ETR 194: Why It’s So Hard to Quit Diet Culture (Body Image Series)

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-Worth

Podcast on Why It’s So Hard to Quit Diet Culture
Why It’s So Hard to Quit Diet Culture

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m talking about why it’s so hard to quit diet culture, as part of the Body Image Series.

I also explore the addictive nature of diets, why this makes it so hard to break free, and what life is like without it.

In This Episode, I Chat About

  • How dieting is like a drug in our culture,
  • That there’s an anticipation of this perfect life and perfect body on the radar that keeps us hooked to dieting with a false sense of fulfilment,
  • That there’s grief, sadness, and loneliness associated with letting go of dieting,
  • Why community support is so important in breaking free of diet culture,
  • That the fear of the unknown is at the root of why it’s so hard to let go of dieting,
  • That dieting, and the identity as a dieter, is a false sense of security and armor that holds us back from having deeper and more real relationships with the people in our lives,
  • How this is an opportunity to find new coping mechanisms that will actually help you process your feelings and feel better about yourself, regardless of your size,
  • What life is like without dieting,
  • The freedom of eating without guilt,
  • How fulfilment is different from happiness,
  • That it’s not about having no emotional discomfort, it’s about learning to be with ourselves through the highs and lows,
  • Plus so much more!

Stream it Here

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Links Mentioned in Show


This episode of eat the rules is brought to you by you on fire you on fire is the online group coaching program that I run that gives you a step by step way of building up your self worth beyond your appearance. With personalized coaching from me incredible community support and lifetime access to the program so that you can get free from body shame and live life on your own terms. Get details on what’s included and sign up for the next cycle at summer forward slash you on fire, I’d love to have you in that group.

This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and confidence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.

This is episode 194. And this is another episode of the body image series on eat the rules. And we’re talking about why it’s so hard to stop dieting, the addictive nature of diets. And why that makes it so hard for us to stop dieting, and what life is like without dieting. And you can find all the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summer forward slash 194. Before we begin, I want to give a shout out to Renata and Sarah who left this awesome review. Summer really helped me improve the way I look at food and overall health. I’m on my way to being an intuitive eater. And I haven’t felt this confident in a while greetings from Brazil. And thanks for your all your words. Thank you so much we’re not I really appreciate that review. And I hope I kind of transcribed that correctly. I know there was just a little bit of change I had to make and some of the wording there. But hopefully I got your message across as clearly as you wanted it. But your title was at best podcast ever. And I just really wanted to appreciate it to shout out to you about that. And and because you’re from Brazil, I thought that was really, really awesome. It’s so cool to kind of imagine someone sitting on the other in the other hemisphere listening to this. And so thank you. And if you haven’t already done so you can leave a review for this podcast leaving a review helps others to find this show and the information you’re learning here. It’s a really easy way to support everything that you’re learning from me. And you can do that by going to iTunes searching for eat the rules, then click ratings and reviews and click to leave a review. You can also help me out by subscribing to the show via iTunes or whatever platform you use like stitcher or Spotify or YouTube. And if you haven’t already done so make sure you get your brand new copy of the free 10 Day calm body confidence makeover at summer forward slash freebies with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. This was rereleased brand new version, march 2021. So if you don’t have this one yet, head over there and grab it. And I am excited to start this episode because it’s a bit of a almost like a part two from last episode. So last episode, Episode 193, I was talking about how we use dieting and body shame as ways to kind of like cope with emotions. And this is, is kind of like a segue or just another piece of the puzzle. And we’re going to talk about why dieting is so addictive. And why this makes it so hard to really stop wanting to diet and stop having those urges to diet and also stopped like, you know, having the diet mentality, like be something that you sort of like flirt with, I guess for lack of a better expression. And then I want to talk about what life is like without it. So for me, you know, if you were to have met me if like several years ago when I was still dieting, you know, 1010 plus years ago now I would have said to you Hi, my name is Summer and I’m addicted to diets. It was literally my addiction. And I didn’t see it that way, then I can only see it that way now in hindsight, but for a huge chunk of my life. I was addicted to diets. And it’s because it occupied most of my thoughts and most of my energy. And I look at it like it’s dieting is kind of like a drug. It’s like a normalized drug in our culture. And I’m not saying it is like a drug. But I just mean the way that we turn to it even though it’s quite damaging the way that we’re kind of hooked on it, the culture around it. Like there’s a lot of similarities there. And the reason why I like to make this comparison is because I think it helps us to really understand

