You don’t need a “special day” to enjoy food. That’s diet culture.

May 4th, 2020 by Sara Upson

It’s a special year this year (not because of all the craziness in the world right now) but because cinco de mayo falls on Tuesday…Taco Tuesday.  To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have known this except a Mexican restaurant that my family likes sent me an email pointing out how significant this was.  And while I like cinco de mayo, taco Tuesday, and tacos in general, I dislike the push from diet culture that permission to have certain foods comes on special days.  That sounds a little dramatic- but it’s true.

Diet culture says that you shouldn’t enjoy food- that you should restrict your eating, eliminate fun foods, and only have certain foods at certain times- aka special days or events.  This creates pseudopermission to have food.  It means that foods are restricted, except for at specific times, which is a setup for guilt, shame, reactive eating and feeling out of control with food. 

The irony is, the more you try to control and manage your food the more out of control it becomes. The more out of control it becomes the more shame and guilt you feel. The more shame and guilt you feel the more you feel like you Can’t trust yourself around food and that you have to restrict.  But the more you restrict, the more out of control you feel. It’s a vicious cycle.  

To save you (Sarcasm) diet culture then gives you special days that it’s okay to have food: taco Tuesday, donut day, hamburger day, chocolate day, holidays in general.  But because it’s only permissible on one day- it reinforces the need to ignore your body, “indulge” and eat all you want because it’s just one day.  The restriction reinforces eating more as your thoughts turn to- I better have it now because I won’t get it later.  This leads to feeling out of control and reinforces the belief that you can’t trust yourself.

In essence this turns special days/holidays around food/ celebrations with food into a “cheat” day or a permissible time to eat which is a guaranteed path to feeling uncomfortably full, out of control with food, guilty, and ashamed.  Because you feel so bad after that one day, you then convince yourself that you can’t trust yourself with food and it reinforces the diet culture narrative that you have to restrict your eating.  You don’t!  It’s actually a trap.

To change this- permission is essential. Permission to have foods you desire or enjoy when you’d like to have them. Not just because of some random day!  When you truly have permission to eat, you tune into your body and respond from internal cues, preference, and permission rather than the thought or feeling that it’s special, that you’ll never get it again, that it won’t be until next year that you get to have it!  So enjoy your food and remember you can always have more.

While I’m not for the “diet culture pseudopermission days,” there is a day this month that I am for- International No Diet Day!  It’s on May 6th and is all about freeing yourself from diet culture and learning how to reconnect to your body’s needs and desires.  It focuses on enjoying food in a flexible, enjoyable manger that includes preferences and taking care of yourself- regardless of your body weight, shape or size.  Can you imagine what a difference that could make?!

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