There’s nothing that brings out the grinch in me like diet culture antics that prey on mothers’ vulnerabilities.
The holiday season, with the New Year around the corner, is notorious for predatory dieting propaganda that is harmful and toxic, especially to mothers.
The New Year comes with the onslaught of dieting and weight loss promotions. There’s no shortage of detoxes, diet plans, and cleanses that give false promises of health and happiness.
As a mom who’s been there, done that, let me give you some encouragement as you navigate through this:
You don’t have to jump on the dieting bandwagon this New Year.
You don’t need to take up less space in this world to make yourself or others feel more comfortable.
You don’t need to miss out on making memories with your kiddos because you’re worried that your body is not good enough.
You can put a hard stop on diet culture and choose to opt out for GOOD.
Hold on to what you value and the things that are important to you and your family, and give yourself permission to say goodbye to all rest.
Don’t let these messages deter you from the more important things necessary for motherhood, like practicing being kind toward yourself and unconditional acceptance of the one place you’ll call home for the rest of your life.
The new year doesn’t have to ride on the coattails of diet culture.
You can choose to leave it behind to focus on enjoying freedom with food as a family, learning to care for your body and raising children who are free from diet culture lies.
In the process of doing so, you’re breaking generational cycles of food guilt and body shame.
It stops with you, mama. That is worth fighting for, my friend!
Why Dieting is Alluring and Problematic
It’s no surprise diet culture is particularly aggressive and intense this time of year. So many of us are drawn to the hope that comes with the New Year. The idea of “wiping the slate clean” can feel like the desperate reset you may be craving after a year full of difficulties and challenges.
And while there’s nothing wrong with setting some intentions for taking care of yourself or clarifying goals that are meaningful to you, I want you to see you don’t have to jump on the dieting bandwagon to achieve this.
This is the problem with dieting related resolutions.
On the surface, it provides a tangible form of control and cleaning the slate, especially when piggy-backing on a holiday season that may’ve been tainted with guilt and shame around your food choices or body changes.
Dieting, in general, is especially alluring to mothers, who may be feeling particularly vulnerable through the body changes endured with growing, birthing and feeding babies.
Diets, in their many shapes and forms, can give the illusion that you’re in control of something; and in the motherhood journey, where most things feel like they’re out of your control, that sense of being able to hyperfocus on food and your weight can offer that form of security, no matter how pretentious it may seem.
Let’s face it too: the shift into motherhood often brings a changing sense of identity that can be hard to grapple with as well. There’s so many things that change with having a baby along with your identity: your relationships, your use of time and money, your career, ambitions and desires, AND your body.
This can be a complicated thing to work through.
Attempting to focus on body changes is often a subconscious effort to reestablish some semblance of an identity that has been rocked by motherhood. And that is exactly what diet culture preys on when it comes to mothers and the many vulnerabilities we carry.
Here’s the thing:
Trying to manipulate your body size through dieting and the many dangerous tactics involved with this are not going to magically cure any complications in your life’s circumstances. That is the false promise connected with diet culture: that if you are just a certain body size or weigh X amount, you’ll be okay. Everything will somehow be okay.
What isn’t talked about are the damaging side effects and the destruction diet culture causes.
Trying to manipulate your body size by cutting out foods, eating in a prescriptive manner rather than honoring what your body needs and wants, forcing yourself to over exercise, and everything else wrapped up in diets is a surefire recipe for ruining your physical and mental health.
The other thing to consider is how dieting will impact your family and your children. No matter how neatly it’s all packaged up, your kids will see what’s going on beneath the surface.
They’ll notice when you eat something different or stop eating with them altogether.
They’ll be aware of your changing mood and energy levels that inevitably swing when not feeding yourself regularly and adequately.
They’re watching when you step on the scale and body check yourself, or avoid getting in the picture or putting on a bathing suit.
They see it. When children observe their caregivers dieting, it causes them to internalize the message that their bodies aren’t good enough.
Dieting behaviors are also the number one predictors of new eating disorder behaviors.
If deep down inside, your core values are aligned with supporting your children with food freedom, and if you desire to help your kids build a positive and healthy relationship with food and their bodies, it’s important to consider the potential side effects of choosing to diet.
Not just for yourself, but for your children, too.
I understand this is a hard pill to swallow.
I care about you too much to see you fall into the downward spiral of diet culture, which is why I want you to see the truth before you go down that path. Because it truly never ends. And just like that, diet culture – food guilt and body shame – get passed down from one generation to the next.
You and your children deserve better than this!
And it’s not to say this is easy, because it’s not.
Being the one to end generational legacies of diet culture in your family is HARD work.
It’s worth it, too.
Enjoying freedom with food as a family is one of the most priceless gifts you can share with your family; one that will change your legacy forever.
You don’t have to have it all figured out perfectly to reject diet culture. You don’t have to LOVE your body either, that’s not the criteria here.
You just have to take that next right step, which starts with the resolution that dieting won’t be part of your home or your life any longer.
For more support on ditching diet culture and why this is important, be sure to check out this blog post here: “Dieting Sucks: Why Diets Don’t Work And Finding Food Freedom as a Mom”
Resolve to Ditch the Diet For Good in the New Year
You don’t have to compromise your mental health by manipulating your body size. You don’t need to miss out on memories with your kids because you’re punishing yourself with food and exercise or following rigid food rules.
