It’s that time of the year again when everyone is talking about their bodies, fitness and the food they consumed over the Christmas period. January is a well known time for diet companies and fitness brands to continuously promote weight loss programmes and to guilt shame you into checking out their products, giving you the hope that you can shift any weight you may or may not have put on at Christmas.
This desire that we must workout come January and start to eat healthy food to get rid of any weight we might have put on during the festive period is one that I dread every single year. It’s something as a society we have become obsessed with doing and every single year it happens. We have created a society that focuses on and values weight, shape and size over things like our health and wellbeing.
This is more commonly known as Diet Culture.
Even just reading that makes me feel sick.
No one should be made to feel like their weight or their size is more important than their health or happiness. It’s disgusting to think that us as a society has created this reality. We millennial’s have become obsessed with our bodies and the way we look, driven by the likes of social media and living our lives online. Everywhere we go there is pressure to look a certain way or to be #bodygoals. This type of goal focusing has become the main focus in all of our lives at least once.
We are disguising diet culture with eating patterns that are supposed to be in the name of health, but the reality could not be further from this. It has become so focused on weight, shape or size. Skinny is deemed good and fat is deemed bad. Our bodies are constantly being forced to change through behaviours, ideas and customs with no thought going to our happiness or well-being beforehand.
Both celebrities and every day people like you and me are guilty of being sucked into this sad reality. We’ve become fascinated with losing weight and trying to be a particular body type because we have it brain washed into us that if we’re ‘thinner’ then we’re going to be happier, more attractive, healthier and more successful.
The truth behind this is no matter how much you believe losing weight will make you feel better all around it doesn’t. Sure being a healthy weight and living a healthy lifestyle is good for our overall health, but being a certain weight isn’t going to bring us instant happiness, success or change our attractiveness.
Being accepting and loving the body you already have will be the only way you will be able to achieve these things. If you can love the body you already have and take good care of it, then you’re already ensuring yourself so much happiness, health and success. When you are confident in your body, you already are attracting success by believing in yourself. And remember confidence is very attractive.
These things will be bring more happiness than following the rules that diet culture puts out.
I could go on all day about the things that are wrong with diet culture, but for the sake of this post, I thought I would touch on the main things that are wrong with diet culture and also how we as a society can promote body positivity:
1. Diet culture does not support the value of all body types:
When growing up all I can remember seeing is girls plastered on every women’s magazine with one main body type. They were all tall and skinny. No one was ever curvy or bigger. This was and still is a body type that sadly is promoted everywhere. The obsession with trying to be #bodygoals has got out of control. Why aren’t we taught to love our bodies for what they are? Our bodies are more than just are weight or our shape. They help to keep us alive and keep us going every single day. Our bodies have enabled us to experience feelings and help us to do things we wouldn’t be able to do without them. So why is everyone so quick to put them down?
This may come as a surprise to you, but not all healthy bodies are those that are slim and slender. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. There is not just one body type that is the healthiest. There is so much diversity in healthy bodies. It’s also good to know that weight isn’t always an indicator to a persons overall health or fitness. You could have someone who weighs a lot more, but eats a more balanced diet and works out more times than say someone who weighs less.
The weight of someone should not matter. Instead it takes away the person behind the body we are not supporting. You do not need to be a certain weight or size to be a good person. You cannot determine who is a good person on the way they look. People are more than their bodies. They are worth more than what diet culture labels them as.
2. Diet culture contributes to low self esteem and body images issues:
We are all aware of the dramatic rise in mental health conditions such as eating disorders and body dysmorphia, diet culture is a huge contributing factor to these illnesses. Diet Culture influences low self esteem and body image issues. It makes more and more of us insecure in the bodies we have and puts us down for not looking a particular way. This #bodygoals fascination that I keep banging on about is very talked about in the world right now. It is driving bad self esteem and the pressure to be a particular way. It is based on unattainable goals that only works for the individual who is being desired. Your body should not be made to look like someone else. Your body is yours and it is yours only. Be your own body goals and work towards a better you without the pressure.
