someone’s weight according to an apparent “reference standard” (not kind or helpful).

If you’re feeling brave, when a loved one says something along the lines of, “God I look fat”, consider what you might say in response? You see, there’s nothing wrong with being fat and our natural helping response of, “No, you don’t look fat at all. You look great!” drives the message fat is wrong and causes us to continually seek permission from others about our size. (Again, not kind or helpful). What else could you say?

  • Unfollow social media accounts that preach dieting messages

You’ll know them. They usually make us feel a bit lousy and start to play the ‘comparison game’.

  • Question. Question. Question

Start noticing how magazines, newspapers and even researchers are hell-bent on promoting anything to do with weight loss (rather than other ways we can improve our health or happiness)

  • Stay informed

If you’d like to read more about this topic, start by googling, ‘Health-at-every-size ®’, ‘Weight Stigma’ and ‘Weight Bias’. You might like to read an article I recently penned for Scottish health professionals. Even though it was aimed at health professionals, most folks will get something from it and you can access it here.

international no-diet dayThe Non-Diet Approach – where to from here?

One of the things we’re doing at SOL nutrition is making a long-awaited website update (woo hoo!).  It’s coinciding with a new direction we’re taking with the business.  >> stay tuned for that ;)

Since we started back SOL nutrition (just like you) we’ve been learning about HAES ® and the non-diet approach.  It involves a hell-of-a-lot of personal reflection, clinical supervision, tackling our own internal weight biases and privileges.

Part of our reflective work involves looking at our media and marketing strategies and there are soooo many changes we’d like to make! Alas, due to being busy folks with work, family and the usual life pressures, we haven’t had time to invest in changing our website to reflect our values and the continual progression of the business.

For example, back when we started, we knew we wanted to focus on health (and not weight) and that’s what we did. However, we didn’t really have the skill-set (or knowledge) to manage the balance between marketing and what we stood for. If we’re brutally honest, we know some of our marketing was selling mixed-messages. For example, we would be saying, “please don’t diet”, but yet only including thin people on our website images. Some of this was due to our lack of knowledge (gulp) in how damaging this can be to folks living in larger bodies and some due to the limited range of quality photo stock available to website designers.  (Actually, to be honest, even accessing nutrition-inspired images that weren’t just an apple or salad was hard! ;) ;) )

Perhaps you’d like to do the same as us? I encourage you to notice health websites out there and what images we (health professionals) are using to attract customers (note – we readily acknowledge, there are still some of these on our site we want to change).  On many health websites (even reputable ones), you might see a lot of bodies that reflect what our popular culture tells us is the “ideal”:  Whilst if there is just one pic of the owner or the staff in the business, that may be acceptable (as folks definitely want to know who is behind the business). However, if the whole site is littered with lots of thin, white caucasian, straight, able-bodied, conventionally attractive folks, then you can see how it makes life tough for those people going through life who don’t look like that. It makes it tough to relate to these images “portraying health”.

The good news is it’s now 2018 and through awareness-raising days like International No-Diet Day, popular culture will slowly shift. This means we’ll have more and more photographers, designers and media experts who understand and “get it”. Importantly, with more health professionals passionate about the non-diet approach and HAES ®, we will all get better at explaining it to both our marketing teams and through our online presence to the general public.

We are looking forwarding to SOL nutrition  - version 2.0 coming soon.  We can’t wait to share it.

image credit: The Mindful Dietitian
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