I talk about diet culture a lot, and for good reason. Every single one of us is swimming in a sea of diet culture. It influences everything from how we speak and exercise to what we eat and wear.
Diet culture is a system of beliefs and values that prioritizes body weight, shape, and size over health and well-being.
Diet culture places a moral value on behaviors, products, and goals that are designed to achieve a specific body type.
All of us have had uncomfortable run-ins with diet culture throughout our lives. Some of my own memories include a friend in elementary school teaching me how to “suck in” my stomach, and my brothers teasing me and calling me a “trash compactor” because I loved food. And diet culture’s influence is only getting stronger with the rise of social media.
It’s a common misconception that you have to be dieting in an official capacity to be participating in diet culture. And while being on a named diet such as keto or paleo is one way you can partake in diet culture, you can still support diet culture’s agenda and make choices based on the diet mentality even if you’re not dieting.
Diet culture can look like following external food rules, putting food into black and white categories like “clean” and “dirty,” judging other people for how they eat or dress, making assumptions about people based on their size, etc.
It’s also important to realize that diet culture is a system of oppression that interacts with other systems of oppression such as racism, ageism, fatphobia, ableism, and classism. “Wellness culture,” an offshoot of diet culture, especially evokes classism by suggesting that to be well we must partake in pricey trends.
Learning all of this about diet culture may make you feel disbelief or anger. But in order to move forward, it’s important to forgive yourself for the time, money, and energy you’ve spent on conforming to diet culture up to this point.
If you’re hoping to move beyond diet culture, I recommend learning everything you can about diet culture, Health At Every Size, intuitive eating, etc. You’ll also have to do a lot of unlearning and expand your definition of health beyond the narrow cultural definition we’ve been given.
I also recommend bringing awareness to your language and making some changes. Remove moralizing language about food and bodies from your vocabulary and stop associating exercise with food consumption. Ditch the shaming language around food and bodies and don’t tell people what they should and shouldn’t be eating.
Remember – being anti-diet or anti-diet culture doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to care about your health anymore. It just means that your decisions about your health can come from a place of self-care instead of a place of self-control.
If you’re ready to take the leap, you don’t have to do it alone. You can find communities of people who feel similarly about ditching diet culture or work with a coach or other professional to improve your relationship with exercise, food, and your body.
Mentioned in this Episode:
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders eating disorder statistics
- National Eating Disorders Association list of eating disorders risk factors
- The Silicon Valley phenomenon of “biohacking” [CW: descriptions of disordered eating behaviors]
- The alkaline water trend
- BMI is a lie
- My free Facebook group, Redefining Health & Wellness
- The Health At Every Size free Facebook group
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Featured on this Episode:
Shohreh Davoodi, the host of the Redefining Health & Wellness podcast, is a weight-inclusive wellness coach located in Austin, Texas. She is certified in intuitive eating and personal training and helps clients improve their relationships with exercise, food, and their bodies. You can work with Shohreh online from anywhere in the world. Find her on her website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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