Calling out diet culture
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
Paleo, keto, Atkins, Weight Watchers…
Low-fat, low-carb, high-protein, ultra-low fat…
Grain-free, sugar-free, oil-free…
Restriction after restriction.
Magical weight-loss solution after magical weight-loss solution.
Did you know that the weight-loss industry is worth $72 billion in the US alone? It is a business that takes advantage of and propagates diet culture, a set of beliefs that views thin bodies as: 1) more attractive, 2) more worthy, 3) more desirable, and 4) more healthy. Being “skinny” is sold to us as a tool to enhance our status in the world, even though study after study has shown us that any weight lost through restrictive means is almost impossible to sustain in the long run.
We are all born natural intuitive eaters. Babies cry when they’re hungry, eat until they’re full, and then don’t eat again until they’re hungry. Children may eat more on active days or during times of growth and may fight dinner time on other days. But as we get older, we become exposed to a lot of different ideas that can mess with our innate trust in our bodies. When we choose to follow these external queues, we are doing so at the expense of listening to our own hunger and satiety cues.
Diet culture encourages people to follow external rules to determine when, what, and how much to eat. The time of day to eat, the number of macros, calorie counting, specific portion sizes, and whether or not it’s a designated “cheat day” are just a few of the ways we are bombarded with messaging that overrides our ability to listen to our bodies’ actual needs. Additionally, certain foods are put on a pedestal, with labels like “good” and “clean”, while others are vilified as “bad” or “guilty” pleasures.
Diet culture is dangerous and it perpetuates disordered eating.
You don’t have to be “on a diet” to be engaging in diet culture. Recently, diet culture has been flying under the radar by masquerading as “wellness”. This concept of wellness may put a little less overt emphasis on weight loss as the goal, but it still promotes restriction and dichotomous thinking by labelling some foods as good and others as bad.
To end diet culture, we need to reject it…in our thoughts, words, and behaviours, as well as by calling it out when we see it promoted by others.
Here are 4 ways we can fight diet culture:
1. Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad”. Recognize that food is just food and that all foods can fit in a healthy lifestyle.
2. Don’t say, “You lost weight, you look great!” Remember, what someone looks like is the least interesting thing about them.
3. Don’t refer to food as “cheat” meals or “guilty” pleasures. You can cheat on your spouse, but you can’t cheat on your food.
4. Unfollow people on social media that promote diet culture.