- 1 What Is Diet Culture? — Christy Harrison – Intuitive Eating Dietitian, Anti-Diet Author, & Certified Eating Disorders Specialist
- 2 Diet Culture: Definition, Examples, & Impacts
- 3 Recent Articles
- 4 Diet Culture and Disordered Eating
- 5 Diet Culture and Body Image
- 6 How to Combat Diet Culture
- 7 A Word From Verywell
- 8 What is Diet Culture?
- 9 Develop Healthy Eating Habits
- 10 The Distasteful Truth About Diet Culture
- 11 What is ‘Diet Culture’?
- 12 How Diet Culture Undermines You
- 13 How to Move Away From Diet Culture
- 14 What is diet culture, and why is it ‘in the water’?
- 15 Diet culture shows up everywhere. Here’s how not to buy into it – ABC Everyday
- 16 So why are people talking about diet culture more now?
- 17 The negative effects of diet culture
- 18 Diet culture also feeds discrimination
- 19 What else is part of diet culture
- 20 How to make choices for the right reasons
What Is Diet Culture? — Christy Harrison – Intuitive Eating Dietitian, Anti-Diet Author, & Certified Eating Disorders Specialist
If you’re familiar with my work, you’re probably aware that I’m passionate about tearing down diet culture. But, exactly, what is “diet culture”? It’s a phrase that gets tossed around in anti-diet forums without much thought put into it, but it’s really essential to understand so that we can notice when it’s manifesting itself in our lives and take action to combat it. Here’s what I mean by “it”:
My Definition of Diet Culture
Diet culture is a set of beliefs that includes the following:
- A religion that worships thinness and connects it to good health and moral virtue, so that you might spend your whole life believing that you are permanently damaged simply because you do not appear to be the impossibly slim “ideal.” This culture encourages people to lose weight in order to advance in their lives, which leads them to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and money in an attempt to shrink their bodies, despite the fact that research has shown that almost no one can maintain intentional weight loss for more than a few years. You’ll be compelled to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, embarrassed of certain food choices, and distracted from your joy, your purpose, and your power as a result of eating in this way
- People who don’t fit into its preconceived notion of “health” are oppressed, which disproportionately affects women, femmes, transgender people, people with bigger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, resulting in harm to both their emotional and physical health.
Diet culture is more than just “being on a diet,” since you don’t have to be on any form of official diet to be a part of the culture of dieting. You may be a part of the culture of dieting without even knowing it. Some people may eat in a way that they refer to as a diet for legitimate medical reasons (for example, documented celiac disease or diabetes) and not be participating in diet culture as a result (which, I should add, is very rare and hard to do, since diet culture has its tentacles all up in the medical field).
The Wellness Diet encompasses “clean eating,” detoxes, cleanses, the overuse of elimination diets, carb restriction, gluten phobia, “ancestral” diets, and performative health, all of which fall under the umbrella term “wellness.” In other versions of The Wellness Diet, the component of diet culture associated with weight stigma is downplayed, but the moralization and demonization of food is prominent.
There are a variety of different types of diet culture as well.
More information on diet culture, how to spot it, and how to reclaim your life from it may be found in some of my work on the issue, as well as in my podcast, Food Psych, which you can listen to here.
In many ways, diet culture is a kind of oppression, and removing it from society is critical to establishing a world that is just and peaceful for individuals of all shapes and sizes.
Diet Culture: Definition, Examples, & Impacts
Skip to the main content The date of publication is June 8, 2021. 15th of December, 2021 (updated) Originally published on June 8, 2021. 15th of December, 2021 (updated) It is our goal at Choosing Therapy to present our readers with mental health information that is factual and useful. We have strict guidelines for what may and cannot be quoted in our publications.
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- What Exactly Is “Diet Culture”? The year is 2021, and the month is January. UC San Diego Recreation and Athletics. According to the findings of a recent study, beauty is more important than health for young individuals. (2012). (August 2012). News from the field of science. Eating Disorders on College Campuses is a resource that may be found at: (February of this year, 2013). NADA stands for the National Eating Disorders Association. Eating Disorder Statistics was gathered from the following website: (2021). The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (NAANAD) is a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of anorexia and related disorders. Obtainable from: Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack (2021). NADA stands for the National Eating Disorders Association. Top 9 Things to Know About the Weight Loss Industry, which can be found at
- Top 9 Things to Know About the Weight Loss Industry. (March of this year, 2019). Blog about market research. It may be found at:
- Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programs for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials. (April of the next year, 2020). The British Medical Journal. Emma Laing’s website was used to obtain this information. (2021). Ragen Chastain conducts an in-person interview (2021). Interview with the author
Alison Czinkota’s Verywell is a work of fiction. Diet culture refers to the widespread opinion that physical appearance and body form are more important than physical, psychological, and general well-being, and that this attitude should be challenged. Essentially, it is the belief that controlling your body, particularly your diet—by restricting what and how much you eat—is normal and healthy behavior. Diet culture also normalizes categorizing meals as good or bad and thinking of eating as a transactional good or bad, something you either earn or don’t deserve based on how well you’ve eaten and worked out the previous day.
