This is the first interview in our #SweetDeceitsMeets series, where we'll chat with some of our favourite influencers and personalities from the industry. The Goodness Guru - aka Isabella Robinson - has been blogging since her first year of uni in 2014. She used her platform to help her recover from her eating disorder, and now whilst training as a naturopathic nutritionist, she uses her social influence to empower self-love and fight against #DietCulture. Find out more about Isa and her story below...
diet culture - an interview with the goodness guru
Favourite type of exercise…Swimming
Go-to healthy snack…Dark Chocolate
Favourite Sweet Deceits product…BROWNIES
If you had could only take one meal it to a desert island what would it be…Gosh too many to count but Dumplings is up there.
how did you get into blogging and how has it affected your personal journey with food?
I had an eating disorder as a younger teenager which totally changed the way I think about food. It typically involves starving oneself, but even if you aren’t necessarily eating food, thinking about it takes up all your energy and brain space.
I was very lucky to recover and although this will be a contentious statement, I consider myself fully recovered. Maybe I am the cliché, now studying clinical nutrition and eating disorders at UCL. But really my focus is on our relationship with food, intuitive eating and diet culture, rather than the nitty gritty.
From where I sit, I have no rules or labels when it comes to food and eating. I eat what I feel like, when I want. Usually that’s when I’m hungry, but just like anyone else I also eat when I’m bored or stressed and don’t consider that to be the huge problem that maybe it’s made out to be. I love cooking and baking for fun and admittedly I’m a total sucker for trying the latest food trends in restaurants. Not because I think they’ll be the ultimate solution, but because really I just find it fun and interesting to see what’s on offer. My relationship with food and my likes and dislikes are constantly evolving as I experience new places and flavours. To me it is about joy and coming together and something that I am grateful to have in such abundance – the same cannot be said for everyone.
you focus heavily on diet culture across your social media, what exactly is it and why do you think it’s bad?
Diet culture is anything that normalises the need to lose weight and anything that links morality to food. How often do you her someone saying they’ve been “good” or “bad” in relation to what they ate? Diet culture is ubiquitous and extremely pervasive. From obvious examples like weight watchers and the low carb diet to more hidden things you might not realise. For example, my fitness pal, detoxing and advertisement that continually use slender models are all examples of diet culture.
It’s bad for a million and ten reasons. Just like we have many different skin colours and shoe sizes, bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Creating an ideal we must all strive for discriminates against people in larger bodies, it makes them feel worthless and inadequate. Fatphobia is rife due to diet culture, which makes the everyday difficult for people stressful and unjust.
The diet industry is a billion dollar industry with a 95% failure rate! Diet culture promises us if we’re “good”, strong willed and determined we can succeed. But this is utter s**t. Contrary to being lazy and lacking self control, people in larger bodies have tried absolutely everything to lose weight, though they themselves feel like a failure.
There is also much evidence to support how harmful dieting is for mental and physical health. You can read about some of this on my blog here. However, I want to touch here on the issue of weight cycling. Dieting usually results in temporary weight loss followed by weight gain and usually more weight than the initial starting point. Repeated episodes of weight loss and gain, known as weight cycling, has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, it could actually be weight cycling and poor mental health that result in many of the pathologies we associate with being overweight!!
Fundamentally, a diet is a diet. So whether it’s a detox or paleo of whatever it is. If there’s rules, if weight loss is the goal, if guilt is bound up in deviating from the intentions it’s a diet – not only bad for one’s own health, but bad for societies and wholly discriminatory to those in bigger bodies.
diet culture is at its peak after christmas, what advice would you give to people who feel like they have ‘over-indulged’?
You know ironically this whole health, fitness and diet obsession (even if we can’t see it’s a diet) is probably one of the main reasons we over indulge. We deny ourselves what we really want all year. Something comforting, warming, sweet etc. Then it comes round to Christmas and it’s like this roughly 3 day guilt-free pass before the dreaded cycle starts again. I mean I know Mince Pies aren’t on sale all year round but if you want dessert, or seconds or a really good roast dinner then it’s important to realise you are allowed to eat those things without guilt all year round. Maybe then when Christmas rocks up you wouldn’t feel like such a mad man continually reaching for the next quality street when you’re actually really full! It’s just a thought. I’m saying this nearly 2 weeks post Christmas but actually there’s still Christmas cake and mince pies in my freezer. Of course I indulged on Christmas day and I definitely ate past the point of fullness, which is totally ok. But I didn’t overly stuff myself safe in the knowledge I can eat any of my Christmas favourites (within reason) again whenever I want.
