Back in March, approximately 1 million Australians tuned in to Channel 10 to watch the first episode of the latest Biggest Loser series. It is perhaps timely therefore, that earlier this week, on 6 May, we saw the celebration of International No Diet Day – an awareness campaign directed towards a healthy body image and acceptance of the diversity of our body shapes.
The premiere International ‘No Diet’ Day event occurred in 1992 when it was established by the Diet Breakers organisation in Britain. The idea has since been picked up and transferred to countries including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Israel, India, Brazil and Denmark. Similar campaigns have also been promoted by the International Size Acceptance Association (International Size Acceptance Day held on April 24), and National Organisation for Women (Love Your Body Day).
International No Diet Day has a two-pronged approach. First it encourages healthy eating, exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and an awareness that diets don’t always work. In a society that labours under problems of unhealthy weights and obesity, it is important not to simply dismiss dieting without alluding to alternative ways to be healthy and maintain a healthy weight. So International No Diet Day also shines a spotlight on the health risks connected with some extreme forms of dieting, and promotes healthy ways to lose weight.
Second, International Diet Day invites us to value and accept our bodies, as they currently are. It strives to acknowledge that all bodies are different, that despite what marketing campaigns and women’s magazines might imply, there is no perfect body and no one way to look. In this way, International Diet Day plays an important role in promoting body satisfaction and acceptance.
Many of us strive for different bodies and different body weights – and it is fine to eat a bit less or exercise a bit more to lose some unwanted fat, or to sometimes wish you had longer legs, flatter ears or a wider chest. But placing too much emphasis on your body image can lead to a raft of problems including insomnia, depression, social anxiety and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. If you or someone you know is overly focussed and dissatisfied with the way that they look, then they need to make efforts to improve their self-confidence and appreciation of self before their concerns with body image become overbearing.