The majority of people who have been socialized to accept diet culture as a normal way of life have a negative self-image, engage in negative self-talk on a daily basis, and feel that being thin makes a person superior than someone who is not thin.
Diet Culture and Disordered Eating
A contributing element to disordered eating patterns is diet culture, which is one of several factors. In most cases, this results from a lack of attention paid to nutrition while favoring low-calorie items. It may also have an impact on how someone perceives exercise since it can be perceived as a way to burn off so-called bad foods or as a means of earning money to spend on food.
Food is More Than Fuel
A poisonous belief that food is only fuel and must be earned is one that can lead to disordered eating and a variety of related eating disorders. Food is much more than just a source of energy. It is a social and cultural aspect of our daily life that we cannot ignore. Focusing just on food as fuel—or on good vs bad—keeps you from appreciating and loving food as a deeper and more important part of your life, which is what you really want. In the aftermath of a major holiday, commercials and publications promote detoxification or cleansing in order to “reset” or purge your body of “poor” eating choices, and this is a common occurrence.
Furthermore, not all of the nutritionally helpful components of food serve as fuel.
Carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins are important components of foods that provide us with energy, but they are only a portion of the whole picture when it comes to nutrition.
Disordered eating does not have a clinical diagnosis, although it is most commonly defined as a pattern of aberrant eating habits and cognitive processes surrounding food that do not yet meet the criteria for an eating disorder. Extreme dieting is included in this category.
Diet Culture As an Unhealthy Obsession
Labeling oneself as good or evil depending on the foods you consume can lead to the worsening of disordered eating behaviors and the development of a serious eating disorder in certain cases. As virtuous as it may seem, attempting to adhere rigorously to a diet consisting of of foods thought to be beneficial might result in an eating condition known as orthorexia. Orthorexia is regarded to be an extreme kind of clean eating, characterized by an obsessive concentration on what the individual considers to be the proper healthy diet.
This preoccupation causes disturbance with ordinary life, including social, emotional, and other aspects of one’s well-being.
- A diet that is restricted
- Rituals centered on food consumption
- Foods that are not regarded “good” or “healthy” should be avoided.
Diet culture leads to orthorexia because it pushes people to avoid certain foods or to restrict their diet in some way. Examples include avoiding gluten even if you do not have an intolerance or allergy to gluten, extreme variations of veganism, severe low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets, detoxes, and cleanses, as well as avoiding all GMOs and non-organic foods altogether. While some of these habits are beneficial, when they become an unhealthy fixation with links to your self-image, they can develop into an eating problem.
Eating disorders can be caused directly by a negative body image that develops as a result of diet culture and the celebration of thinness, both of which are prevalent today.
It is frequently observed in patients who suffer from eating problems.
Diet Culture and Body Image
Belief systems associated with diet culture perceive thinness to be synonymous with health, and they give the message that body forms outside of a small range are deemed unhealthy. Weight loss can be a healthy decision in some situations; however, the procedures that are employed to achieve weight loss are not necessarily healthy choices. News reports and social media sometimes glamorize celebrity weight reduction tales without considering if the methods employed werehealthy or sustainable. This practice instills the belief that thinness and the quest of weight loss are the only paths to acceptance, happiness, and good health for individuals.
The physical appearance of a person does not convey a thorough picture of that person’s health.
How to Combat Diet Culture
While it is hard to completely escape diet culture owing to its pervasiveness in all sectors of society, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to it while still advocating for a healthier lifestyle.
Avoid Some Forms of Media
It is best to stay away from any social media, forums, online organizations, or programming that makes you feel like you are not good enough just the way you are. Diet culture, which is heavily influenced by media consumption, has been proven to enhance feelings of low self-esteem and body image problems.
