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How To Navigate Diet Culture In University

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

TW: Eating disorders

Diet culture may be ever-present in our society as a whole, but on university campuses, it is noticeably much more pervasive. The unfortunate reality is that many people grow up with an unhealthy relationship towards food and their bodies, and for those who are actively working to heal this affliction, school can make it much harder to do so. Conversations of diet culture are rampant in dorm rooms, booths in the cafeteria, and getting ready with your friends for a night out. So much so that it has been normalized—and this is where the problem lies.

Diet culture feeds off of insecurities, creating trends of body types; a revolving door of shapes and sizes. Your body is not a fashion trend; it is your home. It is the shell that holds all the parts of you that make you special, from your empathy to your passion to your mind. Your body allows you to experience the world around you, and it only makes sense that you treat it with gentleness, whether through affirming words or foods that nourish your soul. 

As someone who preaches a healthy relationship towards food and nourishment, I believe it is necessary to challenge diet culture in any and all environments. A life that is lived in fear of food is a life depleted of love. There is so much joy to be found in food, from the aroma of a home-cooked meal to the sounds of laughter that arise when you and your loved ones are seated around the dinner table. Every single day, you can make the conscious choice to nourish your body with foods that make you feel whole. 

The most useful piece of advice I have ever received is to find gratitude in the opportunity to experience nourishment and joy, as some do not have this option. We will inevitably encounter people in our time, especially in a university setting, who have conflicting beliefs to our own. Some people will support different political parties or have a different idea of what it means to have fun. Who knows what the people around us will bring to the table. Yet, what does matter is that we are sure enough of our own miniature ideologies that we don’t feel the need to succumb to others.

Specifically in relation to food, it is crucial to understand that people’s choices have absolutely nothing to do with our own. It can be easy to listen to diet culture when it comes from a friend, a co-worker or from a study buddy. Yet if you listen closely, you’ll hear what is really being said. The message is that these people have to battle with their minds to let them enjoy the simple pleasures brought forth by a hot meal or a dinner out with friends. It’s saying that the very human act of eating (which we need to survive), should be inherently linked to stress. It’s saying that we should put all our energy into loathing our bodies so that we have no room leftover to love the world around us. People who make comments heard from diet culture echo chambers are struggling internally, and perhaps without even knowing it. If you are able to recognize that their words are not your own thoughts, you can find the strength to rise above this type of thinking and give your body what it needs.

Flipping the Mindset.
We must understand that our personal opinion matters most, and when people make comments that either trigger us or don’t align with our values, we don’t have to let these words hold weight. Let them do them, and you can do you. In fact, it is important to be patient with these people, as these comments could come from a place of struggle.

 Let triggers serve as a reminder of how lucky you are to be able to overcome and dismantle the forces of diet culture. Let triggers serve as a reminder to be proud of yourself for actively choosing a life where food is a source of nourishment and love. 

Leah Pearl

Queen's U '24

Leah is a third year student at Queens U majoring in Religious Studies.