You don’t have to feel guilty every time you eat.
You can choose to approach this new year differently, in a way that honors your body and that allows you to be present for your loved ones.
If you’re struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food or feel stuck in a dieting down spiral, I want you to know there is hope, my friend. Hope for enjoying freedom with food and for sharing that freedom with your family, too.
I’m here to tell you that you can stop feeling guilty after eating. You can be free from guilt to truly be able to enjoy the foods you love and to trust your body in the process.
Food is meant to be nourishing and pleasurable, not something that controls you and riddens you with guilt.
You can be free of the shame you feel in your body to be able to show up fully for yourself and your kids.
This is about you finding true freedom that comes from a healthy relationship with food and your body, one that is built on trust and confidence, not fear, control, and guilt.
You are worthy of receiving pleasure in life, including from food and your eating experiences. You deserve to eat foods you enjoy and that feel good in your body.
You can have a relationship with your body that is built on trust & kindness, one that you would be proud of your children modeling.
Your worthiness as a person is not something that has to be earned by controlling your food or by taking up less space.
As you move into this new year, commit to leaving these things behind:
Shaming yourself and your body
The scale and weighing yourself
Tracking your food, counting macros, calories, points
Noom, keto, intermittent fasting
Punishing your body with exercise
Beating yourself up for not having ‘willpower”
Here are some things to embrace:
Celebrating body diversity
Embracing unconditional acceptance of your body and your children’s body
Eating foods you enjoy
Eating intuitively and honoring what your body needs
Having family meals and enjoying eating together
Resting when you need to
Enjoying joyful movement
Learning to speak positively about your own body in front of your children
Challenging your inner critic and body shaming monologue
Finding more support and community along your journey
Learning to trust yourself and your children with food
These are things that can be possible in your family when you commit to ditching diet culture for GOOD.
Dealing With Friends and Family in Diet Culture
Inevitably, you’ll encounter comments and conversations that leave you feeling less than stellar about yourself, your decision to ditch diet culture and how you feed your kids.
Cue that mama bear, am I right?
As you navigate a new year with a commitment to ditch diet culture, here’s another friendly reminder: You don’t have to let food and body shamers trample on your truths.
You can have compassion for the people in your life who are entangled in diet culture while shutting down the food and body shaming.
When people start talking about their diets or New Year’s resolutions for weight loss, you can change the subject and lovingly remind them that how they look is the least interesting thing about them.
When people question you for how you approach feeding with your children, you don’t have to explain yourself. Let them know you appreciate their concern and that you’ve got this handled.
If a conversation becomes toxic or triggering, give yourself permission to change the subject or leave altogether. You’re allowed to do whatever you need to do to protect your boundaries and values.
While you might not be able to sway someone’s opinion or have the capacity to explain your parenting decision, you CAN stay firmly rooted in YOUR truths: You’re committed to ending legacies of diet culture in your family and supporting your children in building positive relationships with food and their bodies.
You’ll encounter some resistance along the way, but that doesn’t have to take away from what you’re fighting for every day.
For more support with this, be sure to check out this post here: “4 Ways to Deal With People Who Food Police Your Kids”
Fighting For Food Freedom in Your Family
I hope this helps you, my friend.
I know it can feel lonely to choose a path that feels counter cultural, and I want you to know you’re not alone.
You are taking the brave steps to change your family tree and redefine what your lineage will be – one that isn’t rooted in diet culture any longer.
Be encouraged in knowing you’re taking the right steps forward to enjoy food freedom as a family.
And when you think about this past year as we move into a new one, I hope you can give yourself grace and compassion.
It’s okay if you don’t have a laundry list of things you accomplished this year.
It’s okay if this year ended up looking drastically different than you expected.
It’s okay if all you did this year was keep your family safe and fed.
That, my friend, is more than enough.
You did what you needed to do to survive.
It’s okay to grieve what was lost AND be grateful for what you have.
Celebrate YOU and all you’ve done to keep your family safe and healthy.
Diet culture will try to drown you in lies of not being “good enough” because of how you ate, how you fed your kids, not having an exercise routine or because your body changed (PSA: our bodies are supposed to change). The list can go on and on.
Let this be the year you choose to drop out of diet culture and leave these lies behind.
You don’t need to go into the new year punishing yourself for what may or may not have happened last year.
Instead of engaging in behaviors that attempt to manipulate your weight or body size, try approaching your body from a place of compassion and respect.
It’s the one place that’s been your home for your whole life, and it’s worth caring for with the utmost gentleness and gratitude.
And to say that it’s been hard to get through a seemingly never-ending global pandemic is an understatement.
The only thing that could make it harder is piling on unnecessary food guilt and body shame.
You’re a survivor.
Let your body be a place of appreciation and celebration for everything it’s brought you through.
So here’s to you, my friend.
I hope you can recognize your courage and strength in the challenges you’ve bravely come through this past year and find ways to be gentler and kinder to yourself as we start this new year.
Happy New Year – I’m celebrating YOU.
P.S. And if you are a mama or mom-to-be in eating disorder recovery or in need of more support around food/body image issues, consider joining our FREE virtual support group, Lift the Shame. We have a wonderful community of mothers that can help you know you’re NOT alone on your journey.