Practice Body Neutrality
This philosophy holds that you should concentrate on what your body is capable of doing right now, in the now, rather than what you want it to look like in the future. It diverts your attention away from attempting to manage or control your physical appearance. Instead, it alters your state of mind, causing you to become indifferent about the way you seem and more focused on appreciating the things you can accomplish right now. Body neutrality may assist you in stepping away from diet culture and food labeling, and instead assisting you in working towards appreciating your body as it now exists.
Educate Yourself on Health
Learning more about total health via reading and education may help you develop a more complete knowledge of how focusing simply on thinness and food restriction may be damaging to your health. It also assists you in comprehending the wide range of options available for being healthy, including a variety of body shapes and eating behaviors.
A Word From Verywell
Diet culture might appear to be an inescapable and unavoidable pressure that everyone must endure. It’s vital to remember that dieting is not the only method to achieve good health, and that being slim does not imply being healthy in any manner. Speaking with a skilled health care professional is recommended if you are struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, or if you are worried about your health, body image, or eating habits in general.
What is Diet Culture?
A set of ideas known as diet culture has gained popularity in recent years, with many people prioritizing their weight over their overall well-being in their quest for a healthier lifestyle. Diet culture is the exaltation of reducing weight at any means, regardless of the consequences. Diet culture may be seen practically everywhere in our society, and it includes:
- Individuals chatting about their most recent weight-loss diet plan
- Justifications for eating whatever we want include the fact that we “haven’t eaten all day” or that we “had a tough exercise this morning.” The never-ending loop of thought that goes something like this: “I’ll start my diet/exercise plan on Monday/tomorrow.” My self-worth is based on my weight, the size of my jeans/clothes, or how little I can eat at a time
- We are not good enough if we are not seeking weight loss or are not now slender or muscular, according to advertisements for weight loss products/diet programs/exercise equipment. Providing compliments to others on their size, shape, or weight reduction
- Body-shaming occurs when we compare our bodies to those of others and derive value (e.g., “I am better than her because I am thinner” or “She must be better than me since she is slimmer”)
Due to the inherent differences in each person’s diet and body physiology, methods connected to one person’s diet cannot be applied to everyone other. In the diet industry, corporations take a “one size fits all” strategy since it allows them to sell large numbers of the same product. Unfortunately, this leads to a great deal of bad addictions as well as incorrect dietary and health ideologies and practices. Because we have been so ingrained in this mode of thinking for so long, these signals are frequently overlooked.
Body image is frequently manipulated in order to market things that are intended to develop dependency.
There is a multi-million dollar industry that thrives from the assumption that we must be slimmer or modify our look.
A diet product, a “low-calorie” food item, exercise equipment, shape apparel, an exercise program, or even a gym membership are more likely to be purchased when we are self-conscious or have negative sentiments about our body or looks.
Develop Healthy Eating Habits
By identifying these signals and perceiving them more clearly for what they are, we can more easily move past them and make our own decisions about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the long run. Identifying negative diet-related behaviors can assist you in developing healthier eating habits and ensuring that you keep a diet that is beneficial to your health. Do we really want to judge ourselves just on the basis of our physical appearance? Is it possible to be content if we do not meet the criteria of beauty set by others?
Making better-informed selections about what’s best for your body is frequently the first step in achieving a balanced diet.
It is critical to constantly behave in the best interests of your own body and to pay attention to your inner voice.
When you see an advertisement or overhear a talk about weight reduction, nutrition, or exercise, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, “How do I feel when I see/hear this?” As well as, ‘How do you want me to proceed?’ If you believe you may benefit from further direction or assistance in identifying strategies to create healthy habits connected to your nutrition and controlling negative emotions, obtaining support from a Behavioral Therapist may be a good place to begin your search for solutions.
The Distasteful Truth About Diet Culture
The pursuit of the perfect summer physique is high on many people’s to-do lists as the summer season approaches. Many different sorts of diets and fitness routines will be tried and tested in an attempt to achieve the perfect “hot girl summer” figure by individuals searching for strategies to lose weight in the summer. Many people, however, are naïve to the true effects of these so-called “diets,” the majority of which are disguised eating disorders, in their quest of a thinner physique. We must address harmful habits, such as eating a container of ice cream at 4 in the morning, but resorting to unneeded and severe diets in a determined effort to lose weight is not a healthy option in the long run.
- In truth, these “diets” are either temporary solutions that work for a month or are completely worthless, with the majority of them causing more harm than good to the body.
- A consequence of what is referred to as “toxic diet culture” is that this occurs.
- According to the findings of research, there are metabolically healthy slimmer people and metabolically healthy larger people in the world.
