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Living With Extra Weight: Abandoning Diet Culture and Adopting Intuitive Eating

Leslie J. AnsleyPatricia Pinto-Garcia, MD, MPH
Published on January 26, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Rachel Bloor doesn’t believe in diets.

  • The avowed feminist would rather change her mindset when it comes to food.

  • She adopted an idea called intuitive eating, in which she taps into her body’s natural ability to tell when she’s hungry or satisfied.

Woman standing in pool holding her baby
Photo courtesy of Rachel Bloor

Rachel Bloor’s anti-diet journey began in 2018, after nearly 20 years of weight cycling: losing and regaining weight over and over again. 

Newly engaged, the avowed feminist thought it ridiculous that anyone should have to lose weight to get married. Yet, there she was, searching online for ways to do exactly that. 

“That was my rock bottom moment,” says Rachel, 36. She then looked on Facebook for advice, “and in this progressive group I’m in, someone mentioned ‘intuitive eating,’ which I googled because I’d never heard of it.” The first thing that came up was a list of the 10 principles of intuitive eating. And she’s been eating that way ever since.

Unlike traditional diets and other forms of eating that restrict or ban certain types of foods, intuitive eating simply means you eat when you feel hungry and stop eating when you’re full. No foods are off limits. It involves trusting your mind and body’s natural ability to regulate what you eat, how much, and when — not what diet culture dictates.

Her body issues started as a teenager

The Queens, New York, resident first learned she had issues with body image as a teen. 

“I was very thin growing up, and then, because of pressures and mental health issues and everything in high school, I had a really, really bad eating disorder,” she says. Because she met many, but not all, of the criteria for anorexia, she was diagnosed with eating disorder not otherwise specified, or EDNOS, something now considered an outdated diagnosis.  

In therapy from high school through college, “I started recovering from my eating disorder, although we didn’t really deal with the underlying issues,” she says. She’d also gained a great deal of weight and decided to try a diet program. “I actually became a big weight loss success story,” she says. “I lost 60 pounds and actually ended up working for Weight Watchers.”

Photo of a woman smiling
Yellow box with the quote “No one should have to be a certain size to be loved.” inside of it in black text

Rachel maintained her weight loss throughout her time as a diet program meeting leader, but she burned out and quit. “I was still doing the program off and on for a few years after that, but I have been slowly gaining a little bit of the weight back.”

Later that year, she got engaged, and she immediately began worrying about fitting into a wedding dress. Her search for a weight loss program led her back to Weight Watchers, but the thought of rejoining the restrictive eating plan was depressing. 

It was her tipping point: “No one should have to be a certain size to be loved, and no one has to be a certain size to have rights. But I still didn’t think that way about myself,” Rachel says. “I was still thinking I have to maintain my weight loss or I’m not good enough.”  

Giving up diet culture and adopting a different mindset

Learning about intuitive eating changed all of that. “It was like this aha! moment in my head that said that this was the way to approach eating,” she says. “I think like a lot of people, especially those assigned female at birth, think, ‘I have to diet my whole life.’ That’s what I thought.”

Rachel experienced the lies of diet culture firsthand, she says — watching people work hard to lose weight, then return time and again because they couldn’t keep the weight off. “Everyone thinks that diets work. That’s only how diet culture works. You’re told if you gain weight, it’s your failure, not the diet’s failure.”

In addition to researching intuitive eating online, Rachel bought books — Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, and The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy are two she recommends. Rachel also listened to podcasts. Her favorite is The Food Psych Podcast, with Christy Harrison. She’s also a member of several intuitive eating and Healthy at Every Size Facebook groups. 

“It’s super important to surround yourself with media that reflects your values,” Rachel says. “If I follow a lot of dieters or wellness influencers, they’re trying to make me feel bad about my body. I follow the Healthy at Every Size influencers. They’re the people that are showing people in all sizes of bodies in cute outfits.” Rachel posts a lot of photos of herself on social media, usually with thrift store finds.

“I got really involved in the social justice side of it, too, because fatphobia is so rampant. Like, the ideal body the diet culture sells us is the thin body of a rich, white woman. That is not attainable for most people. And it’s used to keep people small, keep people from experiencing life,” she says.

“I was a small, fat person. And as a small, fat, white woman, I have a pretty good deal of privilege compared to some other people,” she says. “When I choose to like and support diet culture, it’s a disservice to myself, but it’s such a harmful thing for people in general.”

Rachel married and soon after became pregnant with her first child. Not dieting has improved her relationship with food and her outlook on life. 

“Almost no one can maintain a weight loss,” she says. “It’s just not healthy, and weight cycling is not healthy either. Right now, my body feels happy because I’m not restricting, overeating, or back on the diet train.”

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