Diet culture values thinness, appearance, and shape over physical and emotional health. Thinness is recognized as ‘healthier’ than someone in a larger body. And if you’re thin, you’re usually more successful and educated.
Diet culture also implies ideas like:
- Weight loss should be the ultimate goal. Gaining weight means you’re lazy or you’re simply not ‘taking care of yourself’. The promotion of food restriction serves as a symbol of how much self-control you have.
- You will need to diet for the rest of your life. It’s your fault that the diet has failed, when in reality 95% fail, and 41% of consumers gain back more weight than they lost.
- Carbs are bad and diet fads are good. Whatever trend is ‘in’ is healthy. You should worship the body image that’s trending. For example, one day you’re told to look like the Kardashians when 10 years ago the ideal body image was to look like the Olson twins.
These ideas are just that—ideas, and ones that can negatively harm your mental and physical well-being. Here are some specific examples of what diet culture tells you to do so you can avoid these “suggestions” in the future:
- Do not eat fruit
- Strive for the “celebrity bodies”
- Follow 1200 calorie meal plans
- Consume skinny LOLLIPOPS (or anything meant to suppress your appetite)
- Exercise to “earn" a food
- Start strict 30-day challenges
- Stick with a diet (Keto, intermittent fasting, Paleo, Noom)
- Eat foods you hate because they will lead to a flat stomach
- Believe a certain weight or size will make you happy/successful
So, how can we navigate diet culture and end this destructive cycle?
- Work with an anti-diet dietitian to learn intuitive eating and end the dieting cycle.
- Stop complimenting people on weight loss or commenting on other people's bodies or plates.
- Set boundaries around family members/friends who are entrenched in diet culture.
- Workout without needing it to change your body.
- Curate your social media feed with accounts that show health without restriction.
- Set goals outside of your body, eats, and workouts.
With 2022 in full swing, how can I set goals without diet culture playing a factor?
Focus on health being your end goal, not a certain body type or unrealistic weight. Set simpler goals like:
- Going on a walk daily
- Getting high quality sleep
- Increasing high fiber veggies
- Incorporating more protein in your breakfast
This looks like adding to your diet, instead of removing.