#60: How To Stop Dieting with Stephanie Dodier

If you’ve been curious about the “Health at Any Size” movement or what it would be like to banish the concept of dieting from the face of the Earth…this episode is for you. My guest Stephanie Dodier shares about fatphobia, oppression, misogyny and how to think differently about our bodies and health.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Stephanie’s realization that happiness was NOT on the other side of a smaller body.
  • The system of oppression used to control women and fuel the profits of the diet and wellness industries.
  • The one belief you need to change about why you have a human body.

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Curious about Health at Every Size? Keep reading.

Michelle (01:16):

If you’ve been listening to this season of the podcast, you know that, well, first of all, you know, my voice doesn’t usually sound quite like this I’ve been sick. I’m fine. But I apologize for the weird voice today. What I was gonna say is if you’ve been listening to this season of the podcast, you know, that we’ve been talking about the dichotomy between self-love and body acceptance versus what, wanting to change or improve something about ourselves, particularly when it comes to weight. And today we’re gonna talk about dieting or not dieting. You know, what’s the healthiest thing for you. Now, I know I have thin privilege. That’s a thing. I’m a small person. So for this topic, I’m passing the mic to my friend, Stephanie doea, who is a clinical nutritionist and certified, intuitive eating counselor. But more than that, you know what she is, she is fire. So if you’ve been curious about the health at any size movement or what it would be like to banish the concept of dieting from the face of the earth, if you consider yourself an intersectional feminist, you’re gonna want to hear what Stephanie has to say. So let’s just get right to it.

Michelle (02:50):

Hey, Stephanie, thanks for being here

Stephanie (02:51):

Today. I’m very excited to be talking to you today. I’ve been

Michelle (02:55):

Waiting for this interview. I think it’s going to be a really important one. And I always like

Letting go of the diet mentality

Michelle (02:59):

Talking to you and we’ve talked about this topic a bit before, but before we get into all the good stuff, not everyone is as familiar with you as I am. Can you tell everybody a little bit of, you know, your story of letting go of dieting? And what I’m really curious about is how it’s made you more powerful.

Stephanie (03:14):

Absolutely. So I am a person identify as a woman single childless, 46 years old, and I dieted of one way or another either for health or for weight reason for 25 years. So my adult life up to the age of 40 was under the term. My body is not good enough. My health is good enough and I’m on a mission to fix it. And I worked pretty hard at it to the point where my body collapsed under the effort of trying to be good enough in whatever term I was looking at. So at 40 years old, I had a turning point in my life. And then I came to the world of health and wellness on that perspective and trying to find a solution for me. And what I found at first was the traditional wellness model and detoxing, and like still working, if I’m healthy enough, if I find the miracle solution to get me to that health status, the weight will fall naturally releasing the weight and that did not work and made me sicker. And then I discovered the world of a non diet approach to help. And that’s what I do today. I help women UN diet their life. So releasing all the learnings and the construct that we’ve learned over the years through what we know I to be diet culture, which we can get into a little bit later. So that’s my background today. I am free from that. And I, I am living the best life that is available to me because I’m no longer trying to fix myself

Michelle (05:00):

And that’s power. Yeah. Freedom is powerful. Um, well thank you. I mean, this is, she’s got power. So I like to tap on that. And most of our guests start off by telling us a story of their own burnout and recovery from burnout. And it sounds like for you though, it was really tied to dieting.

Stephanie (05:19):

It was tied to dieting being that dieting was not something that anyway for me and the people that I work with, nobody wants to diet, nobody wakes up one day and say, I’m gonna go on a diet and it’s gonna be fun. Right. What I was doing is trying to fit a model for my body. Ultimate. Like when I take off all the noise around there, mm-hmm <affirmative>, I was trying to fit into what is known as the thin body ideal. And so with that as a solution to that was dieting, detoxing, doing all the things, but it’s not like I woke up and wanted to do that. I wanted a thin body because I thought because I was socialized, I was trained to, to think happiness is on the other side of a smaller body. I didn’t wanna admit that to myself, to be honest with you, Michelle, for years, but through a lot of personal work, peeling, the layer. And when I got to the end of the funnel, it was just about that. And that’s what, like understanding that and admitting that to myself was the source of power.

