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Loving our bodies

Celebrating International No Diet Day is part of a larger awareness effort, not just about eating disorders, but to promote normal eating and healthy lifestyles

We've all heard the conversations before. At meetings, parties, and backyard barbecues. Women, and sometimes men, chatting about how they really shouldn't eat this or that, before plunging into the huge slice of chocolate cake.

It was a conversation just like this back in 1991 that gave British woman Mary Evans Young fire in the belly to challenge group "fat talk."

She asked some women what they thought would happen if they spent as much time and energy on their careers as they did thinking about, but not necessary acting on, their diets. The response was electric. It was as though the women had been waiting for the opportunity to go easier on themselves and let go of diet obsessions.

So Young launched International No Diet Day (INDD) in London – a movement that has since gained gastronomic credibility around the world.

In Australia, International No Diet Day on 6 May has been adopted as a day to focus on healthy lifestyles and the futility and health dangers of fad dieting. Lots of workplaces, groups and student bodies celebrate the day with a consciousness-raising event and a good scoff on healthy food.

So, on No Diet Day we are asked to:

  • question the idea of there even being one "right" body shape
  • raise awareness of weight discrimination, size bias and fat phobia.
  • declare a day free from diets and obsessions about weight and body image
  • present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficiency of commercial diets.
  • talk about how diets perpetuate lack of self-esteem in women
  • honour the victims of eating disorders and weight-loss surgery
  • help end weight discrimination, size and fat phobia.
  • But why has this obsession about weight and body image reached such plague proportions? It's not only women and young girls who are concerned about weight and body image, but men and boys too. Let's look at a few stats and trends.

  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), more than 70% of Australian males and 56.2% of females are overweight or obese.
  • During 2013-14, Australians spent around $643.7 million on weight-loss counselling services, low-calorie foods and dietary supplements in their quest to slim down – up 3.6% from the previous year. Obviously the diet and weight loss industry has a vested interest in getting us to focus on our bodies.
  • According to a report commissioned in 2012 by the non-profit Butterfly Foundation, nearly a million people in Australia are living with eating disorders - like anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating. Nearly two thirds of them are women. The organisation headspace says these disorders commonly occur alongside other mental health and substance abuse disorders and some are life-threatening.
  • According to Beyond Blue, control groups of Year 7 high school girls who willingly received the intervention program Happy Being Me reported "significantly improved depressive symptoms, body dissatisfaction, weight and shape concern, dietary restraint, internalisation of the thin ideal, media literacy and expectancies of thinness."
  • Celebrating International No Diet Day is part of a larger awareness effort, not just about eating disorders, but to promote normal eating and healthy lifestyles. The slogan is ‘Diets Don't Work, Healthy Lifestyles Do.'

    So how do you have a healthy balanced lifestyle without obsessing about food? There are some great government-backed resources available which aren't trying to sell you anything, except the health message.

    Try these:

  • http://www.gethealthynsw.com.au/ - this concentrates on eating healthy, getting active, maintaining a healthy weight and provides tools and calculators to take control.
  • http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines - provides the official government guidelines on what's considered healthy eating.
  • http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au – looks at healthy mind, body and personal relationships.
  • So, there you have it. Over to you…