We spoke to the delightful Lauren and Jenna from The Body Love Society who run a community dedicated to helping every person who is looking to feel at peace in their bodies and with food.
Jenna Free and Lauren McAulay are Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellors who work with women from all over the world to heal their relationship with food and their bodies. They teach from an anti-diet perspective and allow women to discover how they can practice wellness without the obsession in a way that works for them. Jenna and Lauren struggled with food and body image for over a decade when they discovered that it didn’t have to be that way. You can still care about wellness without obsessing over weight, food or exercise. Jenna lives in Calgary, AB, Canada and Lauren is located in Los Angeles.
“We (Lauren McAulay and Jenna Free) are Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellors now but about 5 or 6 years ago we were just starting to explore the idea that our lives didn’t have to be dedicated to dieting, exercising, losing weight and trying to look a certain way. We did find our way out of dieting, binge eating, food obsession, disordered eating, and now we help others do the same.
We’ve absolutely seen a rise in anti-diet culture, but it’s still small enough where you’ll only see it if you’re looking for it. We often forget that dieting and weight loss are still huge industries because we block it out. We don’t follow any dieters, fitness “gurus” or weight-loss accounts on social media and the people in our lives know by now not to bother talking to us about their latest diet.”
But anti-diet culture is still very much a niche topic.
“When I (Jenna) first started to come out of dieting myself, I didn’t know that body positivity or anti-diet culture even existed. When I first started this work I thought I was inventing something new! It was only after I started searching and looking for others like me that I discovered a whole new world of experts and advocates sharing this message as well.
This is such an important movement because diet culture is so ingrained in our society that we don’t even see it until it’s pointed out. When I was in the thick of dieting I just thought it was normal to obsess over what I ate, be on a new diet every couple weeks, and always be on the hunt for weight loss. I believed that always thinking about my weight was normal and important.
But now that I’m on the other side I SEE.
I see that diet culture is only present to make money, to keep us (particularly women) small in every way, to keep us preoccupied and quiet. It’s like a fish swimming in water – it doesn’t know it’s in water until it jumps out and sees it from above. THIS is why anti-diet culture is needed – to allow people to see what’s real and what’s not.
The underlying message of being anti-diet/ body positive is, “It is okay to be you.” This is so important in a culture where we are told we should look a certain way, have certain things, and live a life that LOOKS good, instead of one that feels good.
NOTE: It is often misinterpreted so it’s important to add that the anti-diet message does not mean anti-health, anti-wellness, or anti-exercise. It is about separating wellness from weight and looks.
If someone wants to improve their physical health they are much better off focusing on ADDING nourishment and practicing healthy behaviors instead of RESTRICTING food and trying to weigh less.”
People are getting so sick of dieting and now, diets disguised as wellness…
Diet companies know they’re going out of fashion, so they are picking up language and concepts from the anti-diet movement and placing them into their marketing.
It’s disheartening because we have people messaging us: “Well, what about this plan or that program. They say they are created by a psychologist, they say they are based on intuitive eating, certainly, these are different than other diets?”.
It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing scenario. If someone is telling you how to eat, if weight is mentioned, if someone says this is the right way and this is the wrong way – it’s a diet.
Diet culture is very dangerous mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Firstly, diets don’t work. Studies show that there is a 2-5% chance that a person pursuing weight loss will lose weight and keep it off (this doesn’t take into account the cost of keeping it off) and a 66% chance of ending up heavier than they started. Source
Secondly, most eating disorders start with dieting. For many, dieting starts off innocently enough; they just want to get a little healthier but quickly it begins taking up more and more brain space and it is never enough. This is the message we get from most women; even when they did lose weight, it was never enough.
And because we live in diet culture, this is all normalized and never questioned.
You aren’t weird if you think about food all the time, miss out on social events because you don’t want to break your diet or spend all day hungry.
It’s weird if you feel okay with your body and if you aren’t trying to lose weight.”
“Should it be ‘everything in moderation?’”
“No. This is still a diet mentality.
What we teach is how to listen to your body without any external rules.
It may sound extreme but when you have complete freedom with food, you can finally take a deep breath and tune into what your body wants and needs.
Even with something as “sensible” as ‘everything in moderation’, there are rules, and rules were made to be broken.
When you strip all the rules away you can take much better care of yourself – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
There is no right or wrong, there is only “how do I want to feel”?”
Is the body positivity movement always positive? Are there any negative aspects of it?
“It is important to know what body positivity means before we address this question.
Body positivity means all bodies are good bodies.
It originally stemmed from the fat acceptance movement which aims to change anti-fat bias in our society.
Many have criticised the body positive movement for taking over this original message by having thin bodies in the forefront in mainstream media (which is true).
As for those criticising the movement itself, it has been said that it is promoting unhealthy habits and glorifying “obesity”.
This is diet culture in a nutshell – people thinking that a person in a fat body is ‘glorifying’ their body size by simply living without shame or apology.
Studies have shown that weight stigma (the way people are treated because of their weight) is actually more harmful to one’s health than the weight itself. Source
It is time to allow people to just BE in their bodies – no shame, no guilt, no stigma.
People can handle their own health and wellness, we no longer need to police others in how they should look or what they do to take care of their own bodies.”
What we say to people that do want to lose weight
“Most people do, we live in a diet culture after all, and if they aren’t interested in getting out of the cycle (they’ve likely been pursuing weight loss for years if not decades), then that’s fine; that’s their business, not ours.
But if someone is struggling and wants to see what life can be like without the constant hunt for weight loss, we’re here to help! (And yes you can still care about your health while living an anti-diet life).”
Influencers and Diet Product Promotion
“I’d prefer them not to use them AND also not sell them. Whether they use the products or not is not the problem, it’s the selling of them in the first place.
When a celeb or influencer sells a diet product they are saying “use this and you will look like me”, which is false advertising.
Even if we ate exactly what a celebrity ate and worked out in the exact same way, we won’t all look the same. There are many factors that determine our weight and most are not as controllable as diet culture teaches us they are. Hence why only 1-5% of people can lose weight and keep it off.”
Anti-diet culture demands a measure of courage.
“Does it ever.
Going against an entire culture is scary.
Doing things differently than everyone around you can feel unsafe like you’re alone.
This is why we love the community we have created, so we can do this together!
We started our account a few years ago after meeting. I (Jenna) interviewed Lauren for a speaker series on Intuitive Eating and Body Positivity and we decided to start working together. We now run our Instagram account, programs, and podcast together full time.
Our account shares ideas, coaching tips, and guidance for those who want to learn more about how to let go of diet culture and find food and body freedom.
Every day we are talking with women in our DMs and comments about how they can take the next step in this journey, from how to talk to their family about this work to how to stop binge eating.”
Here are some accounts that The Body Love Society recommend for fat acceptance and body positivity:
You can visit The Body Love Society website here: www.thebodylovesociety.com