Whenever I speak publicly about Health at Every Size™ and the dangers of dieting and fatphobia, it's inevitable that I hear at least one comment trying to catch me in some sort of mistake or call me out. "If people can eat whatever they want, what about people with peanut allergies! Can they eat peanuts?!" "I have diabetes, are you trying to kill me by telling me to eat cake?!?"
My answer? Well, no, of course not. To understand this, we have to understand the difference between our diets and dieting, or as I like to say, between dieting and nutrition. At its root, a diet is the type of food a person, animal or community habitually eats. However, diet culture has given diets a whole new definition. Now, a diet is about restrictive eating—cutting out certain types of foods, eating at specific times, or minimizing intake in order to control one's shape or weight—which we often use with the verb "dieting."
Dieting, or restrictive eating, is harmful and not healthy. It is the most common predictor of an eating disorder and is also associated with a myriad of other mental and physical health issues such as depression, heart problems, and low metabolism. However, our diets, or nutrition, are neutral. They are simply what we feed our bodies, and food has no moral value.
Obviously, though, there are certain limitations to intuitive eating and for many eating whatever we want isn't possible. There are people who are gluten-free, have certain allergies or insensitivities, live with diabetes or deal with other limitations to what is available. The answer to this, though, is not "going on a diet," it is making certain changes to our nutrition. Refraining from eating peanuts because you're allergic is not a diet, substituting pasta for a gluten-free kind is not a diet, and drinking dairy-free milk because you're lactose intolerant is not a diet. The only reason we call certain changes in nutrition for people with diabetes "diets" is due to medical fatphobia.
Following the Health at Every Size™ teachings and research, fat people are not inherently unhealthy and it is possible to be healthy and fat. However, because of statistics showing that most people with Type Two Diabetes are in higher weight bodies, many believe that their weight, rather than imbalances in insulin levels, is the cause of Diabetes-related health issues. In reality, with the help of a nutritionist and/or doctor, a person could make changes to their nutrition to regulate their insulin levels and restore their health and remain the same weight or even gain weight.
Dieting is not a necessary part of life. Not for fat people, not for skinny people, not for people with celiac disease, allergies or even diabetes. Yes, sometimes changes in our nutrition are necessary to maintain health. But the facets of diet culture which involve striving for weight loss by restricting intake should be avoided by everyone at all costs.