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Wellness diets, foodphobia, and restricting entire food groups

Wellness diets promote a form of foodphobia, the fear of food that leads to restricting entire food groups and categories. Foodphobia is often an early symptom of and eating disorder behavior. It can be hard to recognize because avoiding certain foods has been marketed as wellness. For example, many wellness diets promote a foodphobia of carbohydrates, fats, and animal products. They point to these food products as leading to weight gain and disease.

The food industry has continued to deliver tastier, cheaper, and more easily available food. As the food industry markets highly-palatable food, celebrities and social media influencers promote wellness diets. These are part of the $70 billion diet industry. Wellness diets lean heavily on the belief that some foods are “bad” while others are “healthy.” By extension, wellness diets promote the idea that people who follow their restrictive diets are “good” and people who don’t are “bad.” Wellness diets are the luxury brands of the diet industry, appealing to wealthy and primarily white audiences.

Diet trends have come and gone, but never have there been so many Foodphobic elimination-based diets as there are now. These diet programs, include Whole30, Paleo, Keto, etc. They institute food rules and promote Foodphobia in the pursuit of weight loss, which they call “wellness.” They each prescribe a different food elimination plan and list of “bad” and “good” foods.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give these printable worksheets to grow more confident, calm and resilient and feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Diets in disguise

Make no doubt about it: Paleo, Whole30, Clean Eating, and other wellness programs that promote eliminating certain foods are diets. Foodphobia, the fear of food, is a weight-loss tactic that promises that restricting entire food groups will result in weight loss and health improvement. However, there is no long-term (+2 years) evidence that these diets improve health, and there is evidence that almost all efforts to lose weight result in weight cycling, which is not healthy.

Foodphobic diets

Here are some examples of Foodphobic diets. These all promise weight loss by saying that particular foods cause weight gain and are not healthy. The goal of eliminating those foods is to become both thin and better than average:

  • The Paleo diet promises a “cleaner” body by eliminating grains, beans, soy, dairy, and certain vegetable oils.
  • The Whole30 diet promises to reset and heal your relationship with food by eliminating dairy and legumes.
  • Detox diets promise to cleanse the body toxins by eliminating almost all foods except juices and raw vegetables. (It is important to note that as long as we have a functioning liver, our body naturally removes toxins.)
  • Vegetarian/Vegan* diets suggest that weight gain is caused by hormones injected in livestock. They promote eliminating all meat products and all animal products, respectively.
  • Clean Eating diets promise weight loss by eliminating any food that has been processed beyond harvest.
  • Grain-free diets promote the idea that a multitude of human health problems can be linked to eating grains. They promote eliminating grains entirely from our diets.
  • Fasting diets promote health by eliminating all food from our bodies for various periods of time.

*I recognize that there are strong ethical reasons to limit animal products, but there is also a strong association between these diets and wellness diet marketing. They are also correlated with eating disorders.

Not healthy and not a path to wellness

Each of these diets claims that the secret to full health and wellness lies in the food we eat. They all claim science and data to back up their claims, but their most powerful tool is marketing. Billions of dollars are spent on slick marketing campaigns and even full-length “documentaries” to sell us on these diets.

This is dangerous for people who are susceptible to eating disorders. Eating behaviors can be a way to subconsciously pursue worthiness and goodness. These programs make it easy for eating disorders to hide in plain sight. It’s hard to recognize an eating disorder when it’s been marketed as a wellness program.

FYI: the science sucks

All of these popular diet trends fail in the same way: they do not hold up to scientific scrutiny. The human body is incredibly complex, but these programs reduce us to machine-like components. Science does not fully understand how eliminating elements, from calories to individual nutrients, impacts our long-term health.

Even the programs claiming significant science fail when held to basic scientific standards. Check out this article about the problems with health claims made in the What the Health documentary. This can be applied to all Foodphobic diets: Debunking What the Health, the buzzy new documentary that wants you to be vegan, Vox.

