The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
TW: Sensitive topics of diet, and body image
Growing up with social media is a test of true strength. During the most transformative years, figuring out who you are and growing into your body is hard enough, but Gen Z is a generation that has had to do so alongside the ugly truth of the digital world. Coloured with unrealistic beauty standards, societal expectations, fad dieting and a cluster of roadblocks, loving yourself can feel near impossible.
I first joined Instagram when I was 13-years-old. Quickly, I became sucked into the stream of weight loss and workout tips, which made me wonder why I was cornered about changing myself. Often, when we look up to a preferred standard or cannot see ourselves in the media, we inwardly begin to wonder if we are the problem rather than questioning if the system is. Now that I have gotten a little wiser and have met other girls who struggle with insecurities, I am beginning to realize that the issue is not me. The issue is that diet culture is everywhere - it is inescapable. Unfortunately, I believe it is an industry that profits off of insecurity and vulnerability - both of which young people are arguably the most familiar with. It only grows mightier as social media evolves, which is why we must seize its force.
Diet culture is not new. In fact, it has been around long before social media was invented, dating back to the early 1930s. Nowadays, trends include celebrities, like Kim Kardashian, who have been at the forefront of modern diet culture for years. Kardashian has been a consistent source of controversy in the wellness community as she has previously promoted appetite-suppressing lollipops on her Instagram. I was horrified the first time I saw this. Weight loss promotion or recommendations for diets have become uncomfortably normal.
You may be reading this and think to yourself that it is impossible to overcome your struggles. You think that you will never be able to not obsess over your body and heal the relationship you have with food once and for all. Yet, you can, and you should, purely for the cheesy truth which is that we only live once. I’m saddened that there have been such special, joyous moments of my life ruined because I was worried about what food I ate. The food I should be enjoying during 2 am pizza runs with friends or while celebrating a birthday with a loved one. A diet culture brain can make the sweetest moments of life rotten, and before you know it, you realize you’ve wasted years of your life worrying. And I can tell you honestly… This is scarier than any food will ever be.
However, there are ways to turn the page and dilute that voice in your head. So start today. Here are my tips from someone who has had enough of the persistence of diet culture.
Follow people on social media who make you feel confident
Social media can be a horrid place, but it can also be a beautiful one. Finding creators who focus on wellness as an internal, and not a purely physical status, makes the approach to health less intimidating. My favourite kind of influencers are the ones who actively fit their title. They are people who make me feel good about my body and spread a positive message for young girls, as opposed to the ones who are constantly “influencing” you to change it.
Lean into your individuality
Embrace the fact that there is not one person who looks, acts and feels like you. Once we find a way to love the body we were born with, we can strive to become the best versions of ourselves and not participate in the never-ending pursuit of a “glow up” generation.
Change the image of what “health” looks like
Why would we all use the same ways to stay healthy when our bodies require such different habits? Looking into what makes you feel good and what brings you pleasure is essential to physical and mental health. Although body insecurities and comparisons are completely natural, every person has different needs that fit how their body functions and operates day-to-day. So, own what you've got, and most importantly, be proud to live as yourself.
Luckily, times are changing and the world of health is stepping into a brighter direction. The efforts of positive communities on social media have made it easier to cancel out the flaws that have existed in diet culture. Today, even if society's efforts to change our bodies persist, our response to it will not.
It is time we give diet culture the coldest shoulder.