Overcoming diet culture can be hard when you are not aware of the narratives you have been believing about food, your body, working out, and more. Diet culture labels foods, causes you to restrict how much you are eating and makes meal plans all about weight loss. I’m here to share that the food you eat doesn’t need labels. You can lose weight without dieting, and you can find joy in working out and the way you eat.
Listen to this episode on overcoming diet culture with Chelsea Blackbird.
BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPTION OF OVERCOMING DIET CULTURE
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Diet Culture Definition
Chelsea, I could not think of a better person to talk about overcoming diet culture through a biblical lens. I have come out of the diet culture personally. There’s a lot of narratives that I didn’t know I was believing or why I was believing them. They were leading me actually further into obsession, into despair, into body dysmorphia. So why don’t you take us to the foundation of why we enter into this.
Well, I think that a lot of us are motivated by weight. We’re trying to be a healthy weight; we are very entranced by worldly solutions. I call it shiny diet syndrome – there’s always a new diet on the horizon. People put their hope in these labels of diets or maybe a product. (A lot of diets are product-driven, as well.) We put our hope in that. If we can’t meet what that diet is calling us to do or we’re not getting results, then we feel like a failure. We internalize that. Therefore, it creates a really horrible cycle of yo-yo dieting, of just a little bit of hopelessness and a lot of throwing in the towel.
People can’t see it when they’re in it when it’s people diet hopping from one thing to the other. And so, what I like to help bring people back to is looking at the way that we eat; the way that we care for our bodies through a biblical lens. We look at the Bible as our guide for everything. A lot of us don’t think about it as part of our health guide. And I really believe that God has shown us everything that we need to do right there in the Bible. A lot of it right there in Genesis is really an insight.
Because when we think of our bodies, we think of God as the creator of our bodies; we are His creation, and who knows better than the Creator of our bodies what our bodies need to be healthy? That’s what I like to bring back people to is using the Bible and biblical lens as our compass when we are looking to take care of ourselves.
Getting Rid Diet Culture
How do we get out of this cycle of compounding diet culture and get back to those good intentions of really just wanting to glorify the goodness and the kindness of how God created our bodies?
I think first of all we need to shift our perspective about why we are keeping our body healthy. What is our goal here? If we can shift our perspective and meditate on the fact that our bodies are vessels of the Holy Spirit. That we are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. To know that when we feel well, we serve well. We show up so much more vibrantly to everything God has for us and everything that He needs us to do. And when you look at it that way, I think that’s different than being motivated by the size of jeans or the reunion coming up or whatever it is. Overcoming diet culture is going to take shifting our perspective.
Shifting that perspective, not basing what you’re gonna do on a label like “I’m going to be keto, I’m going to be vegan.” You can call yourself vegan or you can say you’re keto all day long, but that might not be jiving with what your body needs. We know that He gave us plant foods (Genesis 1:29), we know He gave us animal foods (Genesis 9:3). I believe that is a good foundation for everybody. That’s real food. The way God made it, that is the food God put in nature and that’s always going to be the best thing for our bodies.
And so I think if we can go into it with that, and just start there, and then and then tweak from there, so that’s one piece of it. But then the other piece is getting out of this idea that it is a diet. Every day you have to find something that really does work for you for your body. For sustainability, don’t go into it saying, “I am never gonna have a piece of pie again.” If you can’t sustain something long-term, you’re gonna hit that wall. Leading you to feel like a failure.
So you’ve got to find something that works, that is sustainable. And I think those are two key things which sound opposite because I’m talking about real food and then I’m talking about cookies and wine. But that’s the thing, I always tell people your body can handle some of these less than great things some of the time as long as your foundation is real food most of the time and you’re really working to keep your body healthy. But this is also life and we have to find a way and strike that balance that works for us so we can enjoy life. Food is a gift and our bodies are a gift and we need to treat them as such.
Signs You May Be Dieting
I would love to talk about how diet culture through a biblical lens and how to actually begin to get out of common narratives that people say to themselves. I know we talked a little about absolutes, but what can people begin to recognize or what are the signs that they are in a diet culture mentality so that we can begin to move through overcoming diet culture?
