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The Dangers of Diet Culture

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was hyper-aware of my body and how it wasn’t like the popular girls in class or in the media. I was trying new ways to lose weight and get the “perfect body”. I downloaded MyFitnessPal at thirteen to track my calories so I could lose weight. Even at my lowest weight, I have never been happy with my body and constantly compare myself to other women. Why do I and so many other people feel like this?

What is Diet Culture?

Do you relate to anything in the previous paragraph? These are all examples of diet culture. Diet culture is the obsession around losing weight and how it is normalized in our society. Diet culture often creates bad and harmful relationships with food.

The Diet Industry

The industry that sells diet books and meal replacements stands to profit if you “fail”. The diet industry made $72 billion in 2019, and 95% of diets fail. The diet industry markets by making you feel like you need to look a certain way and lose weight in order to have any value in society, which obviously works for them based on their profits. 

Health Effects

Diets can lead to a slippery slope into several health issues, such as eating disorders or malnutrition. Some diets are incredibly restrictive and your body doesn’t get the balance of nutrients it needs to function properly. Others can encourage a caloric deficit to the point of starvation. If people with these restrictive diets end up losing weight, they will likely be encouraged and congratulated by others in society, without them acknowledging the permanent effects it can have on your body. 

Diet culture has also made it difficult for people who may not be naturally thin to get proper medical treatment. Too often doctors will diagnose issues and tell patients to just lose weight. Losing weight does not help all health issues and can lead to even more of a health issue. This is also dangerous because they don’t test for other health issues and some may be ignored. 

Healthy food
Photo by Ola Mischenko from Unsplash

What Should You Do?

I watch a lot of dietician YouTube channels, and by far they recommend an intuitive eating approach to eat. This is just listening to your body and giving it what it needs, while also not punishing yourself by restricting foods you may love. One dietician I love on YouTube is Abbey Sharp. Abbey reacts to YouTube videos or news articles and gives her own educated take on the topics shown in them. I’ve learned a lot about nutrition from her. However, always consult your primary care physician before taking nutrition advice. 

Unlearning everything that diet culture has taught you is a difficult and frankly exhausting process, but worth it. I have begun to look at food as something to enjoy but also something that nourishes me and gives me the energy I need to live my life. I exercise because I know it will make me happier and stronger, not because I want to lose weight. I try to love my body for what it does for me rather than what it looks like. 

Lizzo Hair Flip

This also means unlearning judgemental mindsets drilled in from when you were young. Don’t assume you know anything about someone’s health or life because of their appearance and weight. And don’t base someone’s value off of their appearance or weight. The singer Lizzo is bashed all the time for her weight, yet performs shows for hours with dancing, singing, and flute playing. Lizzo unashamedly loves her body and isn’t afraid to shout it out, which is something I believe we should all strive for.

So be like Lizzo. Love your body and what you are capable of and don’t let anyone tell you different!

Sydney Erickson is an English and Public Relations Major. She is an enrolled Cowlitz Indian. She loves books, movies, spirituality, and Marvel. Sydney hopes to become an author and actress one day. This is her second year writing for Her Campus.