Do you spend all day thinking about and planning your meals?
Are you "careful" with your food choices?
Do you have rules and judgement around food?
Do you try to make the "best" or "healthiest" decision every time you eat something?
Do you struggle with weight concern, emotional eating, binging, and/or food obsession?
If so, you might want to take a look at your personal diet mentality.
Diet mentality, or diet thinking, leads to dieting behaviours. And dieting behaviours build a cage around a person that places serious limits on their capacity to live and enjoy a rich, full, and meaningful life.
If there was ever an opportune time for us as individuals to slay our own private diet mentalities and weight biases - and for us to collectively dismantle the very diet culture that it stands upon - NOW is the time.
The next new moon falls on Wednesday, April 26th. This mid-autumn moon cycle is known in many parts of the world as the Blood Moon or Hunter's Moon. And it is the perfect time for you to put this diet thing to bed, for good.
Read on for 7 hard-core (but realistic) ways to slay that MF beast that is the diet mentality!
“There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were.”
- Hazrat Inayat Khan, Thinking Like The Universe: The Sufi Path Of Awakening
Death was obviously an inevitable and necessary part of this preparation.
This new moon also falls close to the sabbat of Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere, April 30/May 1. It is called the Day of the Dead in Mexico, Halloween across the United States. Samhain is a time to reflect on the mortality that inevitably confronts us all, and to learn to deal with the fears that surround death.
Again, death is a prime theme right now. It is a time to reflect that life is cyclical, and that change is the natural order of things.
As it relates to health in our current time and culture, changing the way we think about health, beauty and bodies is the natural order of things.
Change directed away from the diet mentality that plagues so many individuals couldn't come sooner. Diet culture is unproductive, dangerous, unhealthy, and ultimately soul-destroying. Sadly, it’s easy to succumb to diet culture because it surrounds us. It’s the acceptable way to behave. The default setting. It's the cornerstone of our major media, our healthcare system, and our cultural ethics.
But change is already happening on a large scale. Discord is growing. Educated people are doing the unthinkable. They are questioning whether the pursuit of weight loss is a good idea. They see that this "lose weight and get healthy" message is not only not working, it's also harming us. This is the Health At Every Size movement. It is a much-needed change, and it is natural order of things.
But in order for this movement to further take foothold, we must bring death - a kind of ending that does not leave a permanent void, but instead allows a full paradigm shift to take place - to the diet mentality. This "death" is necessary for our health, and if you will, for our survival and ability to thrive as whole beings.
It is a time to confront our inner demons, and face our fears... including the fear of ending any and all attempts to control our weight and body shape.
The fear of slaying the diet mentality for good.
Death and bloodshed, the themes of this lunar cycle, are themes that we as post-industrial westerners are deeply uncomfortable with. Whether it's the death of a person, an animal, the environment, or an ideal - like the "thin is healthy" ideal.
So don't worry - that discomfort, anxiety, or flat out fear you feel at the idea of ending diet mentality? That's normal.
Just like death as a general theme, the death of the diet mentality is often met with immense trepidation and fear of the worst. We have been taught that without diets, we will put on weight infinitely.
That we will be grossly overweight, ugly, and unhealthy.
That we will be an outcast, because everyone else is so invested in diet culture.
That we will never be loved.
None of these are true.
How do we slay the diet mentality? To answer this, let's go on a little metaphorical hunting journey that illustrates one traditional culture's close relationship with death, and the life that this death brings.
(NOTE: In this 13 moons of intuitive eating series I use alternate traditional cultures as a first step to expanding our worldview, a way to widen the lens through which we view people and culture, as well as start to get us back in touch with traditional food wisdom and the natural ways of being we have migrated so far away from.)
Hunting with the Martu WOMEN
Now is the most important time of the year for female Martu hunter-gatherers to hunt goannas. As the temperature drops and the lizards start hibernating, groups of women head out from the camps and set fire to patches of the spinifex grass covering den entrances. The flowering of Darwin Woolybutt (Eucalyptus miniata) blossoms signals the time to begin early dry season burning to clean up the dead grass after the wet. The Martu know the best time to do this is earlier rather than later in the dry, while the land still retains moisture and fires will be less intense.
Once the brush has been fire-cleared, these strong, capable, and yes - fierce - women use hunting sticks, much like clubs. When a woman finds a goanna she expertly runs it down and delivers a few short, efficient blows to kill it. It is then up to her discretion how the meat is divided among the tribe.
This generations-old hunting practice actually helps to maintain Western Australia's desert habitats by buffering the landscape against overgrown brush and widespread lightning fires that hurt Australia's endangered small mammals. The small fires set by the Martu women leave a patchwork landscape that proves a perfect environment for bilbies, wallabies, possums and other threatened mammals.
Despite growing awareness of the role that fire plays in wild space, many Australians have been slow to accept Martu - and other traditional indigenous burning practices. Many people see it as a destructive force. It's in line with the thinking that humans are purely a disturbance of the natural equilibrium, whereas the Martu perspective is that humans are part of it all.
