Beauty comes in a variety of forms. We appreciate a natural ‘less-is-more’ type of beat just as much as we do a full glam moment like Lizzo’s Grammy’s look.
But when it comes to the way we look at our bodies, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anything larger than a size 10 is too big by Instagram model standards.
We’re marketed teas that’ll make us skinny, diets are repackaged as ‘clean-eating’ declarations, and somehow, eating disorder culture prevails, morphing into a foreign but equally destructive force that appeals to a society obsessed with the capitalisation of ‘wellness’.
So what’s the antidote?
In 2023, we’re embracing intuitive eating and seeking to banish the shame we inherently feel around enjoying food. Pretending we’re gluten intolerant is out, screaming “I love bread” like we’re Oprah Winfrey is in.
Lucky for us, we have the ear of nutritionist and dietician Madeline Parsons. We asked her how we can finally recontextualise unhealthy narratives and heal our relationship with food.
Try intuitive eating instead of dieting
Diet culture is an unusual beast.The fad diets of our mothers’ generation were easy to spot; they made bold weight loss claims, villainised entire food groups (this is a formal apology to fats and carbs everywhere), and were rarely sustainable.
Modern diets on the other hand have trendy hashtags, personal testimonials are readily available in the public domain, and white lies about so-called food intolerances have become commonplace.
Intermittent fasting has replaced ‘the most important meal of the day’, hustle culture has taught us it’s okay if success comes at the cost of missing lunch, and subsequently bingeing well into the evening to quiet the moans of a hungry body has become an inevitability.
Parsons would like to do away with diets altogether, and try intuitive eating instead.
“Intuitive eating is all about turning down the outside buzz of diet culture and tuning into your body's wants and needs,” she explains.
“This strengthens your connection with your hunger, fullness and cravings and is the basis of a healthy relationship with food and your body.”
Food can be practical and bring joy
“Finding joy around nutrition and food comes down to eating in a way that feels good to you and what will be most practical,” explains Parsons.
The most important thing is that you’re eating a variety of foods and “choosing foods that will cater to both your physical and emotional hunger.”
If you’re a foodie who likes getting in the kitchen, find ways to make boring food fun.
“On the other hand, if cooking is not your strong suit or you're short on time, then opting for fresh or frozen meals may be the way to go,” recommends Parsons.
A healthy relationship with food and your body can look different for everybody
We all have different bodies, which means that what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another.
“[But] at its core, a healthy relationship with food means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat foods that feel good both physically and mentally,” says Parsons.
When we’re able to master eating in a way that aligns with what feels good, it ultimately has “a profoundly positive flow-on effect” that alters the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies.
How to start eating intuitively
Rather than sticking to a set of rules, Parsons’ recommends embracing a more mindful approach to eating.
“Eat in line with your hunger and fullness cues,” she says. “Honour your cravings, remove labels like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ around food, and strengthen your mindful eating skills.”
And sometimes, two minds are better than one.
If you think you need a bit more guidance, Parsons highly recommends linking up with a professional such as a dietician or nutritionist “to explore your thoughts and feelings around food and your body.”
The process can be “life-changing,” she says.
Push back on unhealthy messaging
Unfortunately, “the influence of diet culture pushing unhealthy messages around food and nutrition is everywhere,” says Parsons.
It’s important to try to change the narrative around you.
“Exert a degree of scepticism around health and nutrition claims on the Internet,” she advises. And “consider your own internalised weight bias”.
Ask yourself if “you have different attitudes towards different body shapes and sizes [and] refrain from assigning moral values to different foods,” she advises.
“Reflect on the motives behind your food choices [too]. Are you only eating certain foods to feel less guilty?”
Finally, instead of exercising to burn calories, try to “find movement that brings you joy.”
Looks like we’re dancing with wild abandon for the foreseeable future — Alexa, queue our throwback hits playlist on Spotify.
If you or anyone you know may be concerned about an eating disorder or body image issues, please contact the Butterfly National Helpline. Qualified mental health professionals are available to help via phone (1800 ED HOPE), online chat (butterfly.org.au), or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We’re not the only one’s fed up with outdated beliefs about food, Florence Pugh refused to diet to win a role.
Main image credit: @florencepugh
Briar is the Beauty Editor at BEAUTYcrew. Her 'down for anything' attitude has resulted in more than a handful of hair transformations, and she doesn't mind being used as a guinea pig for the industry's most unusual products and treatments. Her work has also appeared on Refinery29, Girlfriend and beautyheaven.