As a nationally recognized registered dietitian who helps hundreds of people end their dieting cycles and become intuitive eaters, even I struggled with growing up in diet culture. And it’s hard to ignore the diet industry (worth $78 billion dollars), because it’s been ingrained in our lives for years.
But what is diet culture?
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.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean you can’t eat your favorite foods!! And, when you set those goals, use things like Kodiak Power Cakes for a good amount of protein at breakfast (I love topping with blueberries and almond butter), protein balls for an easy afternoon snack so you’re not ravenous at dinner, Kodiak Oatmeal Packets when on the go, and my personal favorite, Kodiak Bear Bites with peanut butter as a fun night-time snack.
Now that you’ve got the tools for success, how are you going to crush your 2022 goals? Keep us posted by tagging @kodiakcakes and @dietitiandeanna on Instagram!
About the Author
Deanna is a pioneer in the online space, creating a loyal community of over 186,000 through her Instagram @DietitianDeanna and blog, dietitiandeanna.com, where her audience trusts her with sound non-diet nutrition advice and inspiration.
Deanna helps hundreds of people achieve a simpler relationship with food through her signature Food Freedom Breakthrough program and educates dozens of nutrition professionals grow their online business in her Online Entrepreneur Academy. She is regularly featured in articles from Health Magazine, The Today Show, and the New York Post.