Any time someone tells you that you “have to do it their way” to get results, that is a form of diet culture. So how do we bridge the gap between diet culture and the opposing side that is “anti-diet”?

In this episode, registered Dietitian Toni Marinucci and I talk about the balance between both.

Toni is the owner of Diet Tips With Toni and the Tips With Toni podcast, where she works with busy working women who struggle with knowing how to eat and fuel their bodies optimally, so they can have the energy and self-confidence to live a life of freedom; freedom from negative thoughts, self-doubt, and “what-if’s”.

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Stop Focusing on How Food Makes You Look

Toni describes herself as a jolly, happy-go-lucky child who became her own worst enemy after years of hearing comments from other children about her weight. 

Her young adult years became a cycle of beating herself up and going from one extreme diet to another. She tried undereating and overexercising; always chasing some unattainable picture of what everybody else told her she should look like. 

Extreme food restrictions are what finally drove Toni to become a registered nutritionist. Not only did extreme restrictions not work for her, but she could see that it actually sent her the other way, towards overeating. 

When she stopped focusing on how food might make her look, and instead focused on how food made her feel, she was able to get control over her eating habits. healthy salad diet

The Prevalence of Diet Culture

If you’re online for 15 minutes, you will likely see an advertisement for a diet plan, workout program, or posts by “fitness professionals.” 

Our culture is filled with messages that we must adhere to a certain way of eating or exercising if we want to “get it right.” So, what do we do with that information? Who do we trust? 

Anytime you see someone who says that their way is the only way to get XYZ, you are seeing diet culture. 

The truth is, there are 1,001 ways to be healthy. Toni’s mission is to help people find the way that works best for them. You have to experiment with different things to figure out what works for you. 

In the midst of a pandemic, things may look very different than they did before we were all at home with our children. You have to continue to master what works for you and be willing to make changes according to the circumstances you find yourself in. 

The Magic Is in the Middle

The polar opposite of diet culture is the anti-diet culture. But the truth is, that culture is no more helpful. Toni believes that true health comes from landing somewhere in the middle. 

The extremes of diet culture are: count everything, weigh every macro, exercise to exhaustion. 

On the opposite side, you have the anti-diet extremes of never count a calorie, never measure anything, don’t worry about moving your body. 

If you fall into either one of these extremes, you have gotten away from what’s actually good for you. You actually may need some guidance. You might need to do some measuring. Do you know what 4 oz of protein looks like? 

There are tools you can use for a certain period of time just to educate yourself on what you need to do moving forward. 

The more you figure out what works best of you, the more success you will have and the more your approach toward food will be evidence-based and not fear-based. 

Asking the Right Questions

One of the things I tell my clients all the time is, “If you want to change your life, you have to continually ask yourself, “Why?”. 

  • “Why am I in the pantry every day at 4:00 scrounging for a snack?”
  • “Why do I start diets over and over again?”
  • “Why, why, why?”

When we stop and ask ourselves the questions, it forces us to dig deep inside ourselves for the answers. Which are in there, by the way. We just haven’t wanted to look at them. 

Toni also uses the “Why” question with her own clients. She always asks them, “Why haven’t your past efforts to improve your health been successful?”

Once the answers are out there, the client can then use that data they discover in their efforts moving forward. 

Toni says, “The answer to what you need to do is always in the answers to your why questions. So, ask why, then ask why, then ask why again. And usually by the third why, you’re getting to the real answers you need to make lasting changes.”

Step #1 to Finding the Magic Middle Ground

So, you’ve listened to this podcast and you see yourself in one of the extremes; diet or anti-diet culture. And you know that in order to be your best and healthiest self, you have to make some changes. 

You need to take a step toward the middle but how? Where do you start?

Toni asks, as you think about that question, what pops into your head? Most of us have at least some idea of where we need to start, a step we can take in the right direction. 

We all know deep within ourselves at least one thing we could do that would get us headed in a better direction. What is that one thing for you?

Give yourself permission to do that one thing. 

Maybe you need to drink more water every day or add veggies to every plate. Maybe you need to stop pressuring yourself to be perfect. Maybe you need to stop feeling like you have to exercise every day. 

Start with the answer that feels most intuitive for you right now. And if you feel like you just need to change everything right.this.minute., think back to the last time you tried that and what happened. 

The answer is almost always some form of, “I lost 20 lbs but I gained it all back plus 10 more.”

This time, maybe you lose 15 lbs slowly and you don’t gain it back. You do it by building one healthy habit at a time. 

What’s your new habit going to be? Choose one and then slowly build on it over time. 

There may be many layers of this onion that you have to peel back before you get to all the root causes. If you don’t know where to start, I am here to help.




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