Making Peace with Food | Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau


Making Peace with Food

March is National Nutrition Month and is usually meant to raise awareness on the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating habits. Healthy eating habits can manifest in a number of ways, whether through meal planning or cooking more often, but when searching for ways to improve such habits, it is difficult not to come across an abundance of trendy diets which often cause more harm than good.

The Weight-Loss Industry

For decades, the language surrounding the advocacy for healthy eating conflated health with thinness; thinness was valued above all else and equated with health and moral virtue. Diet culture is present in many aspects of our lives, from the media we consume to the way we talk about food and weight. It can be observed in popular health and wellness trends, which promote restrictive diets and encourage people to focus on weight loss as the key to health and happiness. It demonizes certain foods and ways of eating while promoting others, creating a hierarchy of good and bad foods. These preconceived notions helped the diet industry capitalize on people’s desire to achieve an idealized body type and blossom into the billion-dollar market it is today; the U.S. diet industry reached a peak of $78 billion in 2019. As most diets promise health through the guise of weight loss, they are immensely successful at convincing consumers they are essential.

The Dangers of Dieting

The pursuit of weight loss through restrictive diets and other means can have serious negative consequences for both physical and mental health. Research has shown that diets rarely work in the long term and can lead to disordered eating patterns, weight cycling, and nutrient deficiencies. Moreover, the relentless focus on weight and appearance can lead to poor self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and even eating disorders. Indeed, those who already have a complicated relationship with food, such as individuals with a history of disordered eating, marginalized communities, and those in larger bodies, are especially vulnerable to diet culture’s harmful messages.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards rejecting diet culture and embracing a more body-positive, weight-neutral approach to health and wellness. This includes the practice of intuitive eating, which encourages people to listen to their bodies and eat in a way that feels satisfying and nourishing, without judgement or restriction.

What Is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is an approach to food and eating that emphasizes listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, rather than following strict diets or food rules. It encourages a healthy relationship with food and focuses on finding pleasure and satisfaction in eating, rather than just the nutritional value of food. Intuitive eating involves being mindful of your body’s needs and being able to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional hunger. It also involves giving yourself permission to eat all foods in moderation, without guilt or shame, and promoting health as a holistic concept that encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being, rather than just weight and appearance.

At first, this approach can feel unnatural as it sometimes contradicts the convention of eating three meals a day. The practice of eating three meals a day in Western societies has been attributed to the Industrial Revolution and the need to accommodate work schedules. However, there is no scientific evidence that eating three meals a day is inherently better for health than eating more or fewer meals. In one of our previous interviews, photographer and model Cassandra Cacheiro detailed her own relationship with food and how intuitive eating has positively impacted her journey.

Intuitive Eating Won’t Solve Everything

Surely, intuitive eating is not a one-size-fits-all solution. As is the case with every diet, this anti-diet approach is not necessarily suitable for everyone. It is always recommended to consult with a dietitian before making any major changes to your diet. Even if practicing intuitive eating might not be optimal for everyone, there are many important takeaways from the anti-diet movement. Overall, it is essential to recognize the harmful impact of diet culture and to work towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate approach to healthy eating habits and nutrition.