Diet culture doesn’t just stop there though. There’s also the ways in which diet culture makes us feel bad for the foods we are. It decides for us what foods are good and bad. When we eat these so called ‘bad’ foods and we don’t get enough of the ‘good’ foods, we are then made to feel guilt and shame. This can then lead on to disordered eating as we then restrict ourselves or change our eating habits to compensate for these feelings. By doing this, diet culture is telling us that we must feel ashamed when we eat a particular food and it completely gets rid of the pleasure that comes from eating the foods we enjoy.
Eating disorders can steal lives. No one should have their life taken away by something that has been driven by diet culture. We should not be made to feel like failures if we eat a particular food and have to go to lengths of restricting ourselves. If you feel like you are struggling right now with an eating disorder, then please visit Beat (the UK’s eating disorder charity) for more help and support. You deserve to live your life to the full without this illness stealing it from you.
3. Diet culture clarifies the good and the bad food:
As I just previously mentioned, diet culture is very good at categorising foods into what is good and what is bad. The guilt and shame that follows after consuming the bad is not healthy. It is what drives our bad self esteem and body issues. It has to stop. These so called ‘bad’ foods should not be made to feel us guilty. They are not a sin or a cheat. The conversations we have about food can lead to us having to justify why we are eating a particular food in fear of judgement or shame. Everyone has to stop being so judgemental about what foods others eat.
If you eat everything in moderation and have a good balanced diet of all the different food groups, then you are living more of a healthier life than if you were restricting yourself. Eating the foods you enjoy whether they are labelled as good or bad is a brilliant way of practising self love and care. This will bring you more happiness than trying to look like that girl on Instagram or only eating salads every day. The pleasure you will get from doing this is far greater than having to follow a certain set of rules diet culture tries to get you to follow.
4. Diet culture contributes to body shaming:
Society has a cruel way of body shaming individuals for the way they look. Body shaming involves someone humiliating or mocking someone with harsh comments regarding their body shape or size. It doesn’t just happen to someone who is bigger, it can also happen to those who are smaller then average. Society does not discriminate who it aims its comments at, but it is always about their body. It isn’t just people you meet on the streets or those hiding behind their computer screens, its also diet companies, magazines and newspapers, on TV and in the movies. Its everywhere and it is also a very dangerous form of verbal bullying.
People body shame to try make you feel guilty for the way you look. It takes away that value of the person and only treats them in how the mocker sees their body. It can contribute to people getting mental health illnesses and may even cause people to take their own lives. Instead of being brutal and harsh, we should be promoting self love and acceptance of own bodies, as well as other peoples. Tearing someone else down for their size isn’t going to make you anymore attractive. But diet culture teaches us that size and shape do matter, not our wellbeing. It is best to challenge this and be the better person. Don’t shame someone for how they look. Would you want someone to do the same to you?
Ways in which we can promote body positivity and get rid of diet culture:
- Change your relationship towards food. Food is food. It is good. It is not the enemy. It provides wonderful value and can bring a lot of enjoyment.
- Love your body for what it is and what it does for you e.g it keeps you alive.
- Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
- Unfollow those who make you feel bad for the way you look.
- Talk less about why you’re eating a particular food and more about how amazing it is.
- Delete diet and fitness apps.
- Aim for a balanced diet with no group restrictions.
- Be less judgemental on ourselves and others for their bodies. Think about the person first.
- Accept and praise your body.
- Get rid of negative self talk. It won’t help you.
- Promote body positivity and encourage others to be more kind to themselves and others.
Disclaimer: I just want to say that by no means am I encouraging people to be unhealthy and to put themselves at risk healthwise by not taking care of themselves. But I am hopefully highlighting that by being kinder to ourselves and eating a mixture of different foods in moderation, we’re giving ourselves more love and happiness than dieting and trying to be a particular body type ever will. Instead of allowing people to decide what we should and shouldn’t be eating, we need to look inside and see what our body needs. We need to ask ourselves ‘What do I fancy?’ By doing this, we’re creating that happy relationship with food that we all want to have without the shame and guilt hanging over us for doing something we love.
Do you notice diet culture?