Why it is so hard to stop dieting, and why we do often feel like we still have one foot in that door, even though we’re trying to do this work, and we’re putting our other foot into like the intuitive eating door, we’re putting our foot into like trying to accept our body. But we still have one foot in that like, well, maybe I’ll just do one more diet. And this will hopefully give you some context as to why we feel that way. So you can see it for what it is. So let’s talk about how, like the kind of the parallels or why I call it, you know, dieting as a drug, or addictive, I’m just gonna talk about this from a personal perspective to start and then and then break it down. But, you know, for me, there was nothing more that brought me excitement than like making a meal plan or tracking calories, or stepping on the scale, or telling my friends about the new diet that I was on and the dangers of gluten, which there are no dangers, and you know, getting validation from them for having control, like people saying, like, oh, wow, like, look at you not eating dessert, like there was this sense of euphoria associated with this fantasy and prospect of having the body I wanted, like I used to kind of imagine this perfect life that would go along with it, where I would be, you know, free of any kind of doubts, and people would admire me, and I mean, it was really just kind of, you know, this, this vision of like social currency really, now that I have words to describe what it is. But there was a sense of power that I got from being on the moral high ground of my diet, or my dietary choices, like it was, it was a high, you know, weight loss, and, and dieting were things that, like I was literally hooked on. And I sort of described it as, like weight loss is the urge and dieting is the drug. And we chase after it by doing whatever plan we have at that moment, whether that’s like adjusting our macros or tracking our food, or tweaking our exercise, or adding in supplements to alter our body size. And we get this rush from seeing maybe the number on the scale go down or a pant size go down. And then there’s this whole camaraderie and culture around it, where we support and cheer each others on cheering people on who are doing the same. And it’s really addictive. And the what what happens is, is like we kind of get this high, we get this high feeling this sense of control when we’re starting a diet and when we’re doing it when we feel like we’re successful, quote unquote. But then those feelings and behaviors are always fleeting, right? Because our body starts to fight back, we might not be able to stick to the diet because our body is like, No, you need to eat.

I’m not letting you do go into that much of a deficit in terms of calories and energy. And so we start to kind of like chase after that feeling. Again, by starting over, we’re like, Okay, well, I’ll just get back on track on Monday, or I’m going to try and tweak what I’m doing to like reignite the excitement, we try different plans, we try different variations of plans and whatnot. And we, you know, we fall off the wagon, and we get back on over and over and over. And so like, I’m wondering how many of you can kind of relate to this, I think for most of my clients who are our chronic dieters, they can relate to that sense of like control and excitement that it gives them. And that’s what makes it so hard to break free from because we’ve sort of got this blueprint in our minds of, okay, this is these are the feelings that I get when I start dieting, like here’s this fantasy, here’s this hope that goes along with it. I’m familiar with that. Because usually we’ve had some level of success with a diet in the short term, even though the long term result is that they don’t work. And we all have experience of that. But we always stick to like the short term experience where we somehow achieved it for, you know, a week or a year or however long. And we have that blueprint. And so we keep turning to that, to give us that sense of hope and control and prospect that like things might get better. And what it is, is it’s really just a way to distract us and cope with the discomfort we’re feeling in the present. And that’s really what I talked about last episode was how we use dieting to cope and how we use body shame as a way to kind of soothe our feelings and

displace the feelings that we’re really feeling. And so dieting makes us feel kind of safe and protected. It gives us this plan, right? It gives us this false sense of control. As long as we’re dieting, you know, we’re conforming, we’ve got this sense of control, we have a plan in place, everything is going to be okay even even though all of that is bullshit. By the way, in case you’re listening to this thinking like this is what I actually think no, it’s all bullshit, but that’s what we think. And so it can also give us this sense of purpose and fill that fill a void in us. Like if if you know, we don’t have a lot of fulfillment or purpose in our lives.