Death is change, and change is good
We may call these practices barbaric, uncivilised, destructive, unfeminine, or even irresponsible. But such views only arise amidst the noise of the culture we currently live in. Take away the telescope, turn down the volume of collective societal values, change long-held perspectives, and look at things from the point of view of a Martu tribeswoman... and things start looking very different indeed.
Similarly, tearing down the constructs of socially acceptable beauty norms that subscribe to the thin ideal, could be seen as unfeminine. Ending diets and the quest for thinness, irresponsible. Seeing health through a different lens other than "thin is healthy", destructive and unhealthy. The concept of accepting bodies of all sizes, uncivilised, or revolting.
But what if we tore away the telescope that is our current diet culture?
Our revulsion at death and destruction may stem from our lack of belonging to a traditional culture that puts death in the context of something far greater. From our lack of direct immersion in, and understanding of, natural events such as death.
Similarly, our revulsion at fat bodies, our fear of what would happen to our weight and health if we stopped dieting, our tendency to unfairly and mistakenly attribute certain disease states to fatness, and our narrowly-focussed worship of the thin ideal or fit-but-thin ideal and all paths that supposedly lead to it including restrictive dieting, all stem from our lack of familiarity with this new paradigm that places body size and health in a far more evidence-based context.
As a previous vegetarian of 10 years (and for a time, an ultra-strict-bordering-on-fanatical-purist vegan), this paradox of killing animals in order to sustain life as it still occurs in many traditional cultures has taken me a good few years to get my head around.
Without romanticising pre-industrial life, it is pertinent to understand many traditional cultures had an intimate relationship to the spiritual world. These were people for whom daily life activities were imbued with a spiritual intention and meaning, people for whom the universe and its lifeforms were respected, and in some cases revered.
And yet, every single traditional culture known to us hunted and ate animals in some form.
In my nutrition masters program I majored in public health and grew very interested in aboriginal health and nutrition. The more I learnt about Indigenous Australian and other traditional cultures, the less readily I could buy the line that these cultures are just primitive or unevolved.
Many of their ways of life seem based on an understanding of life much more evolved than the Western industrial paradigm. Where we value independence and freedom, these traditional cultures hold onto a concept of interdependence and mutual indebtedness, and a knowledge of the wheel of karma, the cycles of life.
This indebtedness - these cycles - not only preserved habitats and animal populations for thousands of years. They also inevitably involved death, for it was impossible for them not to.
As a long-time vegetarian this paradox of a death that respects and conserves life was yet another falling domino amongst many others that eventually ended my devout vegetarianism and lead me towards a more intuitive eating style, for me. (Note: I am by no means advocating that all vegetarians should start eating meat; I am merely using a personal process to illustrate paradigm shift as a concept.) At first the thought of eating meat again seemed impossible to accept, but with time accept it I did. It was a total paradigm shift.
The same degree of paradigm shift involved in letting go of the idea that weight loss equates to health, and realising that actually, the death of dieting mentality respects and conserves health.
From this, we can start to see that death can not only be a good thing, but a life-affirming thing. And that applies to the death of dieting and body hatred.
Death of the diet mentality
To really benefit from the kind of wellbeing that a focus on health, not weight brings, (and on a more political level, to really create equality for all individuals free of fat bias and sizeism), we must disassemble the diet mentality and the diet culture that it stems from.
"If you stop dieting, you will become morbidly obese and no one will love you."
- Diet culture, circa 2017 AD.
Within our capitalist system that hinges on constant, endless striving and the importance placed upon power i.e. control (of our bodies, our resources, our environment, etc)... the embodiment of femininity and the height of attraction has always been a body type that few women can realistically maintain for long.
Despite - or perhaps because of this, we are taught that if we're not striving for the impossible body type by means of impossible diets, then we are worthless. We are taught that dieting is a good thing... that constant striving and continual attempts to control our bodies (and if we're honest, attempts to control others' thoughts about and reactions to our bodies - and by extension, our selves) via dieting, is a good thing.
This mentality is destructive. It's time to end this shit and slay the diet mentality that holds so many of us down.
Let's look at the ways diet mentality disguises itself, the damage it can do if it catches us unaware, how we can spot it, and the allies and weapons we must wield to slay it. Let's hunt this beast down together so that we can get started on creating a relationship with food and our bodies that is life-sustaining, and personally enriching.
7 steps to hunting down diet mentality
Know when the time for burning is right. Surround yourself with strong warrior women. Burn the spinifex to reveal where goannas are hiding. Track and kill the prey with other women. Divide up the meat, celebrate the hunt, honour how the animal has served us... and be nourished.
1. Know when it's time for burning
In last moon cycle I discussed hitting diet rock bottom. This is when you've reached the end of yet another failed diet, and you're sad, maybe even angry. Anger and frustration with dieting are good! Much like the blossoming Eucalyptus flowers, hitting diet rock bottom is a great time to light the fires that will reveal the true damage diet mentality does as well as bring it down.