- This raises the more important question of what our genuine motivation is for going on a diet.
- We shouldn’t be afraid of “appearing obese,” and we shouldn’t let this be our primary drive for losing weight.
- In addition, for individuals who are unable to lose weight via the use of specific and severe diets, the fixation with diet culture may lead to a variety of eating disorders as well as psychological problems.
- When we “fall off the wagon” or have a “cheat day,” we feel ashamed and guilty, which only serves to increase our feelings of guilt.
Instagram declared in September of this year that photos that promote weight reduction would be hidden from users under the age of 18.
An American Academy of Pediatrics clinical research found that individuals who diet moderately were five times more likely to acquire an eating disorder, while those who diet severely were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
In the same way that someone suffering from anorexia or bulimia obsesses over calorie counting and weight, someone suffering from orthorexia obsesses about healthy eating practices.
We are taught that everything is excellent in moderation; this idea should be used not just when we have an excess of anything, but also when we have nutrient shortages.
Many people follow the “Keto” diet in hopes of decreasing weight and controlling their blood pressure.
The majority of individuals learn about these diets through social media, and they experiment with them just as they would with any other fad.
Even purchasing the detox tea from that YouTube advertisement is practically the same as purchasing laxatives and provides no nutritional or helpful benefit to the consumer.
It is impossible to maintain any form of weight reduction because of the high doses of caffeine and laxative components, which stress the digestive system and are useless.
It only serves to foster an environment of uncertainty and dread when people associate carbohydrates with growing weight and reducing weight with feeling good about oneself.
In addition to being concerned about what society would think of us if we eat the incorrect item, we are also concerned about how we will be seen.
The solution, rather than continuing to indulge in one harmful eating behavior after another, is to discover a healthy strategy to handle the aspects of our diets that need to be improved.
We should not be afraid of it since we are a species that has spent ages trying and developing a diverse range of foods.
Diet culture can be found everywhere, from “what I eat in a day” TikToks to the many teas and juices that appear on our Instagram feeds and other social media platforms.
Overall, we shouldn’t be afraid of food, nor should we feel obligated to be so fearful. Andrew Diep created this illustration for the UC San Diego Guardian.
What is ‘Diet Culture’?
After a time, you’ve definitely heard the term “diet culture” bandied around, but it isn’t often defined in depth. This article will clarify what diet culture is. So, today I wanted to clear up any misunderstandings and fill in the spaces by discussing what ‘diet culture’ is and what it means for you and the intuitive eating, non-diet movement in general. Dieting, with the purpose of shedding a few pounds or achieving ‘body goals,’ has become a normal part of life for many of us – perhaps even the majority of us.
- It’s also something that’s quite acceptable in our society since we live in a diet culture.
- This belief system is referred to as “diet culture” in certain circles.
- It is instilled in us from an early age that the size of a person’s body and the meals that they consume represent their value as a person’s worth.
- Consequently, dieting and weight loss are promoted as a means of attaining better social prestige in our society.
- Diet culture permeates practically every facet of our society, and it is particularly prevalent in our youth.
- It’s so subtle that it’s frequently impossible to recognize when it occurs.
- However, if you begin to pay attention, you will see how ubiquitous diet culture has become.
- We’re taught how to diet, but we’re not taught how to eat for pleasure, contentment, and nourishment, which is rare.
- However, this is not the case.
Long story short, diet culture lies.
Diet culture may be seen anywhere. When you begin to see and realize the enormous reach of diet culture, you will begin to notice and identify common comments and discussions that are driven by it, such as the following:
- If you say anything about a meal, such as “Oh, I could never eat that
- If I did, I’d be gigantic!” or “Oh, I’d be huge!” Having the intention of “starting afresh on Monday.” Food is described using adjectives such as “bad,” “naughty,” “guilty pleasure,” and “indulgence.” One of the grocery store clerks complimented one of the customers for being “so excellent” and for having so many “healthy” things in their supermarket basket. Being advised that you need to reduce weight after seeing the doctor for an earache is a frustrating experience. Fat persons are frequently depicted as the “bad guy” on television or in movies, or as the lazy, foolish, and/or humorous sidekick.
On the surface, these remarks may not appear to be surprising, and this is largely due to the fact that we hear many of them on a daily basis, and as a result, they have been normalized. However, all of these instances are predicated on the premise that a smaller body is healthier, more desirable, and more deserving of attention than a larger one. Moreover, this ever-present diet culture has a significant impact on our bodies, thoughts, and overall quality of life. And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that it objectifies and glorifies thin, white bodies while oppressing and marginalizing overweight BIPOC (Borderline, Indigenous and People of Color) bodies.
