How Diet Culture Impacts Us All

Healing from dieting cycles, binge eating, disordered eating and body shame is hard work.

It’d be hard work if we lived in a vacuum!

But what makes it even harder is living in a culture that glorifies and praises dieting tendencies and intertwines our worth with our bodies, our nutritional intake and our even health status.

In my work with women and in my writing, I bring up the concept of diet culture often. I wanted to dive into the concept a bit to provide you with context and some food for thought that I’m guessing could be needed, especially around this time of year (hello resolutions!).

Diet culture is a system that plants seeds in your mind that thinness is tied to health and fitness, is a moral imperative and that if you don’t achieve that level of thinness, fitness or health, you’re broken, undeserving and/or flawed.

Diet culture enforces the idea that hypervigilance around food and body is not only normal but needed.  

Diet culture encourages us to shrink (our bodies, our voices, our lives) with the promise of enoughness, worth, confidence and achievement.

Diet culture praises certain ways of eating and movement that AREN’T connected to your specific cravings, satiety, pleasure and connection to YOUR body. It distracts you from connecting to your body and its unique needs by villainizing food groups, planting seeds of self-doubt and pushing behavior change to achieve external validation.

Diet culture oppresses people that fall outside of the cultural thin-ideal. People who live in fat or larger bodies, people of color, differently abled bodies, people living with disability, people who are trans or whose sexuality fall outside of the binary. This oppression increases shame and trauma and contributes to the deterioration of mental and physical health.

Diet culture is rigid- often showing up in all-or-nothing, perfectionistic thinking when it comes to food, body and health. It permeates our minds with intentions to fix, to plan, to trust a system or method outside of our body’s wisdom.

Diet culture convinces us that willpower is an actual thing (and we’re flawed if we don’t have it), that food is the enemy and should be earned, that guilt and shame are motivators to change and that exercise is another word for punishment or compensation.

As 2019 continues to roll on, I’d like to encourage you to consider how diet culture has taken root in your mind and has informed your personal beliefs and behaviors.

There’s no shame here- diet culture impacts US ALL.

To move toward healing and freedom from food and body concerns, it’s imperative to begin to dismantle and question the ‘truths’ that diet culture has enforced throughout your life. And, to consider how buying into these beliefs and messages (most often over and over again) has been destructive to attuning to your body, your needs, your hungers and your trust in yourself.  

As you begin to do this important (and at times difficult!) self-inquiry, I encourage you to begin to externalize some of the blame you’ve put on yourself. For ‘failing’ another diet. For gaining the weight again. For not being healthy or fit enough.

You haven’t failed.

The system, the culture that we live in has failed you. By failing to recognize and encourage your autonomy, your ability to say screw our culture’s rules and create behaviors and beliefs that feed your mind, body and spirit, by prioritizing thinness over mental and emotional health and by constantly asking you, encouraging you, bating you to buy into a failed system.

The next time you feel a shame spiral start to swirl surrounding your eating experiences or your body, take a moment and consider whose shame it is. Has it been planted and/or reinforced by diet culture?

Can you look into your personal history and see how this shame has fueled disordered eating and body loathing?

Call it out and externalize the blame and shame you’re feeling onto who and what planted those seeds. Take some of the pressure off of yourself to give yourself space and the option to move away from the patterns and the beliefs you’re feeling so desperate to begin to uproot.