Michelle (06:34):

I bet I love this story and thank you for sharing it with me and for sharing your perspective, we should just like, you know, speak about the elephant in the room a little bit. Like I’m a small person, right? And we’ve talked about this before. Yeah. I’m a small person. I’ve never really worried about my weight. That’s not, I’ve lots of health problems I’ve had to deal with. It’s that’s just not a thing that’s ever been part of my, you know, reality. So it’s so helpful to hear you what that’s like. And before we started recording, you mentioned the term fat phobia. And again, like, I don’t think this is something I am well qualified to talk about. And I thought maybe you could start us off there.

Unlearning fatphobia

Stephanie (07:09):

Absolutely. So we were talking about your audience being smart, strong, resilient feminists, women, women, that know they can be in their power and they’re acting upon their power in most part of their life. What is not known from these women, which was me seven, eight years ago, is that there’s a system of discrimination that is specifically focused on women. That’s called fat phobia, which is the fear of fatness or the discrimination against people who don’t fit the current model of thinness, which is a thin body. Think about the BMI. So in the same way that there’s a system of oppression for people of different ethnicity, different skin color, different cultural background. There’s this system called fat phobia, which especially focused on women as a way alongside to misogyny and patriarchy. It’s kind of the tool of patriarchy to keep women busy, focused on their body, thinking something is wrong with them. So we don’t claim our power. So fat phobia is that system that makes us fear fatness. Well

Michelle (08:29):

Put, thank you for that. And I think I’m sure everyone can no their head along with that. But I think like, along with so many other realizations that we have to have that discrimination and issues like there’s layers, this may be something that our listeners have to re-listen to read some books. Like it doesn’t all become clear at once, right? Oh

Stephanie (08:51):

No. Like I told you, like the end of the funnel. Yeah. What probably a lot of your audience are, which is a segment of my client is like, oh no, no, it’s not about weight. It’s about my health. Yeah. Right. Which is fair assessment. Everybody wants to be healthy because you know, you assume you think that being healthy, you’ll live longer. The enjoy your human experience longer. Therefore you need to be thin. But the truth is not that it’s a make belief like when you peel the science, I just did a post on that yesterday. So if you go back to my feed on Instagram, on January the fourth, you’ll see all the science, there’s no science there. Causative piece of research that says, if you’re in a smaller body, you will be healthier. Okay.

The myth that thin equals healthy

Michelle (09:43):

So lot, I wanna talk about that.

Stephanie (09:45):

<laugh> yeah. So a lot of people, so we’re women here, so let’s go in our own inner circle and think about the variance fortunate condition. That’s unique to women, which is breast cancer. Think about your inner circle right now and look around. Is it exclusively people and fat body that have cancer, breast cancer? No, it’s people of all ranges of body. So if weight being at a higher BMI would trigger unhealthy status than a greater number of women in fat body would have disease like breast cancer. But the fact in the science clearly says no. And, and the statistics around health condition says no. And the science is not able to pinpoint the weight as a causative factor without getting too nerdy here. When you look at research, there is causation and there is association mm-hmm, <affirmative> all the science that been fed to us saying, it’s the cause when you peel and read the study it’s association, it’s never or causation, but it’s sold to us as causation because, and this is very important. One of the most profitable industry in north America is the weight loss industry and coming right behind that the wellness industry and their anchor point to sell their product is fat is unhealthy. And there’s an entire marketing system behind that, that twist the title of the blog post. And the study we read to put the blame on fatness and that’s part of fat phobia.

Michelle (11:32):

All right. And, and we both know this having been in the health and wellness industry for, or some time, I mean, this, this is true. And also, unfortunately it’s what sells. I mean, that’s why it’s true. Right. It’s just, yes, it’s systemic. So, okay. So first I want to fully agree with what you said, and then I wanna challenge it, go for it. Um, okay. So I would imagine that the stress and the mental energy and just the wear and tear on someone that it, that it takes to go through diet after diet, after diet, the self hatred, the, you know, this is enough to make someone ill. There you go. Okay. So <laugh>, so if we do all of that and we become very, very skinny, we can be just as unhealthy, more unhealthy than if we did not put all of that sort of mental and emotional poison wasn’t being poured into us the whole time. Absolutely.

