I am a brand new student of the "Healthy At Every Size" program at The University of No Diet Talk. Brand spanking new.

I remember even a year ago, as I was writing body positive posts, I would see the badges on sidebars and would think "Oh honey, don't you know that you shouldn't ban healthy eating from your life?" Even then, I had no idea what "No Diet Talk" meant... so I explored. And boy, was I was wrong. There is a good chance that many of you still equate diet with health at this moment... and boy, you are wrong too.

And this is oh so very sadly common (so don't feel bad).
Read on.

I had emailed a blogger friend and body love Shero about breaching this "No Diet Talk" subject a bit ago and we both had to shake our heads and agree that it was too difficult of a subject. I still feel this way, but I'm going to do my best today to articulate because I know that health and diet myths pervade a lot of sites we see while touring our gloriously female dominated blogosphere. I did not "create" this wheel, and I am not reinventing it. I'm just sharing the knowledge that I have gained from literature on this complex philosophy and passing it along in hopes that it helps you see through deceptive and fraudulent concepts. If you have any contributions, please leave them in the comments and we can have an open discussion!

I'm going to (attempt) make this simple.

Now I know that this all sounds like some bitter fat chick trying to make herself feel better for being such a social failure... but that's wrong too. We are all skeptical of this way of thinking because we have decades of experiential media consumption that says otherwise. No one makes money off of contentment, and so, we are passively (and sometimes aggressively) coerced into spending our entire lives attempting to purchase perfection and alter ourselves to become an unattainable ideal. This is nothing new.

We women bond over hating our bodies. We joke about how we've only had coffee today, how we're stressed so we're going to need that chocolate. We praise ourselves for being "good" or verbally punish for being "bad"; giving our food the power to determine our morality. We congratulate each other when we have a successful day of deprivation. It's encouraged, it's pathetic, and I was (and still can be) a huge offender. We all are to some point, it's just second nature. To cut it out of our consciousness and vocabulary takes a commitment to awareness and a lot of mental work... but it's worth it.

In their book Kirby and Harding say that they will never congratulate you for being on a diet. Know why? Because the intention behind a diet is to change your body, and that is not awesome. Period. Our gut reaction is to say that everyone's  body needs improvement, right? Not really, no. We have already dispelled enough myths above to show that we all need to have an open mind about what we thought we knew about fat, so lets stop with the "dieting for heath" argument right now. In fact, I'm going to come right out and say that fat is not the overall contributing factor for being unhealthy."But... but... but... what about..." No. Wanna know what the physical effects are from yo-yo dieting? Here is an excerpt from UCLA's large scale study:

"There is evidence from large scale observational studies that weight cycling is linked to increased all-cause mortality and to increased mortality from cardiovascular disease. In addition, weight cycling is associated with increased risk for myocardial infarction, stroke, and diabetes, increased high density lipoprotein cholesterol, increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and even suppressed immune function."

Sounds an awful lot like what some people say are the physical effects of "obesity" doesn't it? Well guess who yo-yo diets/weight cycles more than anyone out of social shame? Fat people. Draw your own conclusions.

So what philosophy replaces the concept of always depriving your body in order to make it some false representation of health? It's called "Health at Every Size". It goes something like this:

"What is Health at Every Size?
1. Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes
2. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational. emotional, and intellectual aspects
3. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of sizes
4. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutrition needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure
5. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss"

Now, that just makes fucking sense, don't you think? I want you to read this book for more on all of this. It will change your life. Some suggestions that they make is to practice intuitive eating and find some sort of physical activity that you find FUN. That may take a while, but it's worth it. And by taking this approach, they surmise that your body will evolve into it's natural state. And guess what? Your natural shape could be fat. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be average. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be thin. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be anywhere in between and that is fucking great. And wouldn't it be nice to know that your body is what healthy (actual healthy, not media created healthy) looks like for you and you are perfect just the way you are? I think so.

The first step is to accept your body where it is at RIGHT. NOW. Accept it. Love it. Embrace it. Don't let the perceived flaws consume your life and what you eat. Read more about this and process it at your own pace; there is a lot of information out there. I'd love to talk more about my evolving relationship with food sometime, but this post is already painfully long so I'll share another time.

You can read these internet blips about:
Turning "No Fat Talk" into "No Diet Talk"

And I would really encourage reading these books:
Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere; Kirby and Harding
Rethinking Thin; Gina Kolata
Health at Every Size; Linda Bacon

You can buy the brooch above by clicking on the image or going here. And you can get the sidebar badges thanks to Natalie here.

