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A Rant on Body Image, Diet Culture, and the Long Road to Self-Acceptance

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Trigger Warning: This article discusses eating disorders, mental health, diet culture, and body image  

Whether we realize it or not, expectations of body image and diet culture seep into our self-image and self-beliefs daily. Societal beauty standards are perpetuated by media images, creating unrealistic conventions for everyone except the very few who meet this standard at all times. Even though the rest of the population (meaning essentially, its entirety) may be healthy, take care of themselves and lead good lives, they’re made to think that they’re doing something wrong and are inherently not accepted. The number of people in my life that regularly comment on their body’s “flaws” and that have been even more deeply affected by an eating disorder, is heartbreaking. Nobody, especially women, are exempt from these deep-rooted thoughts about body image and diet culture. 

Kate Hudson once said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I have to say that this is the single most toxic celebrity quote I’ve ever heard. Not only does it add more horrible layers to societal standards of thinness, but it’s also incredibly far from being true. Had Kate Hudson eaten anything at all before she said this? I’m not trying to attack Kate here,, her exact words prove that she, too, was deeply affected by beauty and diet culture. Unless somebody is thin at their natural, healthy weight, being skinny should not truly feel good. Her saying this is merely a product of “achieving” validation in meeting the societal expectation of being unrealistically skinny. This toxic mindset of “skinny equals good” is so deeply embedded in our lives, we accept it as a personal belief. 

Another manifestation of slenderness being equated to social acceptableness is the idea of “sucking in.”. Those who wear crop tops or tight clothes likely know this all too well; you suck in your stomach to seem attractive and put-together, meeting the ideal of a flat stomach. On this topic, I immediately think of an awful TikTok I once saw, where some ignorant man devalues women who stop sucking in their stomach once they hit a certain level of inebriation. This guy, among many others, I’m sure, sees women as only being worthy when they reach this insane beauty standard. Need I say that the patriarchy is deeply involved in continuing these harmful expectations and biases against women, including the flat-stomach ideal? Typical male standards are cast onto women, portraying us as objects of attraction instead of regular human beings. We’re taught to dislike our stomachs at their normal state: rounded and constantly changing as we eat and release food. Not the prettiest picture, I know, but it serves its purpose of showcasing the functional nature of our stomachs, a bodily mechanism at its simplest. We tend to forget that our bodies don’t have the mere purpose of aesthetics, they work to meet our needs as we go about our lives, mostly without even requiring conscious thought. 

On this note, it’s necessary to tie in the toxicity of the diet culture that supports this nearly unattainable thin body image. Diet culture is the societal culture of having a diet mindset, even if it’s not present in an obvious, conscious diet. At its worst, diet culture manifests as self-deprivation of food that nourishes one’s body and soul, leading to long-lasting physical and mental detriments in the form of an eating disorder. At its (not really) best, it incites guilt, over eating the occasional carb or sugary food, with the convincing idea that it will lead to one becoming “fat” or having an unhealthy lifestyle. Sometimes it involves skipping meals or fasting with the belief that these tactics will help one slim down or “improve” one’s appearance. And of course, sometimes these acts become a routine in the form of a diet, usually taken on with the goal of weight loss or becoming “healthier.” These acts of internalized diet culture often only deprive people of food they enjoy and have difficulty functioning without. Of course, it’s good to eat all foods in moderation, but swearing off all dessert-type foods for example, will likely only increase cravings for these foods, possibly leading to a binge session. Even if we’re advised to stay away from sugar, a homemade cookie can feed your soul and happiness in a way we shouldn’t have to be ashamed of. 

Like anybody else, I’ve been susceptible to diet culture ideas. I sometimes find myself sucking in my stomach, thinking on some conscious level that I’ll seem more attractive if I do it. Other times, I notice myself considering avoiding my nightly piece of chocolate so that I can lose weight I have no need to lose. Luckily, I’ve been able to mostly overcome these ingrained notions and move towards more of an intuitive eating (and exercising) mindset. Instead of forcing myself to eat or not eat certain things, I eat what I feel like. I keep things in moderation, but I nourish my body in a way that feels healthy, fulfilling and right for me. But my gosh, was it hard to get here. And of course, my journey is far from over – insecurities are nearly impossible to eliminate entirely. 

For anybody that’s struggling with body image or diet culture, I understand. It’s an unfair world with societal expectations that can tear you apart. Sometimes I just can’t understand how these standards still exist – we’re a modern, developed society. Shouldn’t we have moved past this by now? Even the Ancient Greeks are likely shaking their heads at us. In fact, whenever I’m feeling down about my body image, I refer to the Greek epitome of female attraction: Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. This beautiful muse, depicted in countless sculptures, paintings and poems, has obvious rolls of fat and a curvy body, which were symbols of health and beauty at the time. Today, these characteristics still objectively signal health and nourishment, but our society has largely changed to view perfectly lovely, female bodies as being wrong somehow.  

I say, screw our modern society. Acceptance of your body doesn’t come overnight, I know that much, but we can start the process by recognizing the systems that placed unrealistic expectations on us in the first place. Keep reminding yourself that no matter what our world may tell you, you are enough, I promise. 

Natasha Shantz

Wilfrid Laurier '25

Hi! My name's Natasha and I'm a writer for Her Campus Laurier. Writing had been a home for me since I was in elementary school, typing up fantasy and fairytale novels. I like to write about a broad variety of topics, such as self-improvement, social issues, literature and pop culture. When I'm not writing or studying, you can find me dancing to music in my room, sipping coffee in a cafe, or reading a book.
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