So outside of just our day to day tasks and like careers and whatnot, dieting gives us this sense of purpose. It’s like, okay, like, you know, it’s kind of formed your identity, or like the person at the gym, or you’re the person who’s always making these, like recipes with cauliflower.

It’s true when I was totally those people, so I’m not making fun of anyone other than myself. And so, you know, even though like, we’re sort of still concurrently plagued with negative thoughts, like, even though the real drive for this is the fact that we hate our bodies and want to change it, there’s this still this anticipation of like this perfect body, and perfect life on the radar that keeps us hooked to, to it. And it gives us that false sense of fulfillment from the monotony of everyday life. You know, like, I remember sitting in my corporate job, and which, you know, was kind of like mind numbingly boring. And like, the thrill of my day was like, entering my macros into an Excel spreadsheet and figuring out what workout I was going to do. You know, like, it gave me this like, little like, sense of excitement, instead of really just sitting with like, you know, the fact that sometimes life is boring, and that’s okay. Or, I could make a change to do something that would be more purposeful and fulfilling, which ultimately, is what I did. But we think to ourselves, you know, like, okay, there, you know, I’ll just do one more diet, and then I’ll be done done with it. Like, I heard this from people all the time, they’re like, I’m just going to do one more diet, then I’ll work on accepting my body, you know, and it’s just like that, it’s like that last drink, or that last hit, like, we just need it just to see if it’ll work. And here to tell you, it doesn’t, it’s not going to, and like the longer that you’re on that cycle, the more damage that gets done, the harder it is to break free. And I’m going to talk about, like what’s possible on the other side in a second, but I, you know, I just want to quickly talk about like this, I’m not just this isn’t just like this like analogy that I made up, there’s actually some sort of psychological and physiological elements at play here. So physiologically, you know, there’s when we want to be thinner, like when there’s like hope of being thinner, and the privilege that goes along with that, it lights up the same place in our brain that is responsible for other cravings and desires. So it gives us that little dopamine hit. And so we get hooked on that, like, I think we can all relate to that, like that notion of sort of like imagining yourself losing weight, and therefore planning your diet, that Stokes, your dopamine gets kind of like fired up a bit. And that’s one of the reasons why we turn to it then in moments where we’re feeling really down or we’re feeling a heavy sense of like uncertainty or body shame, or other emotions that are going on in our lives. We then sort of think, like, Okay, well, maybe if I just diet like, maybe I’ll just tweak my food, it starts to it’s like feel it feels good to play with that. And so that’s one of the reasons why it is so hard to really break free of dieting. And then psychologically dieting is a way for us to fit in, it makes us more likeable, or at least in a perceived way. And it’s a way for us to avoid social rejection, both from the standpoint of like gaining privilege, and also from the perspective of fitting in, you know, in our culture, the norm is to diet, especially when you sort of listen to conversations with people. It’s, it’s kind of like just this normalized way of being, it’s like, You’re so weird, if you don’t want to lose weight. It’s like what’s wrong with you.

And so it helps us to feel like we’re fitting in it helps us to feel like we’re doing something that everyone else is doing that we need to do to gain approval and status and everything else. And so it’s really hard to kind of go the other way and say, You know what, I’m not going to do that you’re actually the weird ones. And no one’s weird. At the end of the day, we’re all just conditioned to want to lose weight. But, you know, we’ve learned that weight losses is this way to control our destiny, and letting go of that sense of maybe fitting in or maybe not having that kind of like camaraderie and community or even like cult like feel that dieting gives us that that exists within different dieting communities, it can feel like you’re grieving something like it’s there’s sadness associated with that there’s loss, there’s loneliness, there can be a lot of loneliness, which is one of the reasons why I encourage people to really get community support because it makes such a huge difference. It’s one of the reason why reasons why I really encourage people to do like my group program instead of the private coaching because the community aspect of it is like so powerful, but ultimately, like what the point of this is, is that dieting is a hard drug to quit. You know, you really have to