- To put it another way, diet culture, as well as the dieting business, is fundamentally sexist, racist, and ableist—even if individuals aren’t aware of it themselves.
- It then generates more than $70 billion in revenue every year by profiting on our embarrassment.
- It preys on our fears, which have formed as a result of growing up in a diet culture, and pushes millions of individuals every year to spend vast amounts of time, money, and energy in an attempt to reduce weight, despite the fact that this is not possible.
- Everyone has been exposed to diet culture propaganda and has been trained to believe that not only does thinness and dieting correspond to health, but that the pursuit of health elevates one person’s moral standing relative to another.
- It is this that persuades us to spend our time, money, and energy chasing after health and beauty standards set by the dieting and cosmetics businesses, respectively.
- This company claims that if you just purchase their product or service, you will lose weight.
It is also the result of promoting ‘diets’ as the solution to all of our fears, troubles, and issues. However, if you reflect back on your previous dieting experiences, you will most likely find that this is not the case.
Diet culture consistently over-promises and under-delivers.
- A gym program that promises you will achieve a specific appearance or weight after eight weeks of attending their programs
- Why? “Even if we all ate and exercised precisely the same, our bodies would still look different,” says Beth Pilcher, LMSW, in one of my favorite quotes, which sums it up wonderfully. As a result, we are unable to promise any precise results, such as a reduction in X pounds or inches. Movements that are entertaining, engaging, and demanding are more inclusive, practical, and health-promoting for everyone if they are part of a program that encourages these characteristics.
- Why? We are not only being influenced by diet culture through food, but also by the beauty business, which is promoting procedures and products that claim to change us in “30 minutes or less.” These procedures are frequently prohibitively expensive, beyond of reach for the majority of the people, and serve primarily to enhance one’s appearance rather than to improve one’s health.
- Why? Because these labels attach a moral worth to foods and raise doubts about meals that do not have these labels, there is an increase in stress and uncertainty surrounding food decisions in general. Because guilt is never an element in any cuisine, all foods are referred to as ‘guilt-free,’ and the phrase ‘clean’ has no meaning. You can be sure that it is clean as long as you wash your hands and your produce
- The use of catchphrases such as “your weight equals your value or pleasure”
- Why? Just because someone is healthy does not imply that they are also happy, and just because someone is healthy does not imply that they are also happy does not imply that they are also healthy. And none of those things is influenced by your weight in any way! Assigning a weight criterion to health and happiness fosters the myth that health and happiness have a specific appearance, whereas they do not.
- In items or supplements that indicate that good health comes at a high cost in terms of money, effort, energy, and privilege
- Why? Here’s an example of “health-ism,” which refers to the belief that your worth as a person is decided by your health and your pursuit of health.
How Diet Culture Undermines You
Diet culture has engendered artificial expectations about what we are meant to look like and how we are expected to conduct ourselves. Our civilization has placed us in a box. The belief that we must try to be skinny in order to be liked, accepted and respected in society has been conditioned and imprinted into our minds and bodies (and young, and white, and beautiful, and perfect). On an individual level, this cage causes us to lose sight of ourselves, causing us to discard our intuition, aspirations, and aspirational goals.
- In terms of collective oppression, food culture may be seen as a means of oppressing vast segments of the people.
- “However, there are certain foods that are better for us than others,” a client recently pointed out.
- Yes, some foods contain far more nutrients than others.
- Food rules and ideas that I presented may not appear damaging on the surface, but they’re all based on the assumption that our food choices impact our value and that having a slim body is preferable than having a large one.
- When you’re caught up in trying to adhere to external restrictions or a diet mindset, it’s hard to appreciate your body and provide it with what it requires—nutritionally or otherwise.
- Increased obsession with food and your body
- Worse self-esteem
- Higher prevalence of disordered eating practices and eating disorders
- Higher levels of stress Binging on a more frequent basis
- Increased appetites Increased rates of weight cycling or yo-yo dieting (which has been related to an increased risk of certain illnesses)
- Decreased self-esteem
Not only can diet culture be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health, but it may also interfere with a variety of other aspects of one’s life. Diet culture is detrimental to your genuine self and forces you to lose out on life’s experiences and opportunities. I can’t tell you how many ladies I know who have shied away from dating and intimacy because they were concerned about what the other person would think of their physical appearance. Or for those who had to cancel arrangements because they were on a diet or were concerned about being around so much food.