Stephanie (12:31):

So I’m sure you’ve had other guests that said this, and I’m gonna say the same sentence. Most health research do not look at the human as a whole, right? It pinpoints one aspect, one tissue, one thing, and only studies that no study is able to do, like the wide lands. And this explain this statement you just made. That’s what we call in our world health at every size. It’s a model of medical treatment, a medical health practice that says we’re gonna consider the whole human, and we’re gonna take out the body weight out of the equation. We’re gonna do everything else, but focus on body weight. So there’s a, an approach to health that has research backing up that is growing rapidly. That’s called health at every size.

Michelle (13:25):

Now it is really hard to study these things. I mean, to study every aspect of someone’s life and psyche, since they were very young and through all of their it’s impossible to study. So that’s part of it. Things that are easy to study and are profitable to study are the things that get studied. This is difficult. So we’re swimming in kind of, uh, a lot of, I, I don’t know how you would put it, like, yes, there’s research, but it’s also intuitive.

Stephanie (13:52):

And it’s also, does it feel right for you? Like if you were to take out the fear of judgment and rejection because of fat, if you were to take this out of your life, and I say to you, you can pursue health without having to be on a diet without having to overexercise to enjoy your life. What would you do? Mm-hmm <affirmative> most women will say, hell yeah. Right. It’s hard to imagine suffer to diet.

Michelle (14:19):

Of course. I think I’ve said to women, what if, if you were just, if we were all just souls, right? Like there was no physical form. You didn’t have to worry about your eyelashes either or shaving your legs or coloring your hair or any of it. Like, what would you do?

Stephanie (14:34):

Yeah. That’s would you put an hour of makeup and hair every morning voluntarily? Nobody <laugh>

Michelle (14:41):

Of course not.

Stephanie (14:43):

No. Like, nobody would want that. Except if you sell makeup and hair product, then you’ll do it. That’s part of your job. But nobody does it because it’s fun to spend an hour in front of the mirror every morning we do it because we think we have to <laugh>.

Michelle (14:57):

Yes. And I mean, I, I, I put on a little bit of blush before we got on the zoom today, you know, like, I don’t wanna look at myself looking like death warmed over. I’ve been sick for the past four days. <laugh> but this, but it’s, but it’s very drilled into a us like to show up with no makeup on woo. Oh goodness.

Stephanie (15:14):

But that that’s so this is where we’re gonna bring it back to system of oppression. People identified as men don’t have this worry. They don’t have the worry of how they gonna be perceived as intelligent, as smart, by the way they look mm-hmm <affirmative> amen. They’re just by their actions and result. They’re not judged by the way they look, that’s the layer. How misogyny keeps a away from our own power. If you can do the mind, work to liberate yourself from that, holy Jesus. Get out of the way. <laugh> you, You’re gonna claim your power and act in a state of power because you’re not worried about what everybody else gonna think and say about you.

Fatphobia in the medical system

Michelle (16:01):

Now, let me challenge you on the health at any size thing. Uh, for instance, belly fat, visceral fat around our organs, right? Linked to a greater risk for diabetes and heart disease. How do we reconcile that with being healthy at any size?

Stephanie (16:16):

So it’s not being healthy at every size it’s health at every size. So that’s the first misunderstanding. When people dive into this world, they’re like healthy at every size, no health is accessible at any size. So health behavior like sleeping, like reducing your stress is accessible to every size mm-hmm <affirmative> let’s go back to your point. Belly fat. The key where you read the study, right? Belly fat is linked, associated, correlated to diabetes. I think you said, right? For something my heart disease, right? That is not causative. All that it means is that people who have heart disease in a greater ratio may have more belly fat. I would have to dig into the percentage. But as soon as it trips over 50%, we say majority, right? But that doesn’t mean it caused it. The people that have belly fat, are they having a higher level of stress?

