Amanda Mittman is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, certified intuitive eating counselor, and body image coach who beautifully embodies my new direction of health at every size. She owns a group private practice of registered dietitians supporting people with disordered eating and eating disorders and teaches providers how to incorporate body image counseling skills into their practice.
The journey to loving our bodies is not an easy one and today we’re reflecting on the idea that instead of setting body love as the ultimate goal, it may be more achievable to focus on learning how to respect and be kind to our bodies. I’m also examining the grief associated with abandoning a lifelong diet journey and accepting our bodies, the link between body image and self-care, and the systemic forces that cause us to feel the way we do about our body.
Changing the Narrative
Those of us who work as professionals in this area, whether it’s dieticians or physicians, are usually trained that weight is a problem and weight loss is the solution. No one teaches you about disordered eating or weight inclusivity. The message given is simply how you can fix people through nutrition. However, many dieticians and physicians like Amanda and I, have now pivoted into this space where we’re much more concerned about the harms that those interventions are causing and taking a more anti-diet, weight inclusive or weight neutral approach to caring for patients.
Both Amanda and I had so much experience of seeing clients who would lose weight in the beginning, but then come back and say they can’t keep it off and think that they are the problem. This, combined with working on our own relationship with our body and food, led us both away from focusing on weight loss. Think about it like this: Where else in medicine would we prescribe something that has a 2% success rate and then blame the patient when it doesn’t work? And yet this is what we do when we are prescribing weight loss as physicians or as dieticians.
The Impact of Diet Culture
Diet culture permeates every aspect of our lives–both Amanda and I have seen this from our own experiences and from the clients we’ve worked with. There is a constant preoccupation with appearance, food, and societal judgments, it shapes our thoughts and beliefs, and devalues our self worth. But we have to remember that it is not our fault. We have been steeped in diet culture since birth, absorbing its toxic messages. So rather than blame ourselves, it’s important to recognize the external influences that have contributed to these feelings of inadequacy.
We have internalized these messages for so long, that they feel like our own. But these ideas were never ours to begin with. They were given to us when we were small children, unable yet to make decisions about what we want to take in and what we want to leave behind. The power now comes from deciding that you are ready to let go of some of that and gain awareness of where these messages are actually coming from. Then we can start to decide what your values are, and what you want to believe about your body and other people’s bodies.
Grieving Diet Culture and “Sitting in the Suck”
For many women, weight loss has been the focus for decades, and became a deeply ingrained goal. Shifting away from this mindset involves confronting the emotions tied to weight loss and in order to really start to heal our relationship with our body, we have to sit in this place of discomfort or “sitting in the suck” as Amanda calls it!
What typically happens whenever we get to this place of feeling bad about our body, is to diet and try to fix it. But then when we remove that, it can feel really uncomfortable in your body knowing that you’re not going to do anything to change it. We aren’t taught how to sit in grief and in discomfort, so this can feel really hard.
One of the questions that really helped me when I was going through this process is: What would I decide for myself right now if the size or shape of my body was not an issue? If there was no sizeism, no thin privilege, and the size of my body had as much emotion attached to it as my height or my hair color–what would I choose to do for myself? And that answer is almost always different than what I have been doing for myself over the past decades, which is heartbreaking in a lot of ways, but also liberating for me right now.
The Power of Body Respect
I’m personally not in a place of body love yet. I have moments where it’s there, but I certainly respect my body and have gratitude for what it’s able to do (even during this perimenopause crap!).
If you can get to body love, I think that’s excellent, but I think generally most people cannot get there. There can certainly be moments of experiencing it but the concept of body love can be very challenging. So what if we change the goal to be: how do we just respect our bodies? How do we be kind to our bodies? Focusing on nourishing and moving our bodies in a way that brings joy and feels kind is really how we foster great body image. You certainly don’t have to love your body and that doesn’t have to be the goal. And we can at least start by not looking at your body as a problem that needs to be fixed.
Acknowledging the Weight Loss Conversation
While weight loss is no longer the primary goal for myself or Amanda, people shouldn’t feel ashamed if they still want to lose weight. We still need to be talking about it and addressing it. Banning discussions around weight loss can be counterproductive, as it overlooks the very real issues people face. What we do need to focus on is taking an informed approach, so that patients are educated about the harms of dieting and the influence of diet culture, enabling them to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.
As professionals in the health and wellness field, Amanda and I are challenging the status quo. We are advocating for an anti-diet, weight-inclusive, and weight-neutral approach, recognizing the harms that traditional interventions can cause. It’s time to change the narrative, and acknowledge that weight loss isn’t the universal solution it’s often made out to be. We both know that the journey to embracing our uniqueness and finding peace with our bodies, regardless of size or shape, is not an easy one. But with it comes a greater self-acceptance, improved wellbeing, and total respect for the incredible bodies that carry us through life.
More about Amanda Mittman
Amanda is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and Body Image Coach. In addition to owning a group private practice of Registered Dietitians supporting people with disordered eating and eating disorders, she also teaches other providers how to incorporate body image counseling skills into their practice. She has worked with hundreds of clients in her career and what she knows is that people, especially women, feel so much shame around their body. And nobody is talking about this! Whether the client is in college, just had a baby or experiencing perimenopause/menopause, the conversation around the distress of a changing body is very similar. It is Amanda’s mission for people to talk about this topic without shame, guilt, or sense of failure, and to understand the systemic forces that cause us to feel the way we do about our body.