How to spot a diet in disguise

February 24, 2022

How can you spot a diet in disguise?

The Diet industry is getting better and better at taking over words such as ‘anti-diet’, ‘healthy lifestyle’ or ‘intuitive’, ‘mindful’ to offer the same exact product: A diet

Just pretending it’s not. 

That’s why these days it has become increasingly difficult to be able to spot a diet in disguise.

With this article, I want to help you spot those cues that tell you whether behind such promising slogans there’s actually a diet in disguise and if you might have embarked on something that’s really just another diet.

It might says ‘healthy lifestyle’ on the label but it’s a diet in disguise.

Watch out for these 3 signs that what you’re doing is dieting, not making healthy lifestyle changes:

1. You say to yourself: “I can’t have it” or “I’m not allowed to“.

The lifestyle change revolves around decreasing your food options instead of creating more of them. Or even cutting out entire food groups (or limit them).

Along with that comes the implicit judgment that eating more of certain foods (for example, chocolate or bread to name a few) would make you bigger, which would be “bad.”

And that, in return, makes you feel guilty and miserable any time you eat any of those foods or even just think about doing it. There’s a voice in your head, or even an image of some sort of chart/guidelines telling you what’s allowed or not.

2. There’s some sort of counting or body/food measurement involved.

The so-called lifestyle change or wellness plan you follow somehow promotes weight loss and body reshaping. 

There are inches or pounds to keep track of, or calories to count, a scale needed to weigh your food or a mention of which portions are allowed.

Maybe the plan you’re following claims to be all about health and wellness, it mentions mindfulness and being kinder to your body, while at the same time showing you a “before & after” picture.

A picture where the ‘after’ always shows thin and hour-glass shaped women, with a flat belly and sculpted muscles. Implicitly, this is telling you that to be healthy only means to be thin and toned

Again, there’s an implicit judgment that being in a larger body is unhealthy, that negative health outcomes are always around the corner when you’re at a higher weight. Therefore, the solution is to get healthy by shrinking the body, losing inches and pounds.

A woman looking in distress in front of some chocolates

3. You don’t physically and emotionally feel good.

If the plan involves cutting out or limiting entire food groups, you may be feeling exhausted and find it hard to get the energy needed to go through your day. 

Sleeping could be difficult, especially if your belly is empty and the body is in need of fuel at the time you are meant to rest.

Perhaps you spend most of the time thinking about food, fantasizing about what you’d like to eat or scrolling social media for food inspiration (it happened to me so many times, especially when I was immersed in my Intermittent fasting days – but I’ll leave this story for another day).

Finding it hard to keep up with the plan could be making you feel bad about yourself, for not being able to achieve the results which are attached to the higher desire to feel worthy, loved, appreciated, rewarded.

These are all signs that you are actually dieting and that it’s taking a toll not only on your body but also on your mind

This picture doesn’t portray what we’d exactly call ‘wellbeing’, does it?

As Christy Harrison perfectly explains:

Today’s sneaky diets promise better living through body shrinking and sculpting, sometimes without even whispering the words weight loss. They don’t have to. Because diet culture has indoctrinated all of us into its weight-stigmatizing worldview from such a young age, we never question the premise that the picture of health, wealth, and well-being is going to be thin and muscular—and that if we don’t have those physical qualities, we’d better get them if we want to achieve anything in life.

What can you do now that you know this?

Now that you know that a “program,” “plan,” or “lifestyle change” exhibiting any of these characteristics is a diet, you can start paying more attention and noticing these red alarms.

Especially if you’ve experienced any sort of eating distress or disordered eating, if you want to protect and strengthen your recovery, you’d do well to steer clear of these forms of diet culture—even the ones that swear they’re not diets.

You can slowly distance yourself from these type of programs and plans, and if necessary from any environment where this kind of weight-loss mentality thrives. Doing it alone can be hard and could take much longer.

It particularly helps to get educated on what it really means to adopt ‘health-promoting lifestyle’ changes and become part of a community of women that’s truly anti-diet and body-inclusive.

If you’re only starting your journey I warmly recommend:

  • Reading about the 10 principles of intuitive eating


  • Getting familiar and listening to alternative voices on social media. The Mindful Body is really just one of them but there are many good pages out there.

Just to mention a few:

Intuitive Eating Ireland

Gillian McCollum


Tamsin Broster

Hope this helps you at a time of the year where diet marketing is overly aggressive and hard to avoid.

If this was useful, make sure you share it with someone else who could also find it helpful.

With kindness,

Dona 🌷


Want to come and share about this and other issues with like-minded women and do a bit of journaling together?

Why don’t you join the MINDFUL BODY WOMEN CIRCLE? It’s a group support for women who want to increase the confidence in their body, and learn to enjoy food again, without guilt.

Click here if you’d like to find out more!

A picture of Donatella Porceddu Psychologist and Eating Coach helping women deal with binge eating and regular overeating

Written by Donatella Porceddu

I am a registered psychologist and life coach specialised in binge and emotional eating, body kindness, and mindful eating. I empower women to become the best version of themselves through my comprehensive approach, which combines personal coaching and psychology, leveraging my client’s strengths and building around their opportunities.

You May Also Like…







If you have any questions, reach out to me today. I’ll be more than happy to connect with you and see how I can help.

Donatella Porceddu Psychologist & Eating Coach specialised in Binge Eating, Overeating, Emotional Eating, Food freedom, anti-diet approach. 1:1 support through my Make Peace with Food program.

1 + 3 =