Those who find themselves less present in their relationships with family and friends because they are concerned about what others are thinking about them. Diet culture is robbing us of our time, money, and vitality. But you have the option to take it all back.
How to Move Away From Diet Culture
Dieting is not healthy, and in order to break free from it, you must be aware of all of the ways diet culture is present, both externally and inside. Once you become aware of the actions, attitudes, or feelings that are associated with diet mindset, you may begin to eliminate them from your life. This concept, as outlined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in their book The Intuitive Eating Framework: A Practical Guide, is the first of seven principles. It entails the following steps:
- Step 1: Examine and accept the harm that diet culture and diet mentality have done to you and your family. What has your past experience with dieting taught you? What kind of harm has it done? What kind of self-control have you maintained as a result of dieting? 2nd step: Become more conscious of the various ways diet culture and diet mentality manifest themselves both outwardly, outside of you, and internally, within you, in the form of your own ideas, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. Identifying unhealthy attitudes, beliefs, and actions (both inwardly and outwardly) and calling them out for what they are: “This is diet mindset.” or “That is diet culture.” Step 4: Begin to question your thoughts and beliefs, as well as your patterns of action. You may still have considered restricting or avoiding a particular meal, but are you confident in your ability to modify your behavior?
You are not required to proceed through these four stages in a sequential manner. Step 1 in particular is one that the majority of individuals will need to refer back to several times throughout the process (and honestly, throughout their lives). Diet culture is nefarious and tenacious in its tactics. As you complete the internal work to break free from dieting, diet culture will continue to manifest itself in a variety of ways in your life. Diet culture is all around us, whether it’s a well-intentioned family member emailing you information on a new diet, a doctor advising you to lose weight for “your health,” or an Instagram commercial that manages to make its way into your page.
- The diet industry makes money off of your feelings of humiliation and oppression.
- It all started as a means of oppressing Black people and keeping everyone other than white males down and “othered,” as the phrase goes.
- This is especially true for women and people of color who live in a society where disordered eating patterns are seen as normal.
- We need to turn things on their heads and call into question everything that we have taken for granted.
- This is a long and drawn-out procedure that will take time.
- Making the transition might also be challenging if you are still surrounded by individuals who are heavily influenced by diet culture and are resistant to change.
Despite the fact that you will never be able to totally ignore diet culture, you may take measures to distance yourself from it and filter it out in particular elements of your lifestyle.
Looking for more support as you divest from diet culture?
Consider enrolling in my Unapologetic Eating 101 Course, a self-paced, online program that will help you break free from dieting and find peace with food and your own body. My team and I also provide one-on-one virtual help — you can learn more about our virtual intuitive eatingnutrition coaching packages here. My book, Unapologetic Eating: Make Peace with Food and Transform Your Life, is another excellent resource that offers knowledge, research, and reflection prompts to assist you in moving away from dieting and returning to your body so that you may live your most unapologetic and liberated life.
What is diet culture, and why is it ‘in the water’?
The reading time is 5 minutes. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve mentioned the term “diet culture” at least a few times. But now I’d want to go a little farther, describing what diet culture is, why it may be detrimental, and why you’ve very likely been impacted by it even though you’ve never “dieted” in the traditional sense of the word. First and foremost, a definition. To put it bluntly, diet culture prioritizes weight, form, and size over health and well-being.
A more extensive explanation may be found in the book ” Anti-Diet,” which was written by Christy Harrison (MPH RD CDN), host of the ” Food Psych” podcast and author of the book ” Anti-Diet.” “Diet culture is a set of ideas that include the following:
- Is obsessed with physical thinness and equates it with health and moral virtue, which means you might spend your whole life believing you are permanently damaged just because you do not appear to be the impossibly slim ‘ideal.’ This culture encourages people to lose weight in order to advance in their lives, which leads them to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and money in an attempt to shrink their bodies, despite the fact that research has shown that almost no one can maintain intentional weight loss for more than a few years. You’ll be compelled to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, embarrassed of certain food choices, and distracted from your joy, your purpose, and your power as a result of eating in this way
- “It oppresses those who do not conform to its preconceived notion of ‘health,’ which disproportionately impacts women, femmes, trans people, people with bigger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, resulting in harm to both their emotional and physical health.”
