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  • Joanna Pustilnik

The Diet Mentality vs The Well-Being Mentality

The Diet Mentality vs The Well-Being Mentality


When you are laser-focused on weight loss, it is easy to think that when you lose weight, you will be happier and healthier. When you get down to your ideal weight, you will feel more fulfilled.


And this might be true for some people. Some people can lose weight in a positive and sustainable way that doesn’t “cost” them anything. It doesn’t cost them their confidence with eating and food, food peace, social life, or cause them stress or anxiety.


But for these folks, they often live in the well-being mentality.


They don’t attach excess meaning to body size or weight. Attaching too much meaning, feeling a change in weight will bring many gifts, is a very easy trap to step in. This is the basis for the diet mentality- the illusion that smaller is better, skinny is happier, fat is scary, and we are 100% responsible for our body size.



What is the diet mentality?


But for most people, the process of losing weight occurs through the dusty, foggy, filthy lens of this diet mentality, and it has a steep toll. It “costs” them inner peace, a sense of overall calm, food confidence, and it increases fear and guilt.


Living in the diet mentality feels exasperating. It decreases body trust and wants us to rely on external food rules or calorie counting. It wants us to control what we eat with great effort. It disconnects us from our internal hunger and fullness cues.


This mentality is the dominant mentality in our culture, creating the false sense that it is right. It increases food anxiety and creates confusion about what to eat. It lies and promises quick weight loss or happiness or makes us feel in control, but this excitement wears off and we lose our sense of food peace.


Having an inner judgmental voice is a large part of the diet mentality. It informs us when we do something wrong food or movement-wise- this food is bad, that food is good, and we ourselves are good or bad when we partake. Being stuck in this mentality causes chronic dieting and increases the risk of weight cycling and chronic disease attached to this cycling.


It can also propel us into disordered eating or an eating disorder. It can prevent us from finding meaning in our life independent of our body or weight. Diet-mentality acts as if weight is a behavior that we can control, but weight is not a behavior. Eating should be about connecting to our body wisdom and not about control, but the diet mentality doesn’t care about using the body as a resource.


What is the well-being mentality?


In the well-being mentality, we have patience, an understanding that we can’t control weight loss, and a sense of greater purpose we align with to drive positive health behaviors. We accept that were our body ends up, it is where it wants to be.


Living in the well-being mentality feels like freedom.


It is the focus on behaviors we can control and are modifiable in a joyous way. It values connecting with our bodies and eating in a way that honors our hunger and fullness cues and sense of positive embodiment.


It is curious, not judgmental, and considers how we want to feel throughout the day as one of the most important elements. It supports focus on joyous movement and exercise goals that aren’t attached to the desire to lose weight or changing our body aesthetic in a significant way.

It considers and encompasses body feel, gentle nutrition, sleep, social connections, emotionality, spiritual health, our relationships, our finances, and also accessing appropriate health care. It includes increasing awareness around all of our needs emotional, physical, environmental, spiritual- and also honoring these needs with self-compassion and curiosity.


We focus on how we want to feel and live, and we find meaning without judging our worth based on the scale or cultural standards of what we should look like. Well-being is much more than what diet culture promotes, and it is where true contentment lives. Positive psychology centers around the pursuit of the well-being mentality, and it also highlights gratitude and savoring the present moment. Research shows this approach is foundational to living a meaningful and fulfilled life.


But what if I want to lose weight AND feel at peace with food?


Historically, the pursuit of weight loss and wanting to heal the food relationship have been diametrically opposed. Weight loss through the diet mentality is not congruent with food peace. But with the new boom of GLP-1 weight loss drugs, I’ve seen many clients who are interested in doing both concurrently- decreasing food anxiety and losing inches.


I’ve had to take a step back and ask how I can best serve these clients. Also, there are often metabolic or other health concerns present, and it is useful to consider medical nutrition therapy for these conditions while working toward food peace as well.


I’ve shifted to believe that we CAN all at once work on the confluence of forces impacting someone (weight loss goals, disordered eating, health concerns, environment, stressors) and help promote food peace and Intuitive Eating as long as we are working in a well-being mentality alongside gentle nutrition guidelines that are value-aligned and serving a sense of vitality and non-restriction.


It is different than what our culture or TicTok promotes. An Instagram reel might ask, “Do you want a small waist or a big butt” or “Do you want to learn how to count macros?”


But I ask, can we connect with your body and use it as a resource to find a sustainable place where you feel and look your best- without fixating on a certain part of your body?


What does well-being truly feel like? THAT is what I want for you.

 

Joanna specializes in women's health concerns such as perimenopause/menopause and PCOS, metabolic health (insulin resistance, diabetes, elevated triglycerides, ect), food-relationship-first weight loss, and nutrition therapy for disordered eating, eating disorders, chronic dieting, and Intuitive Eating coaching. She works collaboratively with clients in finding a self-compassionate inner voice with food and body concerns and a sustainable approach to eating, stress management, and movement.

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