Guess who's back (back back)!!! Back again!!! That's right my lovely lady intern Zoe Halbert is not done sharing her thoughts about living a healthy life and loving your body! This week she tackles a very very very important topic: DIET CULTURE
Coordinated Program in Dietetics
The University of Texas at Austin
I remember once searching the internet for “healthy” snacks and reading about swapping toast for a rice cracker. Since the rice cracker was half the calories, I believed that it must be the “healthier” option. I immediately went to the grocery store and bought rice crackers only to find that after eating my snack I was still hungry and extremely unsatisfied. Honestly, an actual slice of bread would have been so much more filling in my opinion. Yet, I continued to purchase rice crackers instead. What made me so adamant to choose the rice crackers instead of a snack that was truly satisfying? The answer to that is DIET CULTURE.
What is Diet Culture?
“Diet culture is a system of knowledge, values, and meanings that supports interpretations of personal health choices as moral character.”—Kate Browne, PhD
My brief anecdote was just one small example of how diet culture can influence a decision about food. This happens ALL the time, so much so that we usually don’t even notice it. Some other examples of diet culture include:
· labeling foods as good or bad
· exercising as punishment for eating
· talking about food, weight, exercise, diets, etc. excessively
· feeling the need to justify the way you eat
· following rules of when and how to eat
· feeling anxious when making decisions about food
· feeling guilty after eating
· restricting food groups or specific foods, believing them to be inferior to other foods
· using external rather than internal cues regarding your hunger
· avoiding social situations if the food being served is not “healthy”
· allowing your worth to be based on your body size or weight
The list goes on.
So, what exactly is so harmful about diet culture?
Diet culture assigns morality to all food choices.
A lot of the focus in diet culture is on weight loss, but it influences so many different decisions made about food in our society. Diet culture sends a message that some food choices are good and others are bad. For example, rice cracker=good, bread=bad, salad=good, cookie=bad or paleo/vegan/keto =good, sugar = bad. This doesn’t take into account the many different reasons we eat food (connection, celebration, taste, satisfaction, nourishment etc.) The truth is personal health is exactly that, PERSONAL.
Diet culture teaches us not to trust our bodies.
Diet culture creates distrust between our minds and bodies, making us think we need to follow some specific diet or plan to know what to eat. Every new diet or “healthy lifestyle” trend tells us that there is a right way to eat and a right way to look. When we listen to our body it tells us all of its needs, and regulates our energy and shape the way it’s supposed to.
Humans have been eating intuitively for millions of years so why do we not trust our bodies to do what they were designed to do? Well, then we wouldn’t pay billions of dollars toward to weight loss industry.
Diet culture tells us that our bodies determine our value.
Diet Culture emphasizes that the size and shape of our body are the most important factors in determining our worth. It disregards all of the other qualities that make us unique and significant in this world such as compassion, interests, skills, goals, character, leadership, empathy etc. The media often focuses on appearances, teaching people that their body must reach a certain standard to become acceptable and be valued.
Diet culture is intersectional.
Diet culture encourages fat-phobia which is extremely harmful to everyone, but particularly people in larger bodies. It also overlaps with other unjust social systems including racism, ableism, and sexism. It relates to problems within our food system due to lack of food access, health inequity, and oppression while also ignoring many factors that influence body size and health including genetics, the environment, stress, socioeconomic status, etc.
Diet culture is intricately weaved into the threads of our society. Thankfully there are people starting to shift the culture by rejecting its ideologies and promoting self-love and body positivity for everyone. It all starts with the individual taking steps to heal their own relationship with food and body and then helping others to do the same.
I literally couldn't have said it better myself :)
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