I hit a point where you are done with it, like you are done with it, you know, for me, it was like, I just, I couldn’t do it anymore, it didn’t work, I literally did a juice cleanse and gained weight, like what, you know, was like something is not working. And and I just put done so much damage to my body, and I hope other people don’t have to get to that point to make this change, I hope there’s enough information out there to really make you see that there’s another way, you know, I’m so happy when I see like, you know, young people come in and do this work. I’m like, oh my god, I’m so glad you discovered this so young. And then also, conversely, I’m so happy when older people come in and do this work, because I’m like, it’s never too late. You can do this. And you know, we it’s it’s but you have to be on your own path there where you really have to decide for yourself that you’re done with it. I don’t feel like anyone can make you get there other than other than yourself. And I mean, hopefully, I can help you see that there is a better way. But ultimately, that decision is up to you. And, you know, for for me and for a lot of people I work with I mean, it’s just you get to this point where you’re just so sick of your body dictating your emotions, you know, you’re you’re just like, a lot of times it happens to people when they’re in transitional periods. So you know, when they’re hitting a transitional period in their life, whether that’s like the, you know, postpartum period, or they’re like just crossing over into their 40s, or into their 50s, or they’ve done like they’ve hit retirement or they’re about to get married or something where they just realized, like, I don’t want to do this shit anymore. Like, I am so sick of my body dictating my emotions and my everyday actions. And that’s I mean, it does, it doesn’t have to be a transitional period, I just find that sometimes to be a bit of a common theme for people. But you know, when you’re ready to believe that your purpose in this life is so much bigger than being a fan, and to really free yourself of like, what do other people think of me? And oh, my god, like, what am I going to look like in this outfit, and all of these thoughts that just suck up our time and energy, you know, then they’re, there’s another way for you, and you’ll be free. And you won’t have to have the thought of like, well, I better do some clean eating, or bring my own Tupperware with food in it to this social event. And ultimately, I think it comes down to like, the fear of staying stuck where you are is greater than the fear of letting go. And if that’s how you feel, then you’re ready. Let’s do this. Let me help you. But I, you know, I wanted to sort of just put this into perspective, because this is why it is so hard to really break free of dieting. And I think you can use this from two perspectives. If you’re listening to this podcast, and you’re like, you’ve been doing this work. And you’re not dieting, and maybe you’re just nodding your head and getting this. But this can also help you understand why maybe people in your life are still chronic dieters, and you can’t get through to them, like your mom, maybe right, maybe I don’t know.

It’s like, it’s their way of being again, it’s like they’ve got that blueprint, they’re really afraid to let it go. Because they don’t have a blueprint for what it’s like to just accept their body and just be. And so if you’re newer to this work, and you’re newer to this podcast, hopefully this just helps you understand why it is so hard to break free, and why you might still have one foot in the dieting door, and one foot in the door of like, okay, I’m trying to do this. And that’s okay, I think that it can just take a bit of time to really get that other foot over. And it’s not just like a switch turns on and you do it, I think that these things can kind of coexist. At the same time. I’ve talked about this before, where you can say like, Okay, I still really want to lose weight, and I’m really working on you know, accepting my body and be more kinder to myself and learning that, you know, who I am has nothing to do with how I look and etc, etc. And so let’s just break down why this makes it so hard to really break free of dieting. So I think the biggest thing here like if I were to like think about this, like, you know, you’ve got like this tree and like the root of it all is kind of this fear of the unknown. You know, this fear the when we don’t have diets and we don’t have the urge to diet, there’s this like fear of the unknown. Because dieting is like this fallback that we always have, even though we know it’s bad for us. We still know it’s there for us. I wrote this blog post, like, almost four years ago now called dieting is like a bad exit. It’s like, I remember writing and just being like, you know, it’s like it’s like that x that’s always there for you even though you know they’re terrible for you and your friends are like don’t do it. You just sometimes in moments of loneliness and just needing some kind of like affection you end up texting that that bad acts and like dieting is like that. It’s like this fallback, even when we know it’s terrible for us. But sitting with that fear of the unknown, I think is one of the most challenging things for people died and gives us this false sense of certainty. And I say it’s false, but even though in our mind, it’s like no, it’s certain but no, it’s false because

