Sworn Off Dieting
As more people become aware of the power of body positivity and body neutrality, Western culture’s obsession with dieting in order to be thin appears to be shifting. Popular media like AMC’s Dietland and celebrities like Lizzo are openly critiquing the fad diets and weight-loss plans that are pitched to us every day from every angle. And that’s a good thing.
Christina Ricci Spent Her Childhood Years 'Obsessed' With Her Weight Because Hollywood Was So Critical of Her Appearance
This messaging is steeped in the sexism and fatphobia inherent to diet culture, which privileges thinness for women above all else — and at any cost. Not to mention, diets can actively harm people that partake in them. Dieting for the sake of weight loss usually doesn’t lead to feeling great. Plus, most people eventually gain back the weight they lost, especially if they lost it too quickly.
For some people, excessive dieting can even lead to eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, or orthorexia. An estimated 28.8 million Americans will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
Contrary to what diet culture would have us believe, people can be healthy — and unhealthy — at any size. It’s impossible to gauge a person’s overall wellness by looking at their body, or even by weighing them. There are simply too many other factors to consider.
That’s why people who adopt a body-positive mindset work with their bodies instead of trying to radically change them. This could look like choosing to eat foods that you find tasty and nourishing without counting calories or nixing entire food groups.
It could also look like exercising for enjoyment or mental health benefits, not weight loss. Many people who practice body neutrality even forgo weighing themselves so they don’t fixate on an arbitrary number on a scale.
Some of our favorite celebrities have taken a more body-positive approach when discussing food, exercise, and weight loss in interviews. Thanks to their candor, more people are being exposed to healthier alternatives to diet culture.
Yes, Lizzo eats plant-based foods and works out regularly, but that doesn’t mean she wants to lose weight. On the contrary, the Special singer and body love advocate enjoys the way she looks. She eats well and moves her body because she likes how these healthy habits make her feel.
“I think a lot of people see a fat person [behaving] that way and immediately just assume everything they are doing is to be thin,” Lizzo said on Tiktok earlier this year. “I’m not trying to be thin. I don’t ever want to be thin.
“I feel very lucky because I don’t feel that weight gain is bad anymore. Nor is weight loss — it’s neutral,” she told Vanity Fair in 2022. “And food is fun. I love eating, and I have a chef now, and I’m not thinking about it. I had a brownie last night.”
Selena Gomez has lupus, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease, so her biggest concern is her overall health, not a number on a scale. In 2021, her nutritionist confirmed that she doesn’t diet; instead, she eats whole foods that give her stamina.
Earlier this year, the Only Murders in the Building star opened up about how her size often fluctuates depending on the medications she’s taking to manage her chronic illness.
“I just want people to know that you’re beautiful and wonderful,” she shared. “And yeah, we have days where maybe we feel like shit, but I would much rather be healthy and take care of myself. My medications are important, and I believe they are what helps me. So yeah — not a model, never will be.”
In 2018, Camila Mendes took to Instagram to totally denounce diets and diet culture.
“I’m done believing in the idea that there’s a thinner, happier version of me on the other side of all the tireless effort,” she wrote. “Your body type is subject to genetics, and while eating nutrient-dense foods and exercising regularly will make you healthier, it will not necessarily make you thinner, and the current system fails to make that distinction.”
“I’m sick of the toxic narrative that the media consistently feeds us: that being thin is the ideal body type,” the Riverdale alum added. “A healthy body is the ideal body type, and that will look different for every person.”
Demi Lovato has spoken at length about learning to love her body — and develop a healthier relationship to food — while in recovery from an eating disorder.
“I don’t count calories anymore, I don’t over exercise anymore, I don’t restrict or purge, and I especially don’t live my life [according] to diet culture,” they shared in an Instagram post from 2021. “And I’ve actually lost weight. [But] this is different experience.
The singer has also dinged Hollywood’s rigid beauty ideals for fueling her eating disorder as a teen.
“I grew up in a period of time where young Hollywood was very, very, very thin, and that was the look,” they told TODAY’s Savannah Sellers earlier this year. “It’s hard to grow up in a world where that’s right in front of your face and at your fingertips at all times.”
Like Lovato, Iskra Lawrence avoids diets and calorie restriction “at all costs” as she navigates eating disorder recovery. The model and influencer spoke openly about her journey of reforming her relationship to food in a 2022 interview with EatingWell.
“I believe that food should bring you joy and that you should enjoy it, and I absolutely love cooking and embracing that by trying different foods,” she told the outlet. “I think that intuition of just listening to when your body is full or listening to what it needs is important, and learning about nutrition has been helpful because I think it helps me figure out how I feel physically when I eat different types of food.”
Speaking to InStyle last year, Mindy Kaling admitted that she used to “yo-yo diet” before major events. However, the writer, producer, and actress has since ditched dieting in favor of lasting changes to her lifestyle.
“I used to be this person that would be like, ‘Okay, I have a big event coming up, the pressure’s on. I have six weeks to just like, stop eating, juice cleanse, do the boot camps’ — whatever,” she recalled. “And I have completely let go of that… it never worked for me. It wasn’t healthy and I was in a state of deprivation.”
“Right now, I think I’m in the best shape of my life,” Kaling added. “I’m the healthiest I’ve been. And it’s not because I’m preparing for anything!”