So what do you think about this whole concept? It's still a controversial one, so let 'er rip.


  1. Hi Jess - thank you so much for another amazing post, I have put the "no diet talk" badge on my blog a few minutes ago!

    Love, Qaroline

  2. Thanks for all the information! I had been seeing the "No Diet Talk" badge and phrase around and wondered exactly what it meant, I'm so glad you explained it and I'm going to check out the books you talked about. Thanks! --Laura

    1. It's funny how you either know everything about it, or nothing at all. I was so befuddled before I looked into it... it wasn't at all what I thought. Thank god;)

  3. I would love to see body positive books for children and teens listed somewhere. I really want to raise my daughters with these philosophies in mind.

    1. LAUREN! Thanks for bringing that up!!!!!!! I found THE greatest list around the holidays called "75+ gifts for your young feminist" and there is a body image section!


  4. I think "No Diet Talk" is a great concept, but at the same time it makes me reluctant to even mention anything about food and and my health. I know that fat is not an instant ticket to being unhealthy, but sadly that is not the case for ME (not talking about anyone else, but myself). I am only saying this because I believe this is a safe place to share this, and if I'm missing something I will be corrected. I have always had back problems (and a knee injury and etc. lol) even when I was "fit" by society standards (which meant I thought I was never skinny enough in my teens), but now that I have gained a lot of weight my back hurts a lot more, and so do my knees, ankles and feet. Also, I cannot play with my twins the way I did with niece and nephew 4 years ago. My weight gain began because I had trouble getting my medication for depression and social anxiety etc. and I would "self-medicate" with junk food, fast food, and more recently pints of ice cream. All of this to say that I do not and won't diet. If I'm hungry I eat. However, I do want to cook more at home and control my anxiety with my hobbies and not always with food. That is MY idea of eating healthy, not depriving myself and taking control of my issues without letting food control everything. Is that really a bad thing? What am I missing? I feel like I just stepped in a landmine. I would really like your opinion on this.

    1. I am not an expert on this subject, but perhaps I can offer a thought?

      I think what you described ("not depriving yourself and taking control of your issues without food") IS practicing healthy at every size.

      And thanks for sharing so openly... all of our bodies are different, and require different approaches. One thing I didn't add, is that NO ONE can tell you how to live, myself included. I hope everyone reads that part...

      NO ONE can tell you how to live, including myself.

      I would think that if your body is hurting because of extra weight, that you would want to relieve those symptoms so that you can feel good. HAES mission (I think) is to remove the guilt and need to be skinny. THATS the intention they wan't you walk away with. Not necessarily that you should eat 20 cupcakes a day because you can. (Which, by the way, you totally can and it's nobodies fucking business if you do).

      And thanks for mentioning the mental aspect of fat. I completely agree with everything you said, and I'm fighting the same battle myself. I wrote something about that here:


      Lets keep this conversation going... I don't know if I even touched on the subject you asked about. This issue it a grey one.


    2. I struggled for a while waiting to lose weight in order to do things, like not sewing myself a dress because I was not the right size. It was with time and also reading body positive blogs like yours, and the Nearsighted Owl that I realized I don't have to be any size. The idea that things have to be a specific way is so ingrained at an early age that I didn't even think to question the bullshit that people would tell me about being fat. It was so liberating to realize I don't have to be like anyone else. Something so simple, yet it took me years. You mentioned guilt and I think that is what most people don't get. Reminding myself that I don't have to feel guilty about anything and don't owe any explanations to anyone is what will hopefully lead me to have a more balanced relationship with food. It's also sad that a lot of people think mental illness is something that one chooses to have, as if you could just shrug it off, and let's not forget about the ever present "willpower" shit. A sure way to make me think someone is ignorant, and willfully so.

    3. OHMYGOD, don't even get me started on how you can "choose to not have a mental illness". That is where our world is broken on the most fundamental level. Sigh.

      I think every person (especially every fat girl) would tell you this: its a loooooooooooooong fucking journey. And for me, I don't know if I'll ever believe 100% that my body is perfect, but I'm going to see if I can't get there. What I keep reading over and over is that its not about loving your body all the time, but about switching your life so that there are more positive days than negative ones. And you just keep going from there.