Of course, you don't have to wait for yet another diet to fail. It's burn time whenever your eyes are opened to the futility of dieting. It is time to get angry - hell, furious - at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight.
2. Surround yourself with other huntresses
Surround yourself with people who are on the same mission to embrace real health, disassemble diet thinking and bring down diet culture. People who get body positivity – the real body positivity, not the kind that has been adopted by people who want you to buy their clean-eating cookbook, their multi level marketed fat-burning products, or their weight loss program.
The kind of body positivity where you surround yourself with fierce, unapologetic people of every size, shape, colour, ability, and gender who embrace their bodies and invest in their self-esteem instead of their next cleanse or body-sculpting competition. Look out for encouraging signs that your body positivity is on the rise. Celebrate them, alone or - even better - with your tribe.
3. Understand that death brings life
Burning the grass is necessary for survival. Hunting and being nourished by the goanna is necessary to thrive. These are NOT destructive events as mainstream western culture might lead you to think. Face your fears about hunting and slaying diet mentality. Listen to the scared inner voice that says, "If I stop dieting, I'll put on weight, I'll be out of control". The voice that is too scared of the hunt because it believes "I'll be hurt / suffer somehow". But you're already suffering. The dieting or disordered eating voice says: "If you destroy me, I'll take your happiness away - and maybe even your life." The opposite is true.
4. Know how your prey disguises itself
Get clear on what diets look like, so you can spot and kill them. Know what you're hunting for. Know what your prey (diet mentality and culture) looks like... and know that sometimes it's not always obvious. Like goannas, diet culture can be bloody good at disguising itself.
There's of course old school dieting, the easy-to-spot “fad diets” like grapefruit diets, cabbage soup diets or the Master Cleanse. To me, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are also under the old school dieting umbrella - it's pretty obvious with these programs the focus is on weight loss.
But then there's the harder-to-spot "I'm not dieting" diets. I’m talking about “lifestyle” diets, which include the cyclical dieting and over-exercise promoted by multilevel marketing companies (think Isagenix, Juice Plus, Herbalife).
I'm talking about the ever-ubiquitous cults of “clean eating,” known for voraciously cutting out multiple food groups "for health reasons". I'm talking about the fit ideal, and it claims to be an improvement on the skinny ideal (hint: it isn't).
Then there's emotional dieting - read more about that and other diets here.
5. Acknowledge the dangers
Be aware of the damage your prey can and has caused. Dieting causes serious physical, emotional, and psychological damage. Acknowledge the damage this creature has inflicted upon you before. Hunt carefully and consciously. The animal you hunt is subversive, clever, has many guises. Don't be tempted into one last diet!
6. Watch out for traps and snares
The beast that is diet mentality and the diet culture that feeds it are expert hunters themselves! The marketing that drives the sales of diet products and weight loss programs is a force to be reckoned with, but then add the weight bias ingrained in our medical system, our deeply entrenched social values surrounding body and weight.. and you have one seriously crafty beast. You are hunting a worthy opponent.
Think of all the diets you've been on - did they follow through on their promises? Get clear on the fact that they no, they didn't deliver on their promises - not in the long term. Now you are starting to see diet culture for what it really is. Your prey is in your sights.
It is time to rid ourselves of the diet books and magazines, and unfollow all accounts and people who offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Throw off any gear that weighs you down (the scales, calorie or carb counting books, podcasts that subscribe to diet culture, clothes you're hoping to fit into someday that are too small for a natural more comfortable body weight and shape for you.) These all act as traps to lure you back in. There may be a sense of grieving that comes with getting rid of that pretty juice fasting book. That's ok. But do get rid of it.
If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from completely ridding yourself of diet mentality and being free to rediscover intuitive eating.
7. "Let's saddle up, Apone!"
This is a line from one of my favourite sci-fi movies of all time, Aliens (1986). It is said by Lieutenant Gorman to Sergeant Apone, upon finding a massive nest of aliens via heat sensor technology at a processing station within an ex-colony base built on an alien planet (sounds ridiculous, is actually awesome). The bunch of soldiers the movie is centred around were sent to said planet to kill these aliens using lots of big guns and bombs.
Essentially, what Gorman was saying to Apone was arm the fuck up.
The Martu women have a hunting stick and years of expertise and hunting skill with which to take down their prey. You might not have as much experience but there are tools that can help.
What are the tools of intuitive eating? This is what we will cover in the next 11 moons in this series. It will also be covered in more detail in my upcoming book. In the meantime, this book might be a good start to building your arsenal of weapons.
8. If the goanna escapes, try, and try again.
Be fiercely self-compassionate. Trust yourself. Be persistent. Anyone on a worthy journey will stumble a few times - get up, dust yourself off, and keep going. You can do this.