Foodphobia, the fear of food, and wellness diets restrict entire food groups in the pursuit of weight loss. They hide their weight loss goals behind health messages, which makes them more compelling and dangerous.

Wellness books hide their true purpose

A huge part of the diet industry is hundreds of thousands of books, blogs and websites. These are typically written by thin individuals who promise that there is way to have their genetically-predetermined body type. The greatest danger in diet books lies in their denial that they are selling diets at all.

Until the a few years ago, diet media was open. Suzanne Somers proudly titled her book “Get Skinny.” Nothing qualified Suzanne Somers to provide eating advice except the fact that she is thin, gorgeous, and famous.

Diets are not effective. Whether it’s Suzanne Somers restricting calories or a wellness influencer touting green smoothies. Diets do not result in lasting weight loss. Not a single form of weight loss has been scientifically proven to last.

But that doesn’t deter diet books, magazines, blogs, celebrities, and social media influencers from promoting wellness diets. Moralistic claims now shroud weight loss claims. We’re told that we will be better, smarter people if we follow them.

The trouble with wellness

Today, there are few books saying they will help you “get skinny!” But weight loss is always an expected result of wellness diet programs that eliminate calories, nutrients and entire food groups.

Today’s moralistic diet claims are one of the most dangerous elements of modern diet industry marketing. They create a wide-open pipeline from diet to eating disorder. At least Suzanne Somers’ book was open about its weight loss goals. It didn’t pretend to be anything but a diet. Today, we say we’re seeking “wellness” to hide weight loss goals under the guise of wellness. Because of our fatphobic culture, we still want what Suzanne promised. Most wellness diets are promoted by people who look like and have the genetic predisposition to look like Suzanne Somers. Thin.

Those of us who are susceptible to eating disorders can find hundreds of ways to justify Foodphobic, highly controlled eating patterns at our local bookstore.

Diet books written by “lifestyle gurus” promise not just weight loss, but also a total life makeover. They can also masquerade as cookbooks (vs. diet programs). These diet cookbooks promise to make us better people based on the food we eat, how we prepare it, and from where it is sourced.

No matter how they position themselves, they are still sold in the diet category and essentially promote the restriction of food intake. This means they still follow the universal rule of dieting – the most common outcome of dieting is weight gain.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give these printable worksheets to grow more confident, calm and resilient and feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Foodphobia and eating disorders

Foodphobic diets are just the latest of many marketing efforts designed to support diet culture and sell books, products, coaching programs, and more. Dieting is the single greatest predictor of eating disorders. These Foodphobic diets, which sell themselves as lifestyles and NOT DIETS are particularly dangerous. Many people don’t realize they or their loved ones are struggling until an eating disorder has taken hold.

Foodphobic diets are the perfect foil to hide eating disorders in plain sight. Many people unknowingly engage in eating disorder behaviors by jumping from program to program. They alternate between the different wellness programs, continuously reducing their list of “safe” foods.

All diets – whether they include counting calories, adding complicated food rules, removing items from the diet or restricting oneself to juices for periods of time – exert significant stress on the body, raising cortisol levels and leading to long-term negative health impacts.

The current list of popular diets are being sold as “wellness” and “healthy lifestyles.” But make no mistake: any restrictive eating program that promises weight loss is prescribing eating disorder behaviors.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to help their kids recover from eating disorders, body image issues, and other mental health conditions.  She’s the founder of, an online resource supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders, and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with mental health issues.

Ginny has been researching and writing about eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To The Different Eating Disorder Behaviors

3 thoughts on “Wellness diets, foodphobia, and restricting entire food groups

  1. […] Read More: Foodphobia: why are there so many people restricting entire food groups in the name of health, and w… […]

  2. […] peace with food: end foodphobia forever. Stop fearing fat, carbs, sugar, and any other foods. The fear of food keeps you locked in […]

  3. This is a very intelligent reply to the food insanity that is so pervasive today. I do not see treats as bad for you, I see them as treats. Chips will not send me to the grave, but they are enjoyable addition to a picnic. I have chosen not to be afraid of food and it is very unpopular.

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