Those two words – “diet culture” – are being thrown around online like confetti at the moment. But there are two small words with a big impact, it seems. In all honesty, it is only recently that I have truly started really listening the ‘diet culture’ narrative, and have begun to understand what the heck everyone is getting up-in-arms about.
But I have found that the more I learn, the more I want to contribute to this narrative, and draw attention to the way in which ‘diet culture’ weaves its way into daily life, without us knowing, and can sneakily influence our thoughts, perspectives and choices. Not to be a drama queen, but when you know what you’re looking for, you see that it is literally everywhere – and I mean everyyywhere.
Whilst I feel like there is now (at least) a basic understanding of that fact that “fad” and “crash” diets; A) aren’t sustainable B) don’t create lasting behaviour change and C) are pretty much the worst (full stop), the highlighting of ‘diet culture’ has brought about another level of subtle, yet tricksy, elements to get our head around.
I’m no expert, obviously, and I would never profess to be as such. But I am big on sharing knowledge and understanding, about things that matter – and I think this matters. So even though my understanding is only ‘beginner level’ I can still share the basics. And then I can point you in the right direction, and tell you who you can surround yourself with – virtually speaking – to learn even more. Ready? Let’s go.
What is ‘Diet Culture’?
Diet Culture doesn’t mean “being on a diet”. You can get all sorts of ‘caught up’ in diet culture, without even knowing – which is what makes it so menacing! In a nutshell…
…diet culture promotes the belief and expectation that your worth is influenced by, and dependant on, the size, shape or look of your body.
Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN is a leading non-diet expert and her definition of ‘diet-culture’ is used widely throughout the non-diet space. She explains that diet culture is a system of beliefs that:
- Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue.
- Leads you to believe that 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.
- Demonises certain ways of eating while elevating others.
- Oppresses people who don’t match up with societies supposed picture of “health”
Even the championed ‘health’ diets, like Clean Eating, Keto and 5:2, may seem like they are a more #balanced approach to eating and wellness, but if you dig beneath the surface, the unscrupulous demonisation of certain foods, food groups, portion sizes and eating behaviours is still the crux of their so-called popularity and ‘success’.
How to Spot Diet Culture
I’ll apologise in advance because once you start noticing it, there’s no going back. It’s very hard to un-see. It’s in TV advertising, it’s at the gym, it’s in supermarkets, it’s in the conversations you’ll hear at work and that you have with you friends. How often have you seen or heard the following:
- Personal Trainers selling six, eight or twelve week ‘transformations‘ at the gym or online
- “I’m planning on going on doing X, but I need to lose a few pounds first“
- “Cheat meals” / “Guilt-free” snacks / “Clean” food
- The idea that you have to ‘earn‘ food or that you ‘deserve’ a treat because you’ve “been good recently“
- Feeling the need to ‘get back on track’ after a holiday or a weekend
What Can You Do?
My advice, is learn to recognise the signs, in real life (#IRL) and critically evaluate what you’re seeing, reading, hearing and choosing to consume (in terms of the information you are exposing yourself to). Educate yourself about how diet culture might be at play in your own life, and reject that diet mentality and start calling yourself out on your on those thought processes, sayings and behaviours.
I’m a firm believer that the wallpaper of your