Diets in disguise: a diet dressed up as spirituality is still a diet

When we have an eating disorder – even if we are in recovery – we are susceptible to every diet message we receive. Diets are designed to do one essential thing: reduce our body weight, and that is what our eating disorders crave, too.

We are in an unfortunate time of diet history right now in which many diets are wrapped in a cloak of “health,” “consciousness,” and “spirituality.” This cloak allows those of us who are obsessed with reducing our weight to feel safe in achieving weight loss because it’s covered in self-love and care. New diets provide a way for us to say that we are pursuing something bigger than our bodies, even as we secretly, fervently pursue the loss of body weight.

Here’s a perfect example of a diet dressed in spiritual clothing. This is a sponsored post from @DailyOm on Facebook. We added some notes to help identify the positive messages from the questionable and then purely diet-oriented one.

An important thing to know about modern diet marketing is that it usually leaves the weight loss message for last. First it focuses on all sorts of genuinely positive (or simply puzzling) messages. The first message is beautiful. Anyone who has ever dieted or had an eating disorder needs a healthy relationship with food. This is absolutely, positively, 100% true. We fully support and endorse this message.

But the next few messages are a little less clear. And then, right at the end, we get to the crux of the matter, and the telltale signs of a diet emerge. But even the last message, “Lose the weight and the guilt while loving yourself unconditionally,” is confusing. Of course we want to lose guilt and love ourselves unconditionally. That’s awesome! But the hidden “weight” word is actually the one that really turns on the eating disordered brain.

“Oh!” we say. “This is perfect! This isn’t dieting and restriction – this is actually about self-love and care. This is not a diet at all – it totally fits in with my eating disorder treatment and must be 100% safe, because it uses all the right loving words.”

Our eating disorders are very tricky. Even as they get extremely aroused about the idea of losing weight, they confidently pretend to ignore that this is, in fact, a diet. It is possible for our disorder to do this because the advertising message of losing weight is cleverly disguised in all sorts of words that we have begun identifying with our recovery.

Oh, the nasty, nasty world of the diet industry. It’s sickening. It’s terrifying. And it is very, very tempting for anyone with a history of disordered eating.

Beware these cloaked temptresses, and be aware that if you have a child who has an eating disorder, she or he may use messaging like this to gradually and imperceptibly return to eating disorder behavior.

Ginny Jones is the editor of She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Ginny is also a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.

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