Diet culture is a societal phenomenon that emerged in the 20th century, predominantly in the Western world, it gained significant momentum in the late 1900s and early 2000s. This article explains why diet culture is problematic and highlights what signs to look out for that indicate you're stuck in diet culture.
Where does diet culture come from?
Diet culture stems from a combination of factors, including the media's portrayal of thinness as the ideal body type, the rise of consumerism, and the proliferation of diet and fitness industries. Diet culture prioritises weight loss and physical appearance over holistic health and wellbeing, often promoting rigid dietary restrictions, excessive exercise, and an unhealthy preoccupation with one's body image.
Why is Diet culture problematic? The problematic nature of diet culture lies in its oversimplification of health, which can lead to both physical and psychological harm. By focusing on external appearances and promoting a narrow, often unattainable beauty standard, it perpetuates body dissatisfaction, insecurities, and low self-esteem. This, in turn, can contribute to the development of disordered eating habits and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, which can have life-threatening consequences. Additionally, diet culture's emphasis on rapid weight loss through extreme dietary measures often results in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which can adversely affect metabolic health and increase the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, diet culture tends to ignore the complex interplay of biological, genetic, and environmental factors that influence an individual's body size and shape, and importantly it perpetuates the stigmatisation of larger-bodied individuals, fostering a culture of fat-phobia and discrimination (not cool!)
Ultimately, diet culture undermines the pursuit of holistic health and wellbeing, encouraging harmful behaviours and mindsets that can have long-lasting detrimental effects on individuals and society as a whole.
Signs that you may be steeped in diet culture:
You regularly talk about calories, macronutrients, or tracking your food intake.
You categorise foods as "good" or "bad" and feel guilty or ashamed when you eat the "bad" ones.
You frequently compare your body to others or to an idealised body type.
You feel like you have to earn the right to eat certain foods or to take a break from exercise.
You feel like your worth is tied to your appearance, weight, or body shape.
You frequently go on diets or cleanses, and feel like you've failed if you don't stick to them.
You avoid social situations that involve food, or feel anxious or stressed around food.
You base your exercise routine on the number of calories burned rather than on how it makes you feel.
You often think about how you can change your body or what you should be doing to achieve a certain look or weight.
You feel like your life will be better once you achieve your ideal body or weight.
If you identify with some or all of these signs, it's possible that you have internalised some of the beliefs and behaviours associated with diet culture. It's important to recognise that diet culture can be harmful, it does not equal health and perpetuates unrealistic and harmful standards.
Be more. Don't eat less. - Dietitian Kirsty
What can you do if you're stuck in diet culture?
It may be helpful to explore alternative approaches to health and wellness that focus on self-care, body positivity, and a non-diet approach to food and exercise. This can help you to uncover sustainable wellbeing and health goals, which do not encourage the pursuit of thinness at all costs.
You are so much more than your weight.
I hope you found this helpful? If you need help escaping from diet culture, book a free no-pressure discovery call today to see how I can help you with your relationship with food and your amazing body.
Helping people gain more control around food & focus on the important things in life.
I’m Kirsty Wood, the food freedom dietitian! I’m also a coffee lover and appreciator of a good beach stroll. Seeing the transformations and impact that I have had on people’s lives is hands down the best part of what I do!
Please note the information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical or dietetic advice. If you have any queries regarding your diet or your physical or mental health, please speak to your GP or a registered healthcare professional.