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Becoming a midlife diet culture dropout

Updated: Jan 22

When I first learned the 'value' of a tablespoon of peanut butter, which was - still is! - one of my favourite foods, it was no longer a spread made with crushed peanuts that tasted good.

It was something I, as a 13-year-old, needed to be aware of because it was important.

Uggghhh, for what? Buckle up, and welcome to the world of dieting young grasshopper.

I was a fat* child with parents who no doubt thought they were doing the right thing.

(When fat was reclaimed as a descriptor - not a feeling - like thin, tall, short, it felt powerful but we still have a long way to go).

It turned out to be the beginning of a decades-long relationship relating to food and my body through a diet lens.

It was also the beginning of my relationship with Weight Watchers, a company I eventually worked for over a couple of years.

I was your gal for Points, or whatever the program was at the time.

Dieting stalked me from my early teens into my 40s, as I alternated between being on a diet (‘good’) or off a diet (‘bad’).

I was praised for being a tiny eater and soaked up the compliments when I lost weight.

I wonder if you can relate?

It was a roller coaster of control that dominated nearly every aspect of my life. Food was not just food, it was good or bad, often wrapped in fear.

I was what's known as a Restrictor, as opposed to those more fun-loving Permittors (terms I learned from Geneen Roth's excellent book 'Women Food and God').

I had a brief glimpse into an alternative to the relentlessness of weight and food obsession in my early 20's while working in women's community health. A newsletter from the American movement 'Health at Every Size' introduced the idea of size not being a determinant of health measures. It wasn't enough at the time to take me off the treadmill.


Intuitive Eating popped up.

Hang on a minute, say what now?

Here I was doing further coaching training and learning things like raw food baking and the Paleo diet.

Honour your hunger? Make peace with food? Trust your body to make choices that feel good for you?

It felt rebellious, after outsourcing my wisdom for so many years.

I hurriedly ordered the book of the same name and it gave me something not many books do - a life-changing revelation. You know, one of those that hit like a lightning bolt and you know life will never be the same.

It was the moment I gave up a lifetime of dieting.

I was out walking when the revelation struck and I remember leaping with joy, calling out, "I'm free! I'm free!"

The sense of liberation from the grip of dieting was profound.

Instantaneously, I realised I now had more mental and emotional space to concentrate on what truly mattered to me - loving and being present for those I cared about.

I felt the expansion of space that had previously been crowded out by external voices of authority and constant preoccupation with control - food, restrictions, dieting rules, and weight concerns.

Now I had permission to start listening to my body, trust my wisdom and reconnect with my body.

(Inspired, I enrolled in an Intuitive Eating course with co-founder Evelyn Tribole in 2013. This experience provided me with a solid foundation in the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating that I still value today. I also incorporated it into my first coaching business, Intuitive Nourishment).

It hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. The siren call from detoxes and diets is strong and the desire of wanting a different body can pound away at my mind. I feel my body, and midlife brings changes that can unsettle me.

That’s when I go back to basics.

Surround myself with Intuitive Eating prompts (here's a particularly good podcast interview from the co-founder Evelyn Tribole), or following folks on social media who are promoting non-dieting and Health at Every Size.

Unfollowing diet-focussed accounts was a huge gift to myself.

If nothing else, we all know the world needs to change.

It won’t change while women are controlled and distracted by dieting, industrial-led beauty standards and you-need-more-stuff marketing.

It won’t change while women are trapped in old conditioning - people pleasing, not good enoughness, imposter syndrome, perfectionism, and over-functioning.

It takes awareness and pushback, but I believe it is possible to change. My hope is more midlife women feel called to be a part of this change.

Question the 'shoulds' around food, your body and eating. How much space does thinking about managing your food intake and weight take up in your precious mind? What is it taking you away from?

Notice the ways marketing is designed to hit you where it hurts the most - your doubts, insecurities and fears.

Consider the times you abandon your needs and wants at the expense of prioritising someone else's.

Talk with other women so we can bring these conversations to light! Want to be with like-minded women? Check out People Pleasers Anonymous, starting February 8th🤩

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" - Hellen Keller

Robyn xx

Midlife Rebel

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