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What Really Is Diet Culture?

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

Diet culture isn't the girls you see posting swipe video workouts or the large bodybuilding teams on IG (although they are most likely engaging in diet culture). That's fitness culture.

According to Christy Harrison, MPH. RD., diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

Worships thinness and equates it to health, forcing you to believe that if you don't meet this standard then you are less worthy compared to those that do. This can make you feel like a failure, often leading to yo-yo dieting, then binging or over-eating, followed by further restriction and another diet yet again.

Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining success, gaining a following, and being someone others can look up to. This means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of your time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is clear that almost no one can maintain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.

Demonizes certain ways of eating while promoting others, which makes you obsessive over your food choices, ashamed of yourself if you don't adhere to your food rules, and distracts you from social events, relationships, your job, and your true success and personal growth.

Oppresses people who don't uphold diet culture's picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms those that physically can't meet this criteria, damaging both their mental and physical health.

You're probably thinking, 'Well I'm not dieting, I'm just eating healthier and pursuing wellness.' I think it's a great goal to pursue wellness and healthy living but wellness and well-being encompass much more than your body weight, shape and size (see my previous blog post on 'What is Well-Being?' for more on this). My response to that would be to look at your relationship with food. Can you eat the bread basket on the table or is your anxiety high as you try to avoid it? Can you have pizza with your friends or are you restricting yourself to one slice when you really want two but you can't even trust yourself to have one so you might just eat the salad? Are you eliminating foods or food groups because they are 'bad' for you? Do you constantly talk about how 'good you were' and 'how disciplined you are' with your eating habits?

How food focused are you?

Diet culture is getting sneakier and sneakier, masking itself as Weight Watchers, Whole30, the paleo diet, the keto diet, gluten-free, and clean eating.

Unless establishing food rules and elimination of food groups is required for an illness, allergy or autoimmune condition, then these eating styles and diet protocols are ruining your intuitive senses and are just making it that much harder for you to return to a place of content around food.

Our bodies are physically designed and capable of handling food, telling us when we are full and when we need to eat, detoxing for us, and establishing a weight, size and shape on it's own as we grow throughout out life. It's when we challenge our bodies intuitive nature with extreme dieting, food restriction, and food guilt when we can find ourselves in the midst of unhealthy behaviors and out of control feelings with food.

Reclaim your intuition and make peace with food and your body by eliminating food rules, giving yourself permission to eat what you want, when you want and find food freedom again! If you need help with this please don't hesitate to reach out!

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