You may have heard the term “Diet Culture.” Being aware of what it is, how it affects you, and breaking free of it is a cornerstone of how I help my clients. So what is it, and why should you care? Spoiler Alert: You should care because it’s undermining your health and happiness!
Diet Culture refers to the beliefs, values, and practices that put an emphasis on achieving a certain body shape or size. In our society, this means manipulating our bodies through restrictive eating and over exercising with thinness as a goal. It impacts every part of our society, including media, advertising, the way we interact with each other socially, and even healthcare.
Diet Culture strives to promote thinness as an ideal body type, often equating it with beauty, health, and self-worth. It perpetuates the notion by conforming to specific societal standards of appearance, a woman be deemed attractive, successful, and happy.
We assign moral value to body shape and size – thin women are “good”, and having a larger body makes you “bad.”
How often have you looked at a thin woman and thought – she’s got it going on! What discipline! What self control!
What do you think when you see a woman in a larger body? Be honest with yourself. Where did you get those opinions? Guaranteed you didn’t make them up on your own.
Diet Culture is a $75 billion industry that proliferates and depends on fatphobia for it’s success.
It promotes and encourages weight loss methods like fad diets, detoxes, and extreme exercise routines, promising quick and dramatic results.
In Diet Culture, foods are also deemed “good” or “bad.” This dichotomy creates a restrictive mindset around eating fraught with guilt and shame, fostering an unhealthy relationship with food.
Yo-yo dieting stems from this messaging, defined by the restrict, then binge, then restrict again, cycle. This cycle is devasting to your psyche and self worth, and horrible for your body.
Diet Culture tends to normalize and glorify disordered eating behaviors, such as chronic dieting, calorie counting, and excessive exercise. It promotes an ignorant one-size-fits-all approach to health.
Two women could eat the exact same foods in the exact same portions at the exact same times, have identical exercise routines, and yet have very different body shapes and sizes.
The consequences of Diet Culture can be detrimental to both physical and mental well-being. It can lead to the development of eating disorders, body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and a preoccupation with weight and appearance. It can also perpetuate weight stigma and discrimination.
The biggest crime of Diet Culture is telling you that you’re a failure for not being able to shrink your body.
They give you the plan/packaged food/supplement/cure, and if it doesn’t work, they tell you that it’s your fault for not getting the results they promised. No worries: they are at the ready to sell it to you again, or sell you something else, promising it will work this time. Unless it doesn’t. That’s on you.
The cruelty of this is that most of the determinants of your body shape and size are out of your control. There’s genetics and gut flora, there’s the medications you may need to survive, there are the challenges of access and economic factors. And don’t underestimate the messaging you got at home growing up, a research study showed girls as young as 5 are influenced by the dieting habits of their grown ups.
The only things you can control in this life, when you get right down to it, are your attitudes and your behaviors. Body shape and size is not a behavior.
If diets worked, you’d only need one of them. Perhaps the one you started when you were 12, which is a typical age for a woman to start dieting. Yet, the average American woman has been on dozens of diets by the time she’s 45.
Diet Culture has put the focus on external appearance and weight loss as the ultimate measures of health and happiness, disregarding the complexity and diversity of human bodies and experiences.
But things can change – they are changing. Challenging and resisting Diet Culture involves cultivating body acceptance, embracing intuitive eating, and shifting the focus towards holistic well-being rather than pursuing an unrealistic and potentially harmful physical look. I work with my clients on all those fronts, and am thrilled to see them break free of the grip of Diet Culture.
It’s likely that a lot of the info here is going to be new to you, maybe slams up against what you believe about health, and might make you angry. Where are you with Diet Culture? I’d love to talk with you about it and how it affects you personally. Pop over to the contact page and let’s connect!