We spend our lives thinking we are not good enough and often our “not good enough-ness” comes from a society that is rich in diet culture. Diet culture is all around us… it is blasted all over social media, in magazines, and it is ingrained into us…it can even seep into the simplest of conversations, even when we do not intend for it to. There is no way to not think about it. So how did we get here?
In this one little blog… I only scratch surface as there is so much more to dig into this topic. But let’s start…
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM
Historically, women who were thin were considered to be frail and likely to not bear children (because that was a women’s sole purpose historically), therefore they were not sought after. But then something changed. And I would highly recommend reading “Fearing the Black Body, the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia” by Sabrina Strings to dive into this fully. As her book points out, society started to view the thin white women as the ideal. An ideal that so many of us have now tried to live up to. But this desire for body “perfectionism” has put our minds and our bodies into dis-ease.
Ironically all we want is to feel good and to be healthy. But often the very things we “do” to meet this ideal (that is fully a result of diet culture) can leave us with feelings of shame, worthlessness, not good enough-ness, etc. And we end up tying our self worth to our weight and often times this lesson is also passed down from generation to generation. We may pass this down to our children and it was likely passed down to us (not intentionally). These lessons become a part of who we are and our stories often relate back to our weight… our life ends up being constructed about weight, but really we are searching for so much more. We are searching for ourselves, we are looking to step into our purpose, and we are looking to feel good and to be happy.
I can tell you from experience, weight loss does not necessarily mean we find ourselves, or that we can finally step into our purpose, or that we will feel good about ourselves, or that we will be happy. All of this comes from the inside and what diet culture sells us is quite the opposite.
WHAT IS DIET CULTURE
Diet culture can be broken down into 3 sectors… big company diet plans, small or product diet plans, and then pseudo dieting… something that is disguised to be something else, but really it is still a diet. So really it takes on many forms and it is natural to want to the quickest fix we can find, because let’s face it… we are human and we don’t like pain. And diets are often painful at the core, even when they are exhilarating and hopeful in the beginning.
The simplest of all explanations would be... if it is something that comes from outside of you (your own best expert) that is telling/ persuading/ dictating/ suggesting something to you, it is very likely rooted to diet culture. Anti-diet culture would be trusting your own inner knowingness and approaching food exploration with curiosity, free of stigma what you may choose and free from desiring to control your body.
Christy Harrison, author of Ant-Diet describes diet culture as a system of beliefs that:
Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you're irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal”
Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for a few years.
Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to the hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
Oppress people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.
It can feel like a struggle to change this way of thinking, especially all at once, so take it one bite at a time (pun completely intended) and soon the weight of diet culture and the weight of society will start to lighten. I recommend your first step to be “start noticing it around you”. Draw in your own awareness of anything around you that may feel a wee bit like diet culture. Because if it has a hint of it, it probably is diet culture. And in future blog posts and podcasts, I will be unravelling more of “what” you can do. Until then start getting curious and do what you can to show yourself some love.