Where diet culture shows up in the world
Where diet culture does and does not appear would be easy to state, but instead I’m going to do a bit of a brain dump of some of the more apparent areas you’ll find it:
- Ads for weight reduction programs, including those that have rebranded and are now using phrases such as “wellness” and “lifestyle improvements” (I’m looking at you, WW)
- Advertisements for diet pills
- Advertisements for weight loss programs. Any article, social media post, or public health message that refers to the “war on obesity” or the “obesity pandemic” is considered slanderous. The continuation of “The Biggest Loser.”
- The majority of periodicals geared toward women
- And the availability of the Internet. Clothing or beauty items that promise to make you appear leaner are described in detail. Those who work as yoga instructors or personal trainers and who provide diet/nutrition advise while you are there to improve your flexibility or strength
- Health-care practitioners that ask about your weight when you come in for a strep test are not welcome. Conversational dining partners who complain about how they aren’t eating carbohydrates, or who complain about how they will have to work out longer to compensate for having dessert (“I can’t believe I ate that.”) “I’m such a failure.”
- Instagram comments urging women they need to lose weight (frequently accompanied by “worry trolling” remarks such as “I’m worried about your health,” or “But you’re going to develop diabetes”) are on the rise. (Jillian Michaels is the reigning queen of worry trolling at the moment.) If you encounter someone and they notice that you are overweight, say something like “You look wonderful, you’ve lost weight” (as if losing weight is the only way to look good) or “You those jeans look a bit snug, have you gained weight.” Every single person who expresses their displeasure when you choose for the burger over the salad (or vice versa), when you decide to go out for dessert, or when you consume a second cookie
- Emphasizing thinness or fitness as a symbol of health by emphasizing their outer appearance
- Although this is changing, there are still a limited number of desirable clothing alternatives available for persons with bigger bodies:
Where diet culture shows up in your head
- Exercising “clean eating,” detoxes, cleanses, reboots, restarts, elimination diets (unless prescribed for a specific health condition and monitored by a qualified healthcare provider), gluten-free diets (unless you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity), autoimmune diets, carb restriction, “ancestral” diets, and any fad diet followed for “health” reasons are all prohibited. Feeling filthy, so you “cleanse” or “detox” your body by consuming juices, smoothies, or following a particular detox diet
- Feeling unclean
- The terms “I’m feeling bloated,” “guilty pleasures,” and “cheat day” come to mind. It is very important to earn “cheat days” by being “good.” Feeling good for refusing to consume a dish that was judged harmful
- Making a promise to oneself that you would make up for eating “bad/unhealthy” meals by exercising later (or more)
- Allowing oneself to indulge in a “bad” meal if you have earned it via exercise or “good” eating. granting oneself permission to indulge during holidays, vacations, or special events on the condition that you would go “back on the wagon” later
- People are being judged at the grocery shop depending on the food that they have in their basket
- Making decisions about your value based on the meals you consume – feeling that you are less valuable than or better to others because of the foods you consume
Watch this comedy from the Amy Schumer show if you want to witness diet culture at its most ludicrous (and purposely so). (Please note that this is not appropriate for work and that some people may find it offensive.) (I’m just throwing it out there.)
Why diet culture is such a trickster
One of my clients was an overweight woman who, rather astonishingly (considering that we all live in a diet culture), had never dieted before coming to me. She’d never attempted to reduce weight before. She came to me because she needed assistance in properly sustaining herself, mostly with meal planning and suggestions for quick and simple dinners, due to the demands of her hard job. We opted to focus on intuitive eating because she also had a few of eating patterns that were giving her some grief.
- If you’ve done any work with or read about intuitive eating, you’re presumably aware that the first principle is to “reject the diet mindset.” If you’ve done any work with or read about intuitive eating, you’re probably aware of this.
- It is not necessary to follow an official diet in order to become entangled in the culture of dieting.
- If eating with the environment in mind is possible, I’m all for it.
- Allow me to provide an illustration to illustrate how ubiquitous diet culture has become in our society.
- “Good morning,” the older fish greets them with a nod and a greeting.
- Diet culture, on the other hand, is our water, and we are all swimming in it.
- Carrie Dennetti is a licensed dietitian nutritionist living in the Pacific Northwest who also works as a freelance writer, intuitive eating counselor, author, and public speaker.
