Dr. Alexis Conason, a clinical psychologist and certified eating disorder specialist-supervisor, wants Gen Z to ditch diet culture.
On Monday, June 21st, Dr. Conason sat down with TC Director of Partnerships, Desanka Ilic, on Instagram Live. She spoke about her work in the mindful eating space and the release of her upcoming book, The Diet-Free Revolution: 10 Steps to Free Yourself from the Diet Cycle with Mindful Eating and Radical Self-Acceptance. The book offers a “10-step approach to ditching diet culture, healing your relationship with food, and cultivating compassion for your body.”
Dr. Conason also offered some advice to our community about implementing mindful eating practices into their own lives and how we can come together to dismantle fatphobia.
Diet culture and body image are widely discussed topics amongst Gen Z. Many have various views surrounding the benefits of embracing your body. In contrast, others feel it can lead to a toxic mindset. During the conversation, our community members joined in on the conversation and shared their thoughts in the live chat.
Here are some highlights from our chat with Dr. Conason:
Dr. Conason pointed to her experience as a student. As a quiet kid, she felt that teachers often looked her over, but with her psychology teacher, it was different. “My psychology teacher supported me and encouraged me,” she said and added that she has always been fascinated by people and eager to learn more about why they do what they do.
Dr. Conason said that she is grateful for the opportunity to offer support to people as they move through a personal journey. “So many people are walking this road alone…,” she said. “To be able to join in some amount of time is truly an honor.”
For Dr. Conason, The Diet-Free Revolution is ten years in the making. When she was first developing it, she said there wasn’t much of a market for it. She wanted to create a resource for people looking to leave behind restrictive eating patterns, but she received pushback on the body acceptance aspect. Now, she says more people are open to the idea of health beyond weight and body acceptance.
At its core, Dr. Conason believes that the idea of body positivity is wonderful. “It’s about centering marginalized bodies and making the world a safer place for all of us to exist,” she said.
However, she pointed out that it’s been watered down to center people who already meet ideal beauty standards such as whiteness, femininity, and thinness in practice. Fat people, who created the movement, are then pushed off to the side.
She also said that a problem with body positivity is that it is about expanding beauty norms and centers appearance. “Our body is so much more than the way we look,” she said.
Dr. Conason defines dieting as “anything that provides a reference for how we eat.” She said that diet culture is sneaky in that it pulls us away from listening to our own internal signals about our body’s wants and needs.
Dr. Conason describes mindful eating as eating per hunger and fullness cues and working with our bodies to hone in on what feels nourishing instead of following an outside guide.
For many people, dieting helps people feel safe and secure, and Dr. Conason said that it could be scary to leave those rules behind. The 10 step plan she outlines in her book provides a structure to support those moving from diet culture into mindful eating. “It’s useful to break it down into different parts,” she said.
She added that the beginning part of the book highlights research behind diets and moves into using mindfulness to connect with our bodies. The book ends with exploring emotional eating, the uncomfortable feelings behind it, and how freeing ourselves from diet culture can help us define what’s most important. The book also includes case studies and people’s personal stories.
Dr. Conason said that media portrayals of eating disorders typically present thin white, cis women as struggling with eating disorders, and it’s essential to open our viewpoints of who might be dealing with one. She also said this idea comes from the underpinnings of fatphobia and the idea that people are fat simply because they overeat. “It’s hard for people to grasp the idea that you can have anorexia and still be fat,” she said.
In her work, Dr. Conason often talks about body acceptance, which is about loving your body unconditionally and not in a way that centers on its appearance. Body neutrality is about feeling neutral about your body, and she says this is a great place to be.
Dr. Conason said that intuitive eating and mindful eating are very similar. However, mindful eating focuses on the mindfulness practice that helps us connect the body on mind. “Some people say they struggle with actually hearing our bodies,” she said. “Mindfulness helps us connect with our internal signals.”
The Diet-Free Revolution will hit shelves anywhere books are sold on June 29, 2021, and is currently available for pre-order. Follow Dr. Alexis Conason to stay up to date with her work and learn more about mindful eating and dismantling diet culture.
What are your thoughts on ditching diet culture and embracing mindful eating? Share your thoughts in our community, and don’t miss our talk show, POVz, every Tuesday at 8pm EST. Follow The Conversationalist on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to stay updated on our future events and conversations.