Stephanie (17:20):

Are they smoker? Do they drink more? How much trauma do they have? How’s their partnership. How’s their social activity. None of that this study. But because we live in a fat phobic medical system, it’s not just society. Our medical system is entrenched in the fear of fatness. We right away put the blame on the belly fat. Okay. Now here’s the third point I wanna make. Go ahead. Even if it’s true, then what diets don’t work. Now that’s a whole other question in another topic of conversation, but mm-hmm <affirmative> long term diet do not work with that. I mean, people will lose an average of five to 10% on any diet guys, low fat, low, oh, car vegetarian V whatever people tend to lose in and around 10% of their original body weight. However, all the study on weight loss are adamant about one thing. The weight comes back and for about 30 to 60% of people, it comes back. And some so what if what’s what’s is the point of the medical science to tell me that fat is associated with heart disease. If you have no solution, what am I supposed to do with that piece of information? Okay. You see what I’m saying?

Michelle (18:44):

These are interesting points. It’s reminding me of a client that I had years ago. I wasn’t planning to tell this story, but just very like in front of my eyes right now, I have to, and after working together for a while, she didn’t lose any weight, but her goal was to go to the Mount Everest space camp. And you have to have certain health markers in order to do that. And, um, and we got her there, her like her triglycerides, all her different numbers came into a healthy range, although she did not lose weight and she was able to go, and it was like this lifelong dream that was sort of the goal we were working towards. And, um, even things like her health insurance coverage, you know, you get charged more sometimes depending on some of your numbers. And she was able to, she said, this is the first time I’ve ever been in a healthy range in terms of like health insurance, um, anybody standards with that stuff. But the pounds didn’t change. This is to your point.

Stephanie (19:36):

Right. And even like, this is the point that I say to women who are like, but my help, but my help. But what are you gonna be on a diet for the rest of your life? Like when I ask people, okay, I, I wanna lose 30 pounds. Fine. Why? Because I’ll be healthier. Okay, good. You lose 30 pounds. Did you lose 30 pounds before? I heck, yes. I’ve lost it two times in my life, blah. So what did you do to lose it? I was on a diet. Okay. So what are you gonna do to lose 30 pounds again? Oh, go back on a diet and then you’re gonna regain it again. But here’s the thing. Here’s another piece of science for you. The cycle of losing and regaining, which is what we’re being sold. Mm-hmm <affirmative> to the medical system, right?

Michelle (20:19):

Well, if it worked, the whole industry would be, could put right. If you could just lose it and keep

Stephanie (20:23):

It off me and you would not have a job, I wouldn’t have a job for sure. <laugh> and you would have a lot less people because yes, they wouldn’t pursue weight loss for on enough. But here’s the interesting thing. The more a person loses and gain to your point earlier, that’s an extreme amount of stress to the body, the higher, the ratio of health issue in that person, because of the exhaustive stress, both physical, emotional, and mental that that person has to go through to lose. And then the shame of gaining and then the losing, again, that is more harming to someone’s health. Then carrying the 30 pounds for their entire a life.

Michelle (21:07):

That’s so funny. That’s reminding me of somebody else. Oh my gosh, Marta, if you were listening, she, she told me, um, that she’d been on diets since she was eight, like going to fat camp since she was eight years old. And, um, and after we worked together, you know, she was losing weight and she felt more importantly, like, felt so great. And her anxiety like her, you know, her voice calm down, everything was calmer. And I remember she said to me, you’re gonna put yourself out of business. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because like, this is not a diet. Like, this is like, I just feel really good. And this is like something I’m gonna continue. And anyway, her point was that if in the health and wellness industry, if, if it works, we’d all be at jobs. And she was like, warning me. And I said, you know, what? If I could actually put myself out of business, I would retire very, very happy.

Stephanie (21:52):

That would be my joy as well.

Michelle (21:54):

<laugh> right. Like, that’s the ultimate goal. Then we’d go on and like, you know, probably become entrepreneurs in some other fields. That would be cool.

Stephanie (22:01):

That would be, imagine that working yourself, their business worked itself out of business, like in a, our field, that will be like the ultimate gift we can give ourselves. And the people that hired us at some point.

Focus on how you feel, now how much you weigh

Michelle (22:14):

Yeah. I’ll be homeless on the side of the street. You guys let’s go for it. <laugh> so can you talk about again? I feel like we’re trying to hold two things in our hands as women one is love my body except my body, except my flaws. It’s okay. You know, and the other is I wanna do my best and I wanna look good and I wanna feel good. And I wanna run that marathon, or I wanna change something about my appearance. How do we hold both of those balls at once?

