Cake decorator and baker Kyla Dempsey on her life in food
Cake decorator and baker Kyla Dempsey on her life in food

Sarah Gill

What I learned on a phone-free silent retreat in Clare
What I learned on a phone-free silent retreat in Clare

Mairead Heffron

Bodkin: The Obama-produced crime series set in West Cork
Bodkin: The Obama-produced crime series set in West Cork

Sarah Finnan

From big to small, plant pots to upgrade your favourite leafy housemates
From big to small, plant pots to upgrade your favourite leafy housemates

Megan Burns

This beautiful Georgian residence is on the market for €775,000
This beautiful Georgian residence is on the market for €775,000

Sarah Finnan

Event: Join us for a fun nature hike with Nadia El Ferdaoussi
Event: Join us for a fun nature hike with Nadia El Ferdaoussi

IMAGE

Ask the Doctor: ‘I’ve developed hay fever in adulthood, is it dangerous to rely on antihistamine tablets?’
Ask the Doctor: ‘I’ve developed hay fever in adulthood, is it dangerous to rely on...

Sarah Gill

Women in Sport: Freestyle mogul skier Claire Dooley
Women in Sport: Freestyle mogul skier Claire Dooley

Sarah Gill

School Meals Scheme: Ballymaloe sauces for some children, “beef of unknown origin” for others
School Meals Scheme: Ballymaloe sauces for some children, “beef of unknown origin” for others

Lizzie Gore-Grimes

New season Kardashians and a reality real-estate show – what to watch this week
New season Kardashians and a reality real-estate show – what to watch this week

Sarah Finnan

Image / Health & Wellness

‘I felt like I was living in a different body. I wanted to do something about it’


By Amanda Cassidy
27th Sep 2023

Unsplash

‘I felt like I was living in a different body. I wanted to do something about it’

Words like 'diet' and 'weight loss' have gone through a somewhat dramatic evolution in recent years. With the rise of social media, unrealistic appearance ideals and the bombardment of dangerous body image culture, there is understandably a move away from glorifying losing weight. But isn't true empowerment and body positivity the freedom to admit whether we want to diet and for what reasons? Amanda Cassidy does a deep dive into current diet culture.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in a world where we obsessively measure ourselves by numbers; How many ‘likes’ can we get on a social media post? How much of a bonus will we receive at work? How much we weighed after a particularly indulgent Christmas? How many points did our children get in their exams?

It’s an uncomfortable reality and worth saying that some are more focused on this than others. And just because that’s the reality, doesn’t make it right.

However, when it comes to the word diet, or losing weight, or watching what you eat, there seems to be some collective confusion over what that might mean to someone.

Remember, many of us don’t necessarily go on a diet to achieve weight loss – but if that’s why someone is, isn’t that okay too?

More myself

I just felt like I was living in a different body. I wanted to do something about it.

Hillary, 46, found it upsetting that her body shape was starting to change as she reached her mid-40s. She also found it strange how taboo it was to discuss how she didn’t like this weight gain and wanted to do something about it.

“When I was younger, there was all these diets – the Atkins, the cabbage soup diet etc. It was the era of starvation and obsession, and I’m so glad the conversation has changed to embrace our bodies in whatever shape they are – and to ‘own it’. But after my kids and as my metabolism slowed down, I started feeling like absolute crap. I’ve always been a certain shape, and I just felt like I was living in a different body. I wanted to do something about it. To feel more like my younger self.”

Quick-fix diet techniques and negative body image issues have brought a grey cloud over the subject. It’s not hard to see why people get carried away with highly restrictive diets in order to lose weight quickly due to societal ideals, but it’s something that is quickly changing the dieting culture which means that people are equating dieting only with losing weight, and as a result, their self-worth with their ability to achieve that.

These changes have brought a whole new meaning to the connotations around the action of dieting.

But there’s a big difference between pushing the yo-yo crash diet narrative or punishing ourselves to be ‘ready’ for an occasion and wanting to feel healthier in our day-to-day eating choices.

Balanced

Weight loss, done a healthy way, can be a really positive thing for people – for their self-esteem as well as for their health.

Besides, it’s a personal choice. And as long as the way you approach food isn’t disordered (acknowledging that this represents a fine balance) perhaps admitting you are tracking what you are eating and avoiding things like cake shouldn’t be met with immediate cries of ‘Oh, but you don’t need to go on a diet’.

Harley Street Nutritionist Kim Pearson works with high-profile clients to maintain a healthy weight that they feel confident with. “Nutrition can cause a lot of confusion due to the conflicting advice, marketing messages and sensationalist headlines we are exposed to.

We often hear about ‘a healthy balance’ but few of us struggle to maintain one

One thing I am never prepared to do is compromise health for the sake of weight loss. Crash dieting can cause menstrual irregularities, compromise immunity, deplete energy levels and affect digestive function. Over time, it can lead to loss of bone density, hair loss and muscle loss. There are many ways in which extreme diet regimes can negatively affect both our physical and mental health.

But weight loss, done a healthy way, can be a really positive thing for people – for their self-esteem as well as for their health.  The dietary approaches we offer have years of scientific and clinical research validating their efficacy. We often hear about ‘a healthy balance’ but few of us struggle to maintain one. It’s my job to  support my clients in integrating healthy habits into their lifestyle so that maintaining that state of balance and a healthy weight becomes second nature.”

Positive

The body-positive movement was born out of challenging societal expectations and values about body shapes and sizes. The goal was to promote acceptance of these variations.

With our feeds flooded with a range of body types: short and tall, big and small, it can sometimes be a minefield of a topic to navigate, in fear of saying the ‘wrong’ thing.

Loving the skin you are in is great. As long as you do. And as long as you can.

Confidence

I’ve been heavy and I’ve been light and I’ve been everything in-between.

But for Hillary, it was about reclaiming the person she’d been her whole life. “After I lost the weight that I wanted to, it was such a great relief to feel like ‘me’ again. I felt so confident but, apparently, I wasn’t allowed to say that because it looked as if I was glorifying weight loss or devaluating those who choose not. Size is such a personal thing for people – maybe even one of the most personal things.”

I, myself, love food. I love healthy food. I get plenty of exercise and have what I’d call a good relationship with my own body image. But every now and then I like to take stock and work on areas where I could be healthier (maybe not the ENTIRE family-sized packet, Amanda) I followed a ketogenic-based diet alongside nutritionist Kim Pearson in the past, and it was a great boost for my confidence.

I’ve been heavy and I’ve been light and I’ve been everything in-between. I know the point where I feel most confident so I try to maintain that. So whatever your goal, whether it’s weight loss, addressing health issues, or just trying to live more healthily, let’s not forget that it is a choice.

This article was originally published in January 2023.

Feature image via Jennifer Burk on Unsplash.