Mental Health

A Dietitian Responds to National Eat What You Want Day

Removing yourself from the rules of diet culture can feel like drowning, but it allows your intuition to come in like a life raft and save you.

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May 11th is National ‘Eat What You Want Day’ for our American friends.

As a dietitian who believes we can and should eat what we want, I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m so excited to shed light on something that should be basic, natural, everyday behaviour. On the other hand, the fact that we need a specific day for it at all means this is certainly not natural or everyday behaviour for many of us.

I’m so happy that there is a day to celebrate this movement. The idea of trusting ourselves to eat what we want is gaining popularity, specifically in the intuitive eating and anti-diet communities.

When I’m discussing this with clients, I am met with a lot of concern. Clients wonder how it’s possible to eat what they want without falling into desserts or “junk food” all day. How could I possibly eat without the rules of diet culture telling me what to do?

And that’s the magic of it.

Removing Yourself from Diet Culture

While scary at first, removing yourself from the rules of diet culture can feel like drowning, but it allows your intuition to come in like a life raft and save you.

How freeing, satisfying, and powerful would it be to eat what you want?

I won’t lie to you- when you begin to remove diet rules and eat what you want, you will likely eat nothing but all the foods that were previously ‘off-limits.’

These foods typically are those conventionally considered to be junk foods or unhealthy foods, but I’m always surprised to hear the foods people crave or have been deprived of most.

Related: What I Ate When I Started Intuitive Eating

After some time, the novelty of being allowed these foods wears off, and we can learn to consider how foods make us feel, the importance of variety, and when we’re ready, even nutrition.

This is a significant tenant of intuitive eating.

Closing Thoughts on National Eat What You Want Day

While I was so happy about the step forward this day represents, I was also deeply saddened. That we need one specific day for this tells me it’s a novel, far-fetched idea. Like wacky hair day at school, it’s all fun and games, but you’d never wear your hair like that every day (though you totally could!), would you?

What happens after this one novel day of eating what we want? Are we to believe that it should only exist for one day? Do we snap back to diet culture reality and rules come May 12th?

Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I have learned that diet culture can’t be trusted.

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National Eat What You Want Day should be every day, and I firmly believe that. I practice and promote it in my nutrition practice.

However, thanks to the strong roots and widespread nature of diet culture, it is just not the reality for so many.

If you have never experimented with the idea of eating what you truly want, not what you were told to do and not what is good for you but what you really really want, then this might be the perfect day to try.

I hope you do conduct this experiment and that you savour and enjoy your favourite foods.

I hope you take a fine-toothed comb to the food rules you typically subscribe to and consider how they may be holding you back. Most of all, I hope you try it again on May 12th.

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Olivia Cupido is a registered dietitian and founder of OG Nutrition in Toronto. She is passionate about helping others foster healthy relationships with food and their bodies. Olivia helps her clients return to the importance of connection, culture, enjoyment and self-care in food and eating.

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