Begin Intuitive Eating by Rejecting the Diet Mentality and Ditching the Scale
After the seminar, I ordered the acclaimed book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating (affiliate link) . I felt equal parts excitement and fear. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, if I could begin intuitive eating after years of disordered eating. But I decided to read it and give myself a test run. I wanted a way to feel food freedom in my life.
Principle 1 discussed the benefits of rejecting the diet mentality.
What was diet mentality? Diet mentality is that little voice in your head that makes comments about your food choices and your body, often using terms like “good,” “bad,” “healthy,” “unhealthy,” “fattening,” “indulgent,” “sinful,” “fat,” “skinny,” and the like. It’s that little nagging worry about how what you eat or how you move will impact your body size. Sound familiar?
Even though I had been told I was recovered from my eating disorder, and even though I was at a “healthy” weight, I still heard that voice. And I didn’t want to anymore.
We see the diet mentality popping up subtly in the ways we interact with our world: bathroom scales, calorie trackers, step counters, smart watches, food scales, fitness apps, food logs. These all contribute to our thoughts and judgments about food and body, and we invite these things into our lives. The key problem is that they are all external measures – they are external devices that tell us how to feel and make assumptions about what we need. They do not promote any internal connection or attunement to our body’s and mind’s actual needs moment-to-moment.
Finding ways to eliminate these tangible items is a great way to begin intuitive eating.
I ditched my scale.
I used to tell people I only weighed myself “on occasion in order to be sure I wasn’t falling back into old habits.” That was a lie.
No, the reason for weighing myself in recovery has only ever been to be sure that I was still under a certain threshold (an arbitrary number I made up one time). This would mean that I hadn’t gained “too much,” that I was maintaining the weight I had (magically, basically out of thin air) determined was an acceptable one for me post-recovery. And yes, historically, when the number on the scale sometimes climbed near or beyond that magic number, I began to modify my diet.
I realized years ago, after re-gaining the weight I needed much faster than I believed I could, that going back to heavy restriction wasn’t an option for me anymore. Back then I thought I no longer had the willpower. Now I recognize that my body rebels any perceived famine and demands calories and nourishment if I restrict. Just like it’s designed to do.
I knew all this. So I knew that my relationship with my scale was also still steeped in the diet culture I was swimming in. It seemed a logical first step: stop weighing myself, for any reason.
Ditching the scale was a challenge; I anticipated a lot of discomfort. Waking up every Wednesday, I consciously reminded myself I’m not stepping on the scale today. Fortunately, the scale had lived in the closet to save space in the bathroom; I didn’t have to confront it daily unless I allowed my thoughts to venture.
There were times too, when they did venture. Times I thought my body felt different, slightly different, and I had the urge to check, believing a number would tell me exactly what was so different. Maybe it would even offer me something to make the feeling go away – what a dream world.
5 Things To Keep In Mind When You Ditch The Scale And The Diet Mentality
The scale simply tells you how gravity works on your body in that moment.
An external object does not get to have this level of power over you.
The scale forces a label into your head – a good change or a bad change. You you can be sure this dichotomous way of thought will affect your mood for the rest of the day.
Changes in weight happen daily and are influenced by so, so many factors. It is 100% normal for weight to change.
Your weight is not your worth.
My weight is not my worth.
It became easier and easier as the weeks went by. Soon I couldn’t remember which day was my “weigh in” day. Is our scale blue or gray? I was unable to remember what it looked like. And now it’s actually been sent to Goodwill. I certainly don’t know which numbers it would display if I stepped on it.
There are still opportunities that require conscious effort though. It’s something I tell my doctors any time I visit: “I’d rather not be weighed today.” Sometimes following up with: “I’m working on a better relationship with my body,” if I’m feeling more vulnerable. This tactic has yet to fail me; medical professionals usually nod and walk right by the nasty scale in the hallway. No questions asked.
Times I Have Been Weighed
I have been weighed “blindly.” A previous employer required weight for reduced health insurance premiums. In these instances, I asked for a blind weigh-in: I turned my back to the scale and asked that the nurse kindly not announce the number to me. I even requested that they cross-out my weight on the take-home report, which I shredded, and that rejection felt profound.
Later, I sent a letter to that employer discussing the ways in which weight is used to perpetuate stigma and bias, the ways in which weight is incorrectly used as a predictor of health, and the message our employer is sending by requiring low body weight to save money. Our bodies should not be criticized or scrutinized by anyone.
A Note About Thin Privilege
However, I can’t bring up healthcare and weight without also acknowledging my thin privilege. It is impossible to deny that I am in a naturally slender body. I can see my body and know, mostly, that I am not perceived as someone in a larger body.
The nights before those weigh-ins, though, I stressed all night. It never mattered that I knew I would receive the health insurance discount, that I would be below the threshold weight. I waited for the insurance company to slap a label on me, deemed healthy enough for a discounted premium. It bothers me that a stranger can look at a number and decide if I am worth the risk for a company. Imagining how that emotion would intensify if I was in a larger body or at risk of not meeting the requirement for the reduced rate makes me sick.
Diet mentality exists in our public eye and also in the crevices of our society.
We find it in the scales we keep in our closets, in the self-deprecating thoughts in our heads, in the office of our primary care providers, and in office policies. To begin intuitive eating, you must notice diet mentality. You must challenge it. It’s sneaky and ingrained, but once you look for it, it’s easy to see. And once you see it, I hope you too can reject it and ditch the scale.