CW: as the title implies, this episode describes a guest’s lifelong struggle with eating disorders
In this episode I chat with Debbie Lesko, an anti-diet and eating disorder awareness activist, who shares her personal journey of recovery from an eating disorder and how she became an advocate for body positivity and intuitive eating. She emphasizes the importance of rejecting diet culture and the harmful effects of intentional weight loss. Debbie also discusses the benefits of embracing an anti-diet mindset, such as freedom from food restrictions, improved self-esteem, and a healthier relationship with your body. She provides practical tips for transitioning away from dieting, including changing language around food, cleaning up social media feeds, and finding joyful movement.
- Reject diet culture and the labeling of food as “good” or “bad.”
- Clean up your social media by unfollowing accounts that promote dieting or weight loss.
- Get rid of clothes that don’t fit and buy clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident in your current body.
- “Anti-diet means rejecting the idea that a diet is going to cure your self-esteem, your body image, your health.”
- “All food has nutritional value, no matter what it is, and your body knows what to do with it.”
- “Give up the fight for making your body a shape that you think is acceptable.”
- National Eating Disorder Association
- Health at Every Size (Amazon Affiiate link)
- Intuitive Eating (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Looking to speak with someone about eating disorders concerns for yourself or a loved one?
- ANAD Helpline: 1 (888) 375-7767 Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm CT
- National Alliance for Eating Disorders Helpline: 1 (866) 662-1235 Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm ET
Debbie Lesko is a 67-year-old grandmother and an eating disorder awareness and anti-diet fat liberation activist. She has been on a journey of recovery from her own eating disorder since she was eight years old. Debbie is the host of the “Diets Don’t Work” Facebook page, which is a community that supports and educates people looking to ditch the diet mindset and approach health without a harmful focus on weight.
Connect with Debbie
In a world obsessed with weight loss and diet culture, it can be challenging to find a path to true health and well-being. But there is hope. Debbie Lesko, an anti-diet activist and eating disorder awareness advocate, is on a mission to help others break free from the harmful cycle of dieting and embrace a new way of approaching health. In our conversation, Debbie shares her personal journey to recovery and offers valuable insights into the benefits of ditching the diet mindset.
Finding Recovery: A Personal Journey
Debbie’s story is one of resilience and determination. From a young age, she was subjected to the harmful messages of diet culture, constantly being told that she needed to lose weight to be accepted and valued. This led to a lifelong battle with an eating disorder, with multiple hospitalizations and treatment centers along the way. But it wasn’t until 2017, when her job threatened her employment if she didn’t seek treatment, that Debbie realized she needed to make a change.
“I can’t leave my granddaughter,” Debbie recalls. “I can’t die. That would just hurt tremendously.” This realization became the turning point in her recovery journey. She sought treatment at Rosewood Eating Disorder Centers and immersed herself in various modalities, including intuitive eating and the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach. Through this process, Debbie discovered a new way of approaching food, movement, and self-acceptance.
The Anti-Diet Movement: Rejecting Diet Culture
Being anti-diet means rejecting the harmful messages of diet culture and embracing a new approach to health and well-being. It means letting go of the idea that weight loss is the key to happiness and self-worth. As Debbie explains, “Anti-diet does not mean anti-health. It’s pro-health.” It’s about focusing on nourishing your body and finding joy in movement, rather than obsessing over numbers on a scale or restrictive eating patterns.
One of the biggest pitfalls people face when trying to leave the diet mindset behind is the language they use around food. Debbie emphasizes the importance of eliminating labels like “good” or “bad” when it comes to food. “All food has nutritional value,” she says. “Your body knows what to do with it.” By reframing our thoughts and language around food, we can begin to develop a healthier relationship with eating and nourishing our bodies.
The Power of Community and Support
Recovering from an eating disorder and embracing an anti-diet mindset can be challenging, but Debbie emphasizes the importance of finding a supportive community. Through her Facebook page, “Diets Don’t Work,” Debbie curates a collection of posts and resources that promote body positivity, intuitive eating, and eating disorder awareness. The page has grown into a thriving community of over 4,500 members who share their experiences, ask questions, and support one another on their journeys to recovery.
Debbie also highlights the importance of cleaning up our social media feeds and surrounding ourselves with accounts that promote body positivity and reject diet culture. By curating our online spaces, we can create a more positive and supportive environment that aligns with our values and goals.
The Benefits of Ditching the Diet Mindset
So, what are the benefits of embracing an anti-diet mindset and rejecting the harmful messages of diet culture?
Debbie shares three key benefits:
- Freedom: By letting go of restrictive eating patterns and the obsession with weight loss, we can experience a newfound sense of freedom. No longer bound by the numbers on a scale or the rules of a diet, we can eat what we want when we want it, without guilt or shame.
- Increased Brain Space: When we’re constantly focused on diets and weight loss, our minds become consumed by numbers and restrictions. By embracing an anti-diet mindset, we free up valuable brain space to focus on more important things, like spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, and engaging in activities that bring us joy.
- Improved Self-Esteem: Diet culture often leads to a negative body image and a constant battle with our own self-worth. By rejecting the idea that our bodies need to conform to a certain standard, we can develop a healthier and more positive relationship with ourselves. Respecting our bodies for what they are and what they can do, rather than how they look, can lead to a significant boost in self-esteem and overall well-being.
Ditching the diet mindset and embracing an anti-diet approach to health and well-being is a journey that requires commitment and self-compassion. But as Debbie’s story demonstrates, it is possible to find recovery and live a life free from the harmful cycle of dieting. By rejecting diet culture, reframing our thoughts and language around food, and surrounding ourselves with a supportive community, we can begin to embrace a new way of approaching health that focuses on nourishment, self-acceptance, and joy.
As the anti-diet movement continues to gain momentum, it is important that we challenge the harmful messages of diet culture and promote a more inclusive and compassionate approach to health. By sharing our stories, supporting one another, and advocating for change, we can create a world where everyone can embrace their bodies and live their lives to the fullest, free from the constraints of diet culture.
Let’s Debbie in her mission to spread awareness about eating disorders, promote body positivity, and empower others to embrace an anti-diet mindset. Together, we can create a future where health is not defined by weight, but by the joy, nourishment, and self-acceptance that comes from living a life free from diet culture.