Surely, you have felt guilty about eating certain foods or judge yourself because you ate too much on a special occasion. All of us at some point have told ourselves “I shouldn't eat this” or have labeled foods as “good” or “bad”. This happens because we are living in a society immersed in what has been called a diet culture.
Diet culture is so embedded in today's society that it can be very difficult to identify . This affects us in many ways and therefore it is important to learn what it is and begin to question how it harms us.
What is diet culture?
It is a set of beliefs that revolves around the idea that “thin” bodies are the most “healthy”, desirable and valuable . Because of the diet culture we have come to give moral values to food, calling it "good", "bad", "clean", among others. This leads us to think that eating healthy is equivalent to maintaining a diet that allows us to be at an "ideal weight".
Perhaps we feel identified with some of these ideas proposed by the diet culture:
- Assuming that having a thin appearance is normal and appropriate . That thin people should be admired, listened to and given more opportunities.
- Believing that reaching an "ideal weight" is a matter of will . That's why, who doesn't get it, it's because they don't try hard enough. This is far from reality because many variables are involved in body size and shape that are beyond our control.
- We all MUST be skinny . This idea is assumed as a mandate that must be fulfilled by eating "healthy" foods, going hungry or following our exercise routines.
- Thinking that the body must remain static throughout our lives. For this reason, the idea that a woman should recover her “normal” weight after pregnancy becomes normal; or that bodily changes due to aging or other factors must be resisted, if not, it is an oversight.
- Relate thinness to health and fatness to disease . Which is not always the case, health includes multiple factors that go beyond body size.
How does it affect us?
These beliefs can have many consequences for us. For example, they can influence us not to feel comfortable with our body or with what we eat. They can lead us to be constantly judging ourselves.
Here are some of the most common consequences :
- Indulging in fad diets and other eating practices , such as the consumption of weight loss products that can be harmful.
- Change the real image of the human body . Understand that our body changes over time and that it is a normal and human process.
- Affect our self-esteem , reducing our worth to how much we weigh; and, consequently, we forget about other aspects such as our values and qualities.
- Distort the image we should have of food , which can promote eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or orthorexia.
How to uproot ourselves from the diet culture?
Informing us, the diet culture prevents us from seeing and appreciating our body . For this very reason, it is important to be selective about which sources of information we are exposed to. For example, social media is awash with ideas promoting diet culture.
If you think diet culture is complicating your relationship with your body, what you eat or how you feel, remember to seek out a professional.
- Research and markets (2019). The US Weight Loss & Diet Control Market . Retrieved from: https://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/qm2gts/the_72_billion?w=4