Why Diet Culture Sucks

TRIGGER WARNING - This article contains content about calories, restriction and dieting, please do not continue reading if you are sensitive to any of these topics or related topics.

What is diet culture?

According to intuitive eating dietician Christy Harrison, diet culture “worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin ‘ideal.’ It promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years. It demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose and your power. It oppresses people who don't match up with its supposed picture of ‘health,’ which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health” Most people are completely unaware of the sneaky ways diet culture can control your life because it doesn’t mean that you are consciously following a specific diet, it means you have succumbed to a set of norms surrounding how society views eating, weight and health. Thanks to weight loss programs and society’s obsession with appearance, we have pretty much been conditioned to be dissatisfied with our bodies at all times. We are taught that in order to be “healthy” we have to only eat a certain amount of calories, we have to avoid carbs like the plague, we have to exercise every day and we have to weigh a certain amount. We are manipulated to feel guilty if we don’t follow these completely outrageously impossible, “rules”. The reality is that any form of restriction is unhealthy for both your mental and physical health, but diet culture doesn’t want you to figure this out.

What are some ways to combat diet culture?

Diet culture is nearly impossible to avoid, it is inadvertently embedded in so many things. However, there are steps you can take so it won’t have a negative effect on you. The first step is actively recognizing the harmful ways society shoves diet culture in your face. Next time you find yourself reading a magazine cover about weight loss, watching an advertisement about a new pill or cleanse that is supposed to help you “lose those extra five pounds”, or even go to a restaurant with the nutritional facts listed on the menu, you have to make an effort to recognize that those things are pushing you to give into diet culture. Losing weight is not healthy to obsess over, taking a pill or going on a cleanse to restrict calories is not good for your body, and examining nutritional facts with a microscope is detrimental to your mental health, no matter what society says. Next, you need to take a close look at your social media accounts and unfollow anyone that makes you feel bad about yourself. Fill your Instagram feed with body positivity and motivational accounts. Lastly, find things you love about yourself that don’t have to do with appearance. We live in a culture that is so obsessed with appearance that it can define your entire self-worth at times. There is so much more to you than the way you look. Maybe you are an amazing painter, or an incredible gymnast, or a passionate writer. No matter who you are, learn to love and accept every aspect of yourself and don’t allow society’s perception of appearance affect you. As long as you treat your body with kindness and respect, it will give the same back to you.