It doesn’t actually work. It’s just, it’s just the, you know, the fantasy that they’ve sold us. Again, it’s like that blueprint that we have. And so to not have that blueprint, again, there’s this like this major fear of the unknown. And I think it’s really important to work through that fear in order to, you know, step over to the other side and start to be more comfortable without, without that fallback option of dieting. And then the other thing that makes it so hard is, you know, we miss, we miss that high that we get, we miss that, like hit on that control. As I said, it, like fires up that dopamine. And I think that when we were used to using that as like a coping mechanism for ourselves, or a way to just, you know, feel good, it’s hard to not have that, because sometimes life can be kind of boring, you know, without it, it can never heard people say that, but it’s like a good kind of boring, because the opportunity there is to then discover what truly brings you fulfillment. And fulfillment feels different than happiness. You know, happiness is kind of like a short term hit. Whereas fulfillment is much deeper. And I think I meant to talk about that later. So let me put a pin in that and come back to it.

And then one of the other reasons why it’s just so hard to break free, is just we miss the social currency. Like I said, it’s that feeling of fitting in. And there can be some grief associated with losing that. And, you know, maybe having to change your social circle or a bit or relate to people in a different way that you did before. You know, if you were always the friend who talked about your diet, it can feel really hard to, to break free of that. And even if your body changes as a result of you not dieting anymore, then that can that can be really hard. And there can be some, some real grief associated with that. At the same time, I feel like the opportunity with that is to really know who you are like to start to get comfortable with like who you are in your core instead of having that armor up, because that dieting and that identity as a dieter is really just like this false sense of security and armor. And so when we let that go, we can really start to be comfortable with like who we actually are, and have deeper and more quality relationships with the people in our lives. That’s not just like the superficial, like, let’s just talk about what we’re making cauliflower with this week. And so that’s the again, like with everything that we miss it, there’s this major opportunity to get to something that’s much deeper, much more satisfying, much more fulfilling in life, that I think ultimately, like we all we all kind of want, we’re just going about it the wrong way by trying to shrink ourselves to do it. And sometimes there’s some uncomfortable feelings underneath because like I said, we’re using it as a coping mechanism. But there’s this opportunity to then find new coping mechanisms that will actually help you process feelings, and feel better about yourself, regardless of your size. Whether that’s like, Okay, I’m actually going to deal with some of these feelings underneath through therapy, or coaching or whatever. Or I’m going to, you know, learn how to actually acknowledge and sit with these feelings instead of just looking to fix them and looking to kind of like push them down with trying to control my body. And so what life is like without it, I felt like this was important to add just because, you know, if depending on the stage, you’re at listening to this, I think it’s really just we need I need to give some us some kind of a blueprint for what life is like without it. And so, you know, from from like a just a food perspective. It’s It’s like eating without guilt. Eating without overthinking. You know, even if you eat to discomfort or you eat something that you had previously demonized, like it’s just, it’s not a big deal. I remember I wrote this, like one of the very first posts I wrote was talking about how I eat what I want. And I remember I said, I sometimes overeat, I always move the hell on and I remember that sentence like resonated with so many people because they were like, what, you can do that. And it’s true, it’s just like eating without guilt doesn’t mean you only eat to like a specific level of fullness. It just means that sometimes like sometimes you eat stuff that doesn’t feel good, sometimes you like past physical comfort, but you just move on with your life and there’s no guilt there’s no shaming, there’s no judgement. And you’re able to just you know not have your food choices dictated by a desire to control your body size. And body image work is critical to that like to not have your food choices associated by or dictated by a desire to lose weight is is really like body image work is the key to that because then you know if you accept the way your body is now if you work through all this, these untangle all these beliefs