Pink stays in shape for her high-flying performances, but she told Fitness magazine she doesn’t rely on restrictive diets to make it happen.
“I try to eat really healthy most of the time,” she said. “When I’m not on tour, I’ve done the vegan thing, although I sometimes eat chicken and fish. But on tour is a different story. I don’t beat myself up over every little food choice. If I’m hungry for bread or pasta or a French fry, I eat it. I cannot resist cheesecake! You can’t be too controlled.”
In 2019, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil launched a new body-positive project on Instagram called I Weigh. The account features submissions from people all over the world talking about how their personal value lies in more than the number on the scale.
The project follows an article Jamil wrote for HuffPost U.K. in February 2018, in which she called for people to stop judging themselves based on their weight: “And by all means take pride in your appearance. Enjoy your looks, and your clothes and your sex appeal, but don’t make it your number one concern and selling point.
It can be in your top ten, but it should never, ever define you. It isn’t important. We aren’t supposed to all look the same. And nothing good ever comes of self hatred. It will never further you. It will always hold you back.”
When Kate Winslet went on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in September 2017, she had just one suggestion for letting go of diet culture: “I don’t know how much I weigh. I haven’t weighed myself in 12 years. Top tip. It’s a great move!”
“Sometimes I wish I were just magically a size six and I never had to give [my weight] a single thought,” Melissa McCarthy told Good Housekeeping in 2012. “But I am weirdly healthy, so I don’t beat myself up about it — it wouldn’t help, and I don’t want to pass that on to my girls.”
In 2012, Jennifer Aniston told Glamour that she would rather focus on eating well and exercising for health. “I stopped dieting when I figured out that you just have to eat regularly and properly with moderation,” she said. “The fads are too much.”
“I’m going to start my own Chrissy diet that’s like Paleo plus cheese. Plus late Saturday night drive-through,” the model and cookbook author told Elle in 2015.
After Kristen Bell gave birth to her daughter Lincoln, she said she made a promise not to allow her personal narrative to be about weight loss for one year after her pregnancy.
“I was like, ‘I have a baby. Do you know how awesome that is? It’s so radical!” she told E! News. “Why on earth am I going to be so concerned with my pants size?'”
Bryce Dallas Howard
Bryce Dallas Howard wants young girls to know that diets aren’t worth it.
“When I started working, I felt like I should look a different way, and try and do a diet,” she told InStyle in 2016. “Then I would have a six-month period afterwards where I kept thinking about food and having cravings.
It was such a waste of time. I wondered why I fantasized about bread! Now, I feel really fortunate that I never got into a space where there was an eating disorder, but I also feel like that easily could have happened if I didn’t say, ‘Hang on a second, this doesn’t feel right.’”
Candice Bergen spoke candidly about her changing body and why she doesn’t diet in her 2015 book, A Fine Romance.
“In the past 15 years… I have put on 30 pounds. I live to eat,” she wrote. “None of this ‘eat to live’ stuff for me. I crave cookies… all the things that dilate my pupils.”
While doing press for her film I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer opened up on Katie Couric’s podcast about how she’s been fat-shamed by interviewers and how she doesn’t diet because she doesn’t want to be hungry.
“Howard Stern once asked me, ‘Why don’t you lose, like, 30 pounds?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to. I’ll be hungry,'” she recalled. “And I lost some weight for Trainwreck, and I was like, beauty and body, that’s not my currency, that’s not my thing.
I feel beautiful and I feel strong and sexy, but I’m not going to be the most beautiful girl, so I’m not gonna try to market myself or get myself there. And I don’t think that sends a good message.
How about not striving for some other version of yourself? Like, why not love what you’ve got going on right now rather than this eternal dissatisfaction?”
Mad Men alum January Jones made a powerful statement about her relationship to food in an Allure interview from 2011. “I have never dieted,” she told the magazine. “I just listen to whatever my body craves. I don’t deny myself anything.”
Gina Rodriguez was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease — an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing fatigue and muscle pain — right after she filmed the pilot for Jane the Virgin. She told Shape that the diagnosis changed her relationship with food and her body.
In lieu of a restrictive diet, Rodriguez said she tries to eat healthy and work out “so I don’t worry about having a red velvet cupcake or slice of pizza.”
“I think body positivity is important because it frees up a lot of worrying and a lot of stress we spend on it daily,” she added. “Instead, put all that time and energy into doing the things you want to do and making your dreams come true.”
As a working actress, Jennifer Lawrence can’t imagine dieting or limiting her food intake.
“I can’t work on a diet,” the Silver Linings Playbook star told Vanity Fair in 2018. “I’m hungry. I’m standing on my feet. I need more energy.”
Since the start of her modeling career, Ashley Graham has been a staunch advocate for body positivity. As she told ABC News in 2015, “I know that I look good and, more importantly, I feel good, so why am I dieting? I now know what works for me.”
For years, under the abusive thumb of her ex-producer, Dr. Luke, Kesha went to extreme measures to be thin. She checked herself into rehab in 2014 and came out the other side ready to fight for herself, her career, and her creative control.
Now? As Kesha told CBS Sunday Morning in 2018, “I’m not a size. I’m not a number. I am a strong, badass motherfucking woman, and quite frankly, I like my junk. Ten years ago, I never thought I’d be able to say that.”