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On Eating, Dieting and Refocusing on Ourselves

desserts in Philly, summer of 2012

This week I came across an article on another website that featured two dietitians sharing what they eat in a day. They mentioned eating certain foods to prevent “over-indulging” at their next meal and having such and such tea to keep them from eating more chocolate.

I’ve seen similar articles on other websites. And I’ve seen similar words. Words about not exceeding calorie counts and filling up on certain foods to prevent eating entire meals (of pasta, for instance).

In another article the writer mentions that doughnuts, cookies and cake will never be good for us, but an occasional treat is OK. This is the quote that follows (also from a dietitian): “You can eat anything as long as you balance it out. I eat a really great doughnut two or three times a year.”

What I really see in such articles is restriction. I read deprivation. I don’t see much about enjoying food or genuinely nourishing ourselves. Instead, it’s about not wrecking our diets, not racking up calories and “eating right.”

It’s dieting wearing a hat and holding a sign that says “healthy eating, I promise.”

It’s interesting to me how much the diet mentality has seeped into our society. How much we focus on wrangling in ourselves (and our supposedly wild and out-of-control appetites). How we have to trick ourselves into eating less. How preoccupied we’ve become with perfection, rigidity and shame. How food becomes a nuisance, even an enemy.

I’m not criticizing how or what these individuals eat. That’s personal and up to them. Rather, I’m writing about this as a reminder. For me. For you. (If you need it.) Because years ago I would’ve devoured these articles and interpreted their words as gospel. I would’ve assumed that these are experts, and clearly I should be taking notes. I would’ve assumed that I, too, need to be drinking green juices, quitting sugar or eating X number of calories. I would’ve assumed that dessert is the devil–and best eaten a few times a year. I would’ve kept my snacks to a minimum and assumed that an orange was enough to tide me over ’til dinner. I would’ve been afraid to eat two apples, because you know, the sugar content. (And I was.) I would’ve felt guilty for eating potatoes and pasta. (And I did.)

So whenever you come across these kinds of articles, please refocus on what works best for you and your body. Please remember that you are the expert on your hunger and satiety. You are the expert on your needs and your life.

Some days you might want to savor a huge salad. Other days you might want steak and fries. You might love apples and apple pie equally. You might stop eating certain foods because you’re allergic to them or eat less of foods that don’t agree with you. You might eat chocolate every day. You might love sampling unique, fascinating foods. You might love making super spicy meals. You might own a bakery or create beautiful sweets as a hobby.

Again, whatever you do, whatever you enjoy, refocus on that. Because that’s what really matters.

By the way, for me, Ellyn Satter’s work has been especially powerful, such as these words on becoming a competent eater and enjoying what you eat. I also love Michelle and Rachel’s work.

On Eating, Dieting and Refocusing on Ourselves

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2019). On Eating, Dieting and Refocusing on Ourselves. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 31 Mar 2019
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