Why Diet Culture Needs to End

This love affair between society and diet culture has to end

Trigger warning: This article includes mentions of experiences with disordered eating and body dysmorphia, as well as discussion of diet culture.

A few months ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through Youtube, engaging in one of my favorite pastimes; watching random “Day in My Life” videos. Most often, these videos depict college girls going about their day-to-day routines, which I find sort of relatable and somehow really entertaining to watch.

While I was clicking through multiple people’s videos, I noticed that many of them mentioned that they had been trying the ‘food combining’ diet. To me this sounded like it was a diet in which you just... combine foods? So, I did not pay attention to it more than that, and quite frankly, I was happy to hear that young girls were, seemingly, eating as normal.

Then, a month later, I saw this video by nutritionist Abbey Sharp, who was reviewing the food combining diet. I was shocked to find out that food combining is exactly the opposite of what it sounds like. It is based on eight rules which focus on telling you that you should eat certain foods separately. The rules are as follows:

 

Only eat fruit on an empty stomach

Don’t combine starches and proteins

Don’t combine starches with acidic foods

Don’t combine different types of proteins

Only consume dairy on an empty stomach (especially milk)

Protein should not be mixed with fat

Sugar should only be eaten alone

Fruits and vegetables should be eaten separately

 

Now, it is important to make a disclaimer that for some people suffering from gastrointestinal problems, following some steps like this may ease symptoms. However, ‘food combining’ itself is a diet package filled with promises of “going to sleep with a flat stomach”, as one Influencer selling the diet keeps promising.

The reason why this made me especially angry was that just one and a half years ago, I would have been an excellent target for this kind of crap. I was going through heartbreak, and all I wanted was to feel worthy, so I turned to dieting and exercising. Most of my practices were incredibly unhealthy, irresponsible, stupid and dangerous.

Youtube and Instagram were the main enablers of my descent into the rabbit hole of hating every inch of my body. I would spend hours watching Victoria’s Secret

models’ “What I Eat in a Day” videos, and scrolling through Influencers’ pictures on Instagram, wondering why my stomach just wouldn’t flatten, cursing the universe over the size of my thighs, and pinching my skin all over just to see if I had cellulite.

That is why I am 90% sure that had I come into contact with something as harmful as ‘food combining’ in the midst of my year of struggling with self-image, I would’ve partaken in it. The rules of food combining do not even make sense. As Abbey Sharp points out, many of the rules make no sense, such as rule number 6, which dictates that protein shouldn’t be eaten with fat. Coincidentally, many great sources of protein, such as salmon, contain both proteins and fat. The human body is designed in a way in which it can take care of dissolving different nutrients at the same time. These kinds of pseudo-scientific fad diets are doing more harm than good.

It was reported earlier this year, that hospital admissions for eating disorders have reached the highest number than seen in eight years. I truly do not believe that this is a coincidence. When I was going through the hardest time in my life, I turned to social media, which told me that in order to feel worthy, I needed to look a certain way. It told me that beauty and worthiness were measured in likes, and inches on your waist, and numbers on a scale. It offered me a multitude of quick fixes in the form of different diets.

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That is why I am writing this article. Diet culture is ruining lives. The fact that social media is ripe with food combining and other diets is dangerous. The fact that I saw so many young girls in their vlogs talk about doing food combining saddens me. If you are reading this, and you’ve ever caught yourself thinking of food in terms of calorie counts, or in a dichotomy of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or feel guilty for eating certain things, or if you force yourself to follow eight BS rules like the food combining rules - I want you to know that you are worthy just the way you are. There is so much more to life than going to bed with a flat stomach. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way, or how popular you are on social media.

This love affair between society and diet culture has to end. I may be on the other side of my own problems with food, yet I still catch myself thinking in ways that diet culture has indoctrinated me to think my entire life. “Oh, I shouldn’t eat this cookie”, “I can’t believe I ate this whole bag of popcorn, I’m gross!”, “This portion is too big, I need to make it smaller even though I’m really hungry.” We get bombarded by these toxic ways of thinking left, right and centre, from day one.

I’m proposing we throw away this food combining garbage, or any other fad diet to be honest, and focus on what life actually has to offer; our relationships, hobbies, passions. There is so much more to life than policing yourself over what you eat and how you look.

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