      I think that what helps speed this along is just what you said- knowing that you don't owe explanations to anyone and you can cultivate a personal relationship with food and your body into a place where YOU want it to be. Virgie Tovar talks about our relationship with our body being like any other relationship in our lives. It takes just as much work, heartache, intention, and maintenance as the rest...

      And it's also the most worth is, because where ever we go... there we are:)

  5. I love that list you gave above, but I think it's also REALLY important to realize that some people simply cannot afford health. Especially in the US, when you do not have a lot of money to support yourself, the food you can afford is unhealthy food (ramen, mcD's etc.) I watched a documentary a while ago called food stamped, and they estimated that on food stamps you'll have around $1 per meal during the week... a couple tried to live on a $1 per meal for a week and even though they managed to eat healthy they found that they were constantly hungry all the time. They also had the knowledge of how to eat healthy and how to even cook in the first place. I think there's a lot that's incredibly wrong with the food system in the US, and most times if people are actually overweight from an unhealthy lifestyle--they definitely aren't the ones to blame. I'm really glad you wrote this post though, because now I have a plethora of links I can send to my doubting friends and family.


      You are absolutely right. People become fat for a lot of reasons, none of which deserve judgement. Solutions on the other hand? Yeah, we need those;)

      I think what you're saying is that when people don't have access to healthy food, the stuff they eat is low in nutrition and could possibly make them fat.

      You're totally right. I think that these might be two separate issues though... ONE, is the fact that every person deserves access to healthy and nutritious food. Everyone. And that is totally a flaw in our food system. If you want non GMO, preservative free, pesticide free, not "over farmed" produce... well, you gotta pay extra. And that is bullshit. Our bodies need things to function, and we should all have access.

      That said, everyone should be able to choose what they want to eat when they want to eat. They should have access to the whole spectrum of food and then the ability to make a selection without guilt.

      I'm really failing to articulate today... what are your thoughts?

    2. I think we are both feeling the same way.. it's such a hard topic to discuss because you want to address a problem without blaming anybody, which can be really hard! I definitely agree that people should be able to eat whatever they want, but I think that can only truly happen when more nutritious, organic, sustainable, gmo-free etc. etc. foods are available to everyone despite their income or social standing. I was talking to someone the other day about how they saw someone who was fat and unhealthy, which made me go on a rant about how they don't know the person or why they may be fat yadda yadda, BUT I also told them in the end, that even if they did lead the unhealthiest lifestyle ever, it's still none of your damn business!

    3. Thank you Faith, for saying that to this person. They needed to hear that it is none of their damn concern. <3

  6. This is amazing. I have been trying to formulate my thoughts on this subject for a while, but you did a great job! I especially liked this part:

    "And guess what? Your natural shape could be fat. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be average. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be thin. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be anywhere in between and that is fucking great. And wouldn't it be nice to know that your body is what healthy (actual healthy, not media created healthy) looks like for you and you are perfect just the way you are? I think so."

    I hate how some fat/average people always shame on thin people. All bodies are beautiful, there should be no body shaming at all regardless of your size.

    1. "All bodies are beautiful, there should be no body shaming at all regardless of your size."

      Exactly my love. Exactly.

  7. Awesome post Jes! You never fail to articulate exactly what I'm thinking.

  8. I love this post!!! It's so true. I sit by people at work who are super thin and eat junk all day. I am considered obese (size 22) and I work-out and eat a fairly healthy diet. Fat doesn't mean unhealthy and skinny doesn't mean healthy. Awesome post!

  9. this is a great post and something i've been struggling with lately. my husband and i have dramatically changed our diet in the last 5 weeks, going from lots of processed foods and junk that made us feel terrible to lots of fresh food and unprocessed stuff. I feel really good and it has really made a difference in my mental health (have you ever read about food and certain ways of eating and how it can affect your brain chemistry? it is really interesting. ) but when i tell people about it, all they want to know is how much weight i have lost. which isn't the point. i haven't lost that much, though it has redistributed some but that seems to be a failure to lots of people. like what is the point if you don't get thin. the point is i feel awesome and have lots of energy. i'm not on a diet. i'm just changing how i fuel myself. i need to read that book.

    1. ANOTHER brilliant point!

      Mood and food! Totally interconnected! Another reason to eat certain things that has nothing to do with "the body". Right on Rae. What you described is exactly what I'm starting to go through... the acknowledgement that eating "right" (whatever that means for me) creates clean fuel and I FEEL better. Mentally, physically, all around. No weight lost, but it's not the point.