In addition to debunking nutrition misconceptions, she is known for enabling women to feel better in their bodies and make eating choices that are good for them in terms of enjoyment, nutrition, and overall health. This PostPage Loading Link can be printed
Diet culture shows up everywhere. Here’s how not to buy into it – ABC Everyday
Warning: This page contains mentions of eating disorders, disordered eating, and restricted eating behaviors that should be taken seriously. Have you ever gathered around the dinner table with your family and broached the subject of gaining weight? The term “diet culture” is used to characterize this phenomenon, according to psychotherapist and Butterfly Foundation treatment team head Anila Azhar. Furthermore, it cultivates the belief that there is a “right” and “wrong” way to consume food, and it fosters harmful habits related to exercise and eating.
However, she claims that we are aware that it has “existed for ages” in many incarnations.
So why are people talking about diet culture more now?
Nina Kingsford-Smith, a non-diet nutrition counselor, believes that our interaction with the media is a major contributor to the current state of diet culture. However, the diet business is the driving force behind it all, according to Ms Azhar, who claims that the industry has “capitalised on a social narrative of encouraging thinness and unattainable beauty standards.” Recent years have seen an increase in the number of people talking about diet culture in the general public — and experts believe social media has played a significant role in this development.
Ms Azhar believes that social media sites such as Instagram might, on the one hand, serve to spread diet culture.
Ms Kingsford-Smith, on the other hand, believes that content like this has the potential to backfire on the diet business, benefiting anti-diet culture groups in the process.
Jameela Jamil, an actress who uses her Instagram and Twitter accounts to criticize diet culture (often by calling out the Kardashians), is a readily accessible example of this in the mainstream.
The negative effects of diet culture
It is becoming more common for people to speak out against diet culture on the internet since health is not as straightforward as slim = good and fat = bad. This indicates that diet culture, which considers thinness to be the pinnacle of health, is founded on deception. According to Ms Azhar and Ms Kingsford-Smith, the notion that achieving the perfect body type is as simple as exercising enough willpower is also untrue. According to research, the vast majority of people who lose weight by dieting end up gaining it back.
Nina Kingsford-Smith, a non-diet nutrition consultant, believes that eating is about more than simply calories and minerals.
“And we are aware that eating disorders are a potentially life-threatening kind of mental disease.”
Diet culture also feeds discrimination
Although diet culture has an affect on all of us, it does not have the same impact on everyone in the same manner. It is inextricably tied to fatphobia (also known as weight prejudice), which reflects unfavorable views toward bigger bodies as well as an irrational fear of being fat or being in the presence of obese individuals. “Persons in larger bodies experience the consequences of a fatphobic culture in a different and more severe way,” explains Rachel Roberts, a fat-positive counselor who specializes in working with people in larger bodies.
According to research, those who are overweight are less likely to get hired or promoted than those who are thin.
What else is part of diet culture
As a result, diet culture encompasses much more than just diets. What else does it entail, exactly? Among friends, “fat talk” is a part of the culture, according to Ms Roberts, Ms Kingsford-Smith, and Ms Azhar. Compare your body, diet, or exercise habits with those of others, market foods as inherently “good” or “bad”, promote the concept of “cheat days,” run nonstop gym advertisements around New Year’s, and read magazines that focus on celebrity weight gain or loss are all examples, according to the experts.
(Photos courtesy of Ivan Samkov) Ms Azhar notes that one of the reasons it might be difficult to nail down diet culture today is because it is frequently “masked in the cacophony that surrounds wellness and health-focused dietary modifications,” which makes it difficult to identify.
How to make choices for the right reasons
In order to determine whether you’re making a positive choice that isn’t entangled in diet culture, you should consider your food intake and physical activity. Ms Kingsford-Smith recommends that you examine your motivations and determine if they are more aligned with diet culture or with your own personal principles. ‘When it comes to food, because it will make you feel invigorated, or because you enjoy the flavor, or because it is a social occasion and you want to connect with your loved ones, or because you have ethical beliefs,’ she explains.
When you begin to become more conscious of the logic you’ve been employing, it becomes easier to tap into a soft and self-compassionate attitude to eating and exercise.”
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Whether you’re thinking about food or exercise, how can you know if you’re making the right decision that isn’t influenced by diet culture? As suggested by Ms Kingsford-Smith, you should examine your motivations and determine if they are more aligned with diet culture or with your own beliefs. ‘When it comes to food, because it will make you feel invigorated, or because you enjoy the flavor, or because it is a social occasion and you want to connect with your loved ones, or because you have ethical beliefs,’ she explains.
Exercise, for example, “Do you want to do it because it’s a great way to feel less stressed?” says the instructor. When you begin to become more conscious of the logic you’ve been employing, it will be easier to tap into a soft and self-compassionate attitude to eating and exercise.”