“I worked out today so I can treat myself to a piece of cake.”
“When I lose these last ten pounds, I’ll go to the beach.”
“Next week I’ll eat more. I’ve got to fit into that dress this weekend.”
“I can’t eat that! It’ll go straight to my hips.”
Sound familiar? Have you put any thought into the actual quantity of time that you spend thinking about your body and/or food? Pay attention. You might surprise yourself at how much brain space is devoted to calculating calories, self-loathing, and deprivation. Have you ever imagined the relief you would feel if you could abandon the quest to obtain the ideal body? If you haven’t, it’s time to liberate yourself from the no-win game of dieting. May 6th is the perfect day to start.
Since 1992, May 6th has been designated International No Diet Day (INDD). This body-loving campaign is associated with combating eating disorders and honoring the people who have suffered because of one. For this day, we can thank Mary Evans Young, a UK feminist, the founder of the British anti-diet movement, Diet Breakers, and author of the best-selling book, Diet Breaking: Having It All Without Having To Diet (Hodder & Stoughton, 1995). She started INDD after recovering from anorexia, although the day isn’t just about eating disorders. This movement draws attention to the fact that a great many of us suffer from disordered thinking regarding food and our bodies, not just those afflicted with anorexia and bulimia.
INDD is more about not depriving yourself for a 24-hour period. It beckons you to make peace with your body and your relationship with food. And not only for your mental health. Various studies show that yo-yo dieting has been found to be damaging to one’s physical health in conditions such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, and clogged arteries. What’s more is that investigators have evidence that illustrate a significant correlation between thinness and shorter lives.
As you savor in the freedom and pleasure of eating exactly what you please this May 6th, contemplate that every single day could be diet-free. Easier said than done. Chances are, if you diet you’ve been counting calories for a long time. Abandoning the habit isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s a process – one that leads to greater self-acceptance. Start small. If you need some help, choose one of the following actions to start creating a new diet-free reality:
- If you regularly weigh yourself, cut down how often you do with the goal of getting rid of your scale completely. Celebrate by throwing a scale-smashing party.
- Stop asking, “Do I look fat in this?” Make the commitment to stop questioning your friends, your lover, and especially yourself for a full week. Then, at the end of that week, commit for another week and then another, until you have deprogrammed that question out of your awareness.
- Listen to your body. If it asks for a brownie, don’t give it a carrot. You’ll just end up eating a bag of veggies before succumbing to your true craving. If you deprive yourself, you’ll probably eat not just one brownie, but rather, a plateful. Your body knows what it needs. Learn to respect its innate wisdom.
- Eliminate one diet food from your grocery list. Anything labeled fat-free and light falls into this category. Choose another low-calorie item to phase out of your food choices until your fridge is filled with exactly what your body wants, not products that you think will get you thinner.
- Do at least one thing that you’ve been postponing until you have lost weight: Buy that new outfit, sign up for dance class, or ask your crush out on a date.
Although May 6th helps raise awareness regarding eating disorders, use it to take a look at your own body and your relationship with it. Take the INDD pledge and spread the word. The more of us that reject the pressure to diet, the less it will be touted as the norm. And that will translate to a happier – and healthier – society.
 Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth (New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2004, 33.
 Crespo et al., “The Relationship of Physical Activity and Body Weight with All-Cause Mortality: Results from the Puerto Rico Heart Health Program,” AEP 12, (2002): 543-52.