Eating past the point of fullness, or indeed overindulging sometimes is totally ok. In fact it’s a very normal part of food and eating and all of us do it. Although it shouldn’t, of course in our diet culture ridden society it can trigger guilt. My advice is not to get into the vicious cycle of restricting to compensate which nearly always leads to overeating. Check in with yourself, ask yourself what you’re feeling like to eat, rehydrate and maybe get some gentle movement in that feels good for you
what were the main sources of influence from the media that impacted your eating disorder?
Reading the pages of my favourite fashion magazines as a younger teenager really spurred my thinking that my body wasn’t good enough.
I’m SO glad that instagram wasn’t around until I was practically recovered! The stuff I see on there is so toxic and dangerous and I’m sure in the future there will have to be more regulation. I liked using instagram for exploring new recipes and introducing new ingredients to my diet for which I am very grateful.
My overarching opinion is that the media where it is now probably does more harm than good for both how we feel about ourselves and our relationships with others.
you say that you used to believe that ‘low calorie and low fat foods were the best way forward’, is this still a problem amongst society today?
I think in essence yes but I’m not sure if this is the fault of dated nutritional information, diet culture or the consumer. In a culture that places such importance on weight, people will always be attracted to low calorie products so they can “have their cake and eat it” so to speak. We can see this with things like low calorie ice creams. I think there’s a brand in the US where you can eat a whole pint for 300kcals. But I think this further screws up our relationships with food. We eat the whole thing even though it probably doesn’t taste as good and we’re full. In reality we’d have probably eaten less calories and felt more satisfied if we’d had a scoop of the real deal.
In todays climate, however, more than even 5 years ago, I think the problem isn’t so much of is it low calorie, but it is healthy, natural, clean. These labels have become the new low calorie and influence whether or not it’s deemed suitable. Again this type of thinking creates many problems. Just because it’s natural etc doesn’t mean it’s necessarily nutritious or that it’s calorie free. And further where does that leave our relationship with food. Should we fear and avoid foods that don’t fit the mould? You can see it happening already manifested by the way in which people are prevented from enjoying social occasions because of a strict diet and in the extreme with Orthoreixa.
So whilst low fat and low calorie is still around it doesn’t have the same gravitas as it once did. Now high fat and calorie foods like nut butters, coconut oil and avocados are very in Vogue. The danger of today is in the trend for the clean, natural and seemingly vitreous. Still just as restrictive, disordered and potentially dangerous for mental and physical health
given that diet culture is such a lucrative sector of society, how can we work to combat it?
I think we have to educate people about diet culture and challenge it ourselves. When I get emails or see things with hidden or obvious diet culture I call it out.A lot of people are on board but we still need the key players – the fashion industry, the wellness industry etc. I think also having a greater appreciation for diversity of bodies is a big step and we can do that simply by changing who we follow on instagram to include a variety of body shapes, colours, ethnicities etc. Mostly, get angry with diet culture that feeds you lies, that seeks to profit from you and that consistently tells you you’re not good enough!
what advice do you have for anyone who struggles with dieting or has a bad relationship with food?
It’s a simple answer but it’s actually complex. If you are seriously struggling with your relationship to food or yourself it’s really important to see proper professional help. I would recommend an anti-diet, health at every size dietitian or nutritionist who can truly teach you to make peace with food.
This is even more important if you think you might be suffering with an eating disorder. It can be very scary to seek help but it’s a very brave step which takes a lot of strength and is incremental for ones health.
what advice would you give to people who feel guilty after indulging?
Same as my Christmas answer really.
You weren’t born with the notion of guilt and eating bound up.
Why has diet culture robbed you of the pleasures of eating.
If you have eaten to the point you might feel unwell, ask yourself why you might have over done it? Had you previously denied yourself that food? Have you been restricting food?
We all have full unconditional permission to eat and you are allowed, encouraged to exercise this right.
If feelings of guilt are lingering or increasing please seek some professional help immediately.
what’s next for you and what can we look forward to in the future?
I’m turning my attention back to my masters this year and really zesting it for all it’s worth. I feel so privileged to be learning from genuine experts so dedicated to educating us in the latest evidence based research. I always feel like bloggers have glamorous things in the pipeline but truth be told I’m just bumbling along for now and fighting diet culture as best as I can one small step at a time.
We're so thankful to Isa for making the time to take part in our interview. We hope that you found it inciteful and learnt from Isa's story and passion. You can find her on social media as @goodnessguru, or head over to her blog to find out more about her www.goodnessguru.co.uk. #SweetDeceitsMeets is a new monthly feature, stay tuned for our next guest :)
The Goodness Guru makes our Raw Caramel Slice and layers it with Peanut Butter...yum!