that you have about your body, then it makes it so much easier to just eat and, and move on with your life. And so, you know, I have an amazing program called you on fire if you want to do explore that you can go to summer forward slash you on fire to get on the waitlist. And then also just in terms of life is like it’s about being able to go to social events and just eat like a normal person and you know, not be lasering in on the buffet table, like someone who hasn’t seen food in three weeks, like I remember going out to eat and like just like staring at the breadbasket. And like not being able to pay attention to anything my friends were saying, because it was like, Oh, my God, that bread, you know, and now now it’s just like K foods just there. And I’ll have some if I wanted, and I’m good if I don’t. And I actually get to really connect with people. Well, I haven’t really connected with people in a while because of the pandemic. But if I if I were, when I did, I would be able to just, you know, focus on the other people. And that’s, that’s what’s I mean, that’s living, right, it’s actually connecting with people and not being up in your head about it. And ultimately, being able to just look in the mirror and like what you see or not, but be able to go on with your day. And just coming back to the sense of fulfillment, like being able to find true fulfillment, because dieting and being in a smaller body, it gives us this quick hit of pleasure and happiness. And it gives us this quick, quick, like feeling of power. But again, that’s like it’s a shield, it’s not long lasting, you know, knowing we’re good enough beyond our body size, and understanding what truly brings fulfillment into our life is so much deeper. You know, fulfillment is tied to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. It’s about finding the things that really truly light us up and make us feel like, everything is just right. Not happy. But right. And that’s very different than just being happy. You know, happy kind of implies this glorious state of existence that you and I both know, is is, you know, just feeds into this, like ideal of perfection, and it’s all bullshit. You know, it’s what magazines and diets try to sell us this, like instant gratification of like, perfect abs and super foods, and Mariah Carey’s fav home decor, and if we just have these things, like, you know, everything’s just gonna be perfect. And no, I’m done with that. And I hope you are too, because that’s not really what life is like. And by chasing after those things, we’re really depriving ourselves as truly just having a life that’s fulfilling. And that includes having ups and downs in life, being messy and feeling emotions. But that’s much deeper. And I mean, personally, that’s how I want to live my life. And so it’s not about being happy all the time. But it really is about, you know, stepping into who you are, and knowing that you can live life on your terms and make changes you want to make and be at peace and just have a lot more mental space. And, and that’s what I want for you. And that’s really what it’s like when you when you’re not wrestling with that urge to diet and when you’re just able to, you know, eat move on with your life, accept your body, you know, know that you’re good enough, like Just know, that hurts. You are good enough, because you are you are. And so yeah, that was the only thing I wanted to just say to that is that, you know, it’s not about like just not having any emotional discomfort. That’s, that’s and I think that that’s again, why dieting is addictive, because it makes us feel like if I do this, then I’ll never feel lonely or sad or anything else. Like I’ll just be able to always be kind of on this like higher plane than everybody else. And, and it’s harder to kind of come down to the reality of the fact that no, we all experience emotional discomfort, there’s going to be ups and downs, but we learn how to, you know, be with ourselves through those moments. And I’d really appreciate that that’s what makes us like these beautiful human beings. And that’s that’s really important work. And that’s, you know, quite fulfilling at the end of the day. And so that’s that’s what I wanted to share in this episode. I will be excited to hear your thoughts on it. Hopefully that you resonated with some of the metaphors and analogies. I use there but yeah, if you’re struggling with this, you know you’re not alone. And I hope this just helps you understand why not struggle why it is so hard to really break free of dieting, but that it is possible to be on the other side and on the other side is is pretty amazing. It is pretty amazing. Thank you so much for listening today. You can find all the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summer forward slash 194. I will be back with another episode soon rock on.

I’m Summer Innanen. And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on

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