Stephanie (22:41):

So we’ll go through the first ball, right? How do I accept my body? How do I love my body? How do I accept my loss? That last word that’s where everything comes off the rail. We have been socialized to believe that if we don’t have a certain body size, the amount of wrinkle, the skin tone, we are flawed. That is not true. We are just a human, have a human body using their body to live life. So if I wanna give you one thought as a woman to change is you’re not having a body to fit a beauty standard. That’s not why the universe or God or spirit gave you a body. God, the spirit universe gave you a body to use your senses to live the human experience. That’s why we have a body, but society, diet culture, the beauty industry, the weight loss industry has socialized through marketing movies and all the thing women to say, no, no, no, no. You’re special. You people, the 51% of the human on this planet, you guys don’t have a body to live the human experience. No, no, no, no. You have a body to fit the beauty standard that we believe you should fit. So go out and work on it. You’re

Michelle (24:06):

Here to please men. Is that going too far?

Stephanie (24:09):

Yeah, well we could or, or please other partners of their choice. But the point of the story is the one belief you need to change is why you have a human body. You have a human body to feel the texture, to a experience. The range of emotion that’s felt in your body. Your emotion are felt in your body to sensation the beauty of the universe, the taste and the flavor of the food. The human experiences live through the five senses. That’s why we have a human body. So the first ball, if you approach your human this way drops, it doesn’t exist. Cuz we don’t have flaws. We don’t have to accept. That’s not why we have a body. Does that make sense?

Michelle (24:54):

That was very beautifully put, thank

Stephanie (24:55):

You. Give me the second ball again, wanting to

Michelle (24:58):

Change my body and, and desiring improvement or wanting to even something as simple as coloring our hair or you know, but in this case, maybe we, you know, want to change the shape of our body

Stephanie (25:10):

One way or the other great work. Great question. So the human always wants to do better. That’s one of our DNA wiring, right? We wanna do better. We wanna improve ourselves. What if we let go of the physical body? Because we believe ball one having to be improved to fit something. What if like, because we don’t believe in those beauty standards, right? For an example, I always give the foot or defeat example, has anyone of you ever looked at dead feet and says, oh, it doesn’t fit the standard. I gotta do something about my feet. We don’t. We do that with our wrinkle, our faces, our hair, all the places where we have products and businesses that can change even cosmetic surgery. There’s no cosmetic surgery for feet, but there is for belly for, but for breast, for ankles, I guarantee you, if they come up with some kind of aesthetic surgery for feet, we’re gonna get socialization that are our feet needs to look a certain way.

Stephanie (26:09):

So now we buy the product. So work on improving yourself, but don’t put your body as a source of improvement. That would be my recommendation. However, you have the choice to do what you want, meaning you as a woman, if you decide that you want to improve your body with the size of your waist, you can do it. You have the ability to choose, however, be conscious that you’re gonna improve it and you’re likely going to regain it all. Does that make sense? So understand what you’re choosing. Don’t choose the I’m gonna lose weight and change my physical body and think that it’s going to be permanent. Go into the game of weight loss, no wing, lay that in five years from now, it’s gonna have to start all over again.

Health vs. healthism

Michelle (27:01):

Would you think of it the same? If we were thinking of improving our energy levels or our moods or something, that’s not related to like the physical, like appearance of our body,

Stephanie (27:12):

I’m gonna, I don’t know if we’re gonna have time to talk about this. Maybe there’ll be a second conversation, but healthism is on the rise with wellness culture. So what is healthism the healthism is the obsession with a higher health or optimum health status? Fact of the matter is only 15% of the causation of health is in our control. 85% of the things that affect our health is not within our control example of that. Our economical status, where we live our parents of origin, the culture, the oppression we’re victim of like, are you a person of a different race than why didn’t you live in America right away? If you are a black person, you are health status is going to be less than a white person, just because of the years of oppression and trauma you’ve been exposed to your DNA has changed. And therefore you don’t have everything in you to be healthy as much as another person, people that have gene expression that develop health condition like breast cancer. Is it fair for somebody that has this gene and expect from them to be optimally healthy? Here’s a bigger question. If you reach this optimum cell status, then what, why are you doing it? That is the most Important question of all my whole hope is that because then we’re gonna have energy to run for office and make changes where it matters. And because then we’re going to leave that terrible relationship and do better for ourselves or get that promotion or go back to school or whatever it is that we wanna do in this world. That’s what I’m kind of

Stephanie (29:01):

Hoping. I’m hoping too. But in my experience of working with people in my personal lived experience for many women, the reason and the drive behind the pursuit of optimum health is weight loss.

