Everywhere we look, we’re surrounded by diet culture. It affects our vocabulary, physical activity, diet, wardrobe, and internal dialogue. Every day, we are immersed in diet culture without even realizing it. This is because it has become an integral part of our everyday lives and is seldom questioned (until you start to do a little digging, that is).
What Is Diet Culture?
The term “diet culture” refers to norms and expectations that emphasize appearance rather than health. Value is assigned by diet culture to actions, commodities, and aims that promote a particular physique.
In the diet culture, slender bodies are seen as more desirable, food is divided into “good” and “bad,” and only specific forms of exercise are considered beneficial. Decisions are made from a position of self-control rather than self-care, and the emphasis is on the exterior rather than interior aims. To put it simply, “diet culture” refers to the prevailing attitude that one’s outward look and body type are more significant than one’s inside health and happiness. It’s the view that it’s appropriate to exercise self-control over one’s physical self by regulating one’s nutrition.
And because of the prevalence of diet culture, people are used to classifying meals as good or evil and seeing nourishment as a commodity, something they can either “earn” or “not deserve” based on their dietary and physical activity choices. People might assign positive or negative connotations to their eating habits based on the labels on the goods they purchase.
People who have been socialized to see diet culture as the norm may suffer from low self-esteem, engage in destructive negative self-talk patterns, and think that thinness confers moral superiority. Their mindset might be all-or-nothing.
Diet Culture and Eating Disorders
One contributor to unhealthy eating patterns is the prevalence of diet culture. As a rule, this results from putting too much emphasis on low-calorie meals and neglecting nutrition altogether. The motivation to exercise may change if a person associates it with the need to either burn off calories from “bad meals” or earn more money.
How to Overcome Diet Culture?
You are not at fault if your diet culture, and mindset influence you. This talk on diet culture and the damage it does is not meant to humiliate you; rather, it is meant to show that the system is to blame, not the people.
Diet culture is like a river flowing in one way, carrying both those who actively swim against the current and others who float along with it. Due to its ubiquitous nature in all sectors of society, avoiding diet culture entirely is hard.
However, there are strategies to limit your exposure to diet culture and campaign against it.
1. Give up the Diet Mentality
Throw away your scale and any low-calorie cookbooks that constantly remind you of your failed diet. Put an end to dieting and other forms of self-denial and resist the temptation to follow fleeting diet trends. To your disadvantage and health, you must stop losing weight and being slim your main priority. Learn to identify your internalized food rules and commit to recognizing yourself when you revert to diet talk in social circumstances so you can practise letting them go.
2. Avoid Certain Types of Media
To avoid feeling bad about yourself, avoid social media, forums, online groups, and TV shows that promote body shaming or other forms of online bullying. One of the most defining features of modern diet culture is the correlation between media consumption and negative self-perceptions.
3. Maintain a Body-Neutral Attitude
The principle of body neutrality states that you shouldn’t care about how your body looks as long as you’re happy with the work it’s doing for you today. It’s a welcome distraction from worrying about how you seem to others. It changes your outlook to be less concerned about how you appear and more appreciative of what you’re capable of right now. Embracing body neutrality may be a great first step in finally learning to accept and love your body without all the labels and restrictions.
4. Learn What You Can About Health Care
You may learn more about how a singular emphasis on thinness and dietary restriction can harm your health by reading and educating yourself on total health. It also enlightens you about the fact that there is a wide variety of healthy lifestyles, dietary preferences, and physical structures to consider.
5. Encourage Social Interactions
It’s easy to feel alone when you’re the only one in your situation trying to break free of diet culture. Having a network of individuals with similar interests is helpful. Follow new accounts that share your interests in intuitive eating, happy activity, and a weight-inclusive approach to health on social media, and unfollow the ones that no longer resonate with you. Locate anti-diet and body-acceptance organizations online or in your local community. Learn more about these subjects through reading, listening to podcasts, and having in-depth talks with others.
The cultural emphasis on dieting might make one feel like they’re being subjected to pressure that they can’t escape. Understand that dieting is only one option for improving your health and that your weight has nothing to do with how healthy you are. Consult a medical professional if you have any concerns about your health, body image, or eating habits or if you have been diagnosed with an eating problem.
What Would Happen If You Fell Back Into Diet Culture?
Most of us have spent our whole lives attempting to profit from the social currency that comes with taking part in diet culture. You’ll miss its comforting arms and desire to return there sometimes. When that occurs, allow yourself to experience the emotions that arise and remind yourself that they are normal. It will be difficult, particularly at first, to ignore the allure of diet culture. Swimming against the current is difficult, but you can do it if you remind yourself why eliminating diet culture is crucial.
To improve your health and well-being, you should see diet as only one of several factors. You should try to eat various foods, including carbohydrates, fat, protein, and vegetables, at each meal. This is only sometimes possible; many of my meals look different from this. Most individuals do best with a diet consisting of three square meals and two or three snacks throughout the day. You may need to remember to keep the score or calculate totals.
Wrapping It Up
It takes work to end your relationship with diets. Eating is more of an internal process than one that the surrounding environment may influence. It needs thought and bravery. There is no manual to follow; instead, you possess a tremendous resource—the knowledge of your own heart—that needs only to be allowed to emerge with your consent and, sometimes, some direction.