This May 6, put away your scales and form a new relationship with the person in the mirror for International No Diet Day. For so many people, and especially women, unattainable body standards and pressure have prompted eating disorders, low self-esteem, bullying, and unhealthily restrictive diets. When British feminist Mary Evans Young had enough of all this in 1992, she invited friends to “Ditch that Diet” – and it caught on massively. The global movement that it sparked has helped many individuals form a healthier relationship with food and their bodies, so today wear a light blue ribbon and eat a cheeseburger with pride!
History of International No Diet Day
Dieticians and dieting sprung up as early as the 18th century when obese English doctor George Cheyne underwent a tremendous weight loss by eating only vegetables and drinking only milk – completely abstaining from eating meat. He then recommended his diet to all who suffered from obesity, and wrote an essay titled “An Essay of Health and Long Life.” This essay advised fresh air and avoidance of “luxury foods,” and thus the first diets were born.
People have continued to use specific eating habits to become healthier or make their bodies fit a certain societal ideal. English undertaker William Banting created the first fad weight-loss diet “Banting” in 1863. It was still being printed as of 2007 and is considered a model for popular diets. It involved four meals of meat, greens, fruit, and dry wine per day.
In 1918, the first best-selling weight loss book, “Diet and Health: With Key to the Calories,” was created by American columnist and physician Lulu Hunt Peters. It promoted calorie-counting, which remains popular today. Since then, over 1000 weight-loss diets have developed, but most focus on consuming a low amount of either calories, fat, carbohydrates, or sugars.
Diet culture boomed. With an increasing amount of accessible media, from television to ads to the internet, marketers promoted body standards and ideals that were difficult for many people to attain. In many cases, photo editing and plastic surgery made these figures physically impossible to naturally attain, yet many felt the social pressure and turned to diets to thin themselves.
In 1992, English feminist Mary Evans Young had already battled anorexia, bullying, and body image issues for years, and had had enough. Though she originally intended her first No Diet Day to be celebrated only in the UK, she was inspired to see it spread internationally. In 1992, only a few dozen women in the UK celebrated the holiday, with “Ditch That Diet” stickers and a picnic. By 1993, women in various countries wanted to celebrate and the date was changed to May 6 to avoid conflict with Cinco de Mayo festivities.
Today, the stated purpose of INDD is body acceptance and body shape diversity and is symbolized by a light blue ribbon. However, many restaurants use the day as a marketing tactic to encourage customers to buy indulgent treats. Though the meaning of the day has evolved depending on who is celebrating, it is a feminist landmark and a crucial reminder to focus on health at any size, as well as an important way of exposing the dangers of dieting.