Michelle (29:17):

It’s a dress. It’s always that dress in the back of the closet, a dress. I know.

Stephanie (29:24):

And then, so there’s the other concept. That’s called a soul culture. What if we weren’t meant to have that much energy? What if we were meant to rest for five UN sleeping hours a day like this whole go, go, go, go, go for 18 hours a day and being productive every single minute of the day and have more energy to be more productive. What if we lowered productivity standards? Would we need as much energy?

Michelle (29:54):

How much energy we really meant to have

Release yourself from high expectations

Stephanie (29:56):

Bingo like as women, we have dual role. Like we get in to a lot of social political things here. But as women, we have dual role, well triple and quadruple role, but we’re moms or business owner, right? Is it normal that we should work 40 hours a week outside of home and then come home and do the housework and the kids work. Is that why so many women are looking for energy, right?

Michelle (30:23):

What’s being expected of us is far beyond our capacity. And we tend to think it’s possible because it’s sort of maybe possible a little bit. If we drink enough Starbucks.

Stephanie (30:32):

So we’re on the surge for more energy and what diet and which food and which supplement is gonna give me energy. But the real problem is not that we don’t energies that we’re freaking expecting so much of ourselves.

Michelle (30:45):

Well, you know what, Stephanie, if I didn’t name this podcast, she’s got power. The alternate name is gonna be, we expect to fricking much of ourselves. Yes

Stephanie (30:55):

<laugh> <laugh>. But if we didn’t,

Michelle (30:57):

That’s gonna have to be a whole other conversation.

Stephanie (31:00):

We would be powerful. That is my experience. That’s how I work with women to claim back our power may not be associated with doing more of anything. It’s actually, maybe my proposition is doing less. We’re

Michelle (31:17):

Gonna end, right? Yeah. That we’re gonna end there. That was like the mic drop. Stephanie, thank you for being here with us today.

Michelle (31:38):

Whoa. Right? I told you, Stephanie is purified and she makes a really compelling argument. Ah, I love her. I don’t know if I’m totally on board with every single one of her points. I don’t think she’d mind me saying so either. I’m just thinking, gosh, any of my clients, for example, my clients with autoimmune disease would say it’s a great relief when diet changes allow for less inflammation and pain in the body, more energy and yeah. Even weight loss. Sometimes our health is really suffering and improving means, oh, we can do the things that we love again. Or, oh, we can get outta bed in the morning. That’s not asking too much. Or maybe, you know, I think Stephanie suggested, you know, maybe we’re meant to have like restful hours during the day, maybe many restful hours during the day. Yeah, that would be great.

Michelle (32:39):

And then I remember I have two little kids and I run two businesses and I’m a single mother. You know, like our reality may not allow for that. You know, we have debt to pay off. We have jobs. We have family members that we’re caring for and no, we shouldn’t have to do it all yet. I don’t know. It’s like here we are mostly having to do it all. So why not eat in a way that gives us steady longer lasting energy if we’re able to do that. Right. But my God, the overall message from Stephanie is so dead on, you know, from why we die at why we fear fatness to why we hustle so hard <laugh> and expect so fricking much from ourselves now, by the way, Stephanie has a free quiz. It’s titled, is it you? Or is it your diet? And that’s to help you figure out why your diet isn’t working, uh, what to do when you feel like you’re failing and how to shift in into a more peaceful mindset. And you can get that for free on her website. It’s Stephanie doty.com/diet quiz, but we’ll put that link in the show notes at she’s got power.com. Hey, if today’s episode sparked ideas for you made you feel more powerful or inspired you to have an important conversation with yourself or somebody that you love, please leave a review on apple podcasts and I will be back next week and we’ll continue this season’s conversation about body acceptance versus wanting to change something about our body. I’ll see you then