      Well put. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Wonderful post Jes! And being able to accept us for who we are and just that seems totally logical.

    I have an exception for you though, my wonderful, loving, beautiful fiance is a freak of nature. He can eat (literally) ANYTHING he wants and he does not gain weight. He has tried over and over again to gain weight, but his metabolism is so high that he can't keep any weight on him. One downer about that is that I love to eat and when I get on my eating binges (alongside him of course) I'll gain a little pudge, but he ain't got nothin'.

    So when I still battle with accepting my body the way it is ('cause I go through my moods where I love it and then hate it) he's always there to encourage me that he loves it.

    Anyway, what I'm getting at is that it's great to have an awesome support system because when you get down and no one is there to say that you're beautiful, it's really discouraging. SO, I love this. I love that you support, make aware, and share stories and kindness. It really helps a lot.

    So I'm done with the rambling, but bottom line is that you're phenomenal. =D

  11. I am in my mid 40's now. And I am quite comfortable in my body. I am deaf, gay and fatbulous! I am healthy, eat well and walk daily and do fat lady yoga. I do not diet and haven't since I was in my late 20's.
    I take care of myself, visit my doctor and make sure I am healthy which is the important thing.
    I'm fat and proud! Those who don't approve can kiss my big fat hiney!

    Love your blog sweetie. Mine is: http://deafiesinthekitchen.blogspot.com/

  12. Loved this post so much. So much to read and think about. I wrote a little something if you want to check it out. It's too good to not refer to.


  13. Bookmarked. Recently I had to remind mum the my weight is not for discussion. She said and did at least two other stupid things that day. Eventually she will do it again. When she does this is one of the links she will be sent.

  14. I am having a really tough time reconciling HAES with the fact that I want to lose weight so that I can run further and faster without being in pain. Also, I'm shallow and I own too many nice clothes that I can't fit into because I'm too fat.

  15. On twitter, I use the hashtag #notonadiet for this very reason!

  16. "Your natural shape could be fat. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be average. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be thin. And that is fucking great. And your natural shape could be anywhere in between and that is fucking great."

    You, Maam, are fucking amazing. Braver than I am capable of at this moment. Being recovered from an eating disorder, I'm all about the no diet talk and the intuitive eating too.

    Every post you have here is quality. Thank God for similar thinkers!

  17. I had lost 60 pounds in five months and everyone wanted to know how I did it, what foods I ate (fewer Oreos and chips, but not much less food), what diet I was following (none), and how much exercise I was doing (none). I dated a guy who lost 150 lbs. in a little over a year who made drastic changes to his lifestyle. We started dating when he began his quasi-anorexic changes (which became full-blown anorexic behavior like spitting out food) and broke up shortly after he recovered from almost dying from complications of a tummy tuck... he dumped me.

    Anyway, when I was younger, my mother always tried to get my sister and I on some kind of diet (I was a size 12 and recovering from leukemia in my teens). After having failed them, over and over, I came to realize that the only way to get into a better shape (not size, but physically capable of taking stairs without being winded) was to be lazy about it. Meaning to only make healthy choices that fit your lifestyle. And yes, doing things like eating more fresh food and less processed food (which is bad for you regardless of calories), drinking more water (to help clear up my skin as well), and getting off my butt more often (which helped save money instead of taking a taxi everywhere) helped. But I did it only in ways that made sense. Gym memberships, to me, are a waste of money because I could not rationalize going to a building out of my way, and getting on a machine while staring out a window. But doing that 2.1 km walk home from work to de-stress did make sense. I got a bike to ride to and from work and ride when running errands around the city, not to simply exercise.

    And while I have gained back 15 pounds, I am still down 5% body fat and can take five flights of stairs in 100+ degree heat with no problem now aside from my knees (my patellas creak audibly). To me, that is much more encouragement for becoming healthy than any scale or measuring tape or pat on the back could give me.

    1. Oh, and my name is Tarra Scott and I am big fan of your blog and your honesty and positive attitude toward living the life we deserve. We would have run around together if we had gone to high school together because you remind me of so many of my close friends.

  18. I have a male cousin who eats a lots more than I do(I'm female), we both spend most of our time at home, lazing away in front of our laptops. And you know what, he's rail thin and well, i'm fat! I actually do chores in the house while he's very lazy... > , > Now i'm wondering how he does it and no, he doesn't do any kind of sport but I do.


Back to Top