I think it goes back to how you’re feeling when you’re catching yourself. I always say you’ve got to take some of these thoughts captive. If you find yourself saying things like, “I’ll start over. I might as well eat all this now because I’m never gonna have it again.” All of these thoughts go through our heads – you’re on that diet. We have to just go back to this biblical way of eating. I read a blog post once called Diet Denomination – with these labels we can all be different denominations as Christians, right? And a lot of times we’ll want to defend these different labels of who we are, but really, at the root of who we all are is we’re believers.
The needs of our bodies don’t ever change. It needs water. Your body needs plant foods. Yes, it needs good protein from animal foods. Your body needs sunshine, rest, and movement. It needs fellowship, – those needs are never going to change. And when we can look to meeting the needs of our body in that way instead of looking at something as a diet, I think that really shifts how you approach your health and your food. And so, I truly think that’s the best way to go into it. When we break the diet it’s really us not keeping our word to ourselves.
I think that we feel that very deeply. Even though we may not recognize it, it hurts us inside to know that we are not keeping our word to ourselves and we don’t know how to break out of that. But always when you don’t know what to do, where do we go? We look to the Lord, we look to His Word – what does this Word tell us to do? Care for our bodies like a holy temple because that is what they are. God needs us healthy to do His kingdom work here on Earth. And, and that is a very big deal. Overcoming diet culture means you are going to have to address areas of your heart too.
Having the Holy Spirit inside of you is a very big deal. And He wants you to wake up and be a blessing machine; to get up and be able to live this gift of life and to bless others in your path. And it’s really hard to do that when you’re down on yourself mentally or you physically just don’t feel like doing that because you have not honored your body with what it needs. It wasn’t until I looked at it that way that I could pull myself out of these diet labels that I felt must be the answer. But it may not necessarily be the answer for you. So it’s really just learning about yourself and what you need and that may not be the same thing as your neighbor.
Ways to Overcome and Find Freedom with Food
I love that we’re having this conversation at the beginning of the year. It’s a new year and I think many of us want to have health goals, we want to set out and do something different with our bodies this year. And really, I think the goal of even this episode is challenging the way you think to change the way we eat. We have to begin to actually first change the way we view food and change the way we view our body because those are the things that are going to last and actually keep us motivated longer. Could you name some common things about diet culture that might make us feel like a failure?
Shame and failure – those are two that come up a lot. Part of what I really want people to recognize is that when you’re in your head more about your food, your weight, your aches and pains, those things are taking up a lot of real estate of your brain that really would be so much better served by thinking about your blessings, thinking about God, thinking about all that you want to be and do in this world. And I think that’s one way to catch yourself.
How do I need to shift my thinking around this to better my thought pattern? Our mindset is what drives everything that we do. And so we really want to protect those thoughts running through our mind.
Yeah, talking about real estate is so huge because we do have to think about what’s renting space in our minds. What are we thinking about the most because our life will follow our most dominant thought. So I would love for you to take us through and close this out with some really practical ways for us to get out of diet culture or to heal from that to view eating through a biblical lens. So what kind of ways do you help your clients move through that and get through that?
Practical Ways of Overcoming Diet Culture
Well, we start with our body looking at it as the Holy Temple and eating to feel well. One thing is always monitoring how your body is feeling in response to food. I don’t think enough people make that connection. The connection that you’re feeling in your body is related to what you just ate. It’s not random, it’s connected. That’s one thing. However, always starting with that foundation, starting with real food, that’s what we always start with when I’m working with clients. Let’s start with real food, plants, vegetables, fruits, and protein sources. And then we take it in stages of layering in. So that’s the approach that I take with my clients is we do it in a really systematic way. So that we can really figure out the foods that are worth it.
Those are two big things I would definitely go by, but also health as a whole package is not just about food. It is about sleep. It is about rest in the Lord. Prayer is so important. It is about connecting with friends and family. Get outside and soak up some sunshine in your skin. It is about drinking enough pure water, and it’s all of these things that that we need. I think when we break it down in those lovely pieces, it’s just learning to crave those things that we need and really honoring our bodies. Just being a fierce protector of our bodies. Nobody’s gonna protect it as much as you will for yourself. All of this is it sounds so simple, but we make it so hard.