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What is Diet Culture?


what is diet culture

Diet culture is based on the belief that thinness or being skinny equates to our worth or is tied to our health. It definitely prioritizes weight, shape and size over wellness. I believe that there is a distinct difference between those things.


Idolizing thinness over wellness affects how we view our own bodies and it affects how we feel about ourselves in general. Diet culture also assumes that eating a certain way (the current fad diet) will result in having the “correct body size”, good health and that this body size can and should be achieved by everyone.


I feel that there is this very large misconception in the diet industry that if you just lose that 20 pounds, you’ll be happy, and you’ll love yourself. But, that’s not even close to being true. Happiness is a feeling or showing of pleasure, and it’s a sense of confidence or satisfaction. No matter where you look it up, the definition of happiness does not mention one’s weight or body size.


I see diet culture as promoting this idea that restricting food or punishing ourselves with exercise will result in weight loss. Which, in turn, will provide you with those feelings of worthiness, acceptance and being enough.


Diet culture also tends to label foods as good or bad, which many people then take on that "good" or "bad" labelling as part of their identity. "I am good if I eat a salad" and "I am bad if I eat cake." The issue is that this distracts people from really connecting to their bodies and tuning into how specific foods will make their bodies feel.


There is a ton of shame involved in diet culture in both food shaming and body shaming. Somehow making it socially acceptable to use questions or statements like “Are you really going to eat that?” or “I thought you were on a diet.” It is this type of culture that can be really damaging to our mental and emotional health.


You can begin to challenge diet culture by:

  1. Questioning the intentions behind your own behaviours. After all, change starts with you. When we look at the intention behind our actions, it changes how we view the situation or how we even view food. For instance, if you choose to eat a salad, the intention could be, “I need to lose weight in order to feel worthy and this salad is really low calorie, so it’s going to help me get there.” Or, “I’m choosing to eat this nutrient-dense salad because I want to provide my body nourishing foods so that it feels really good.” The intention behind any action is key.

  2. Monitor the accounts that you follow on social media. Does the majority of your feed support the ideas behind diet culture? What if you were to unfollow those who promote diet culture on social media, and follow more accounts that promote body acceptance or positivity instead.

  3. Don't be afraid to speak out about diet culture with friends and family, at work or online.

  4. Stop labelling food as "good" or "bad." And choose foods that nourish your body and make you feel really good in your body.

  5. Become aware of the language that you use around food and your body. And choose the more compassionate language as you would with a loved one.


What to do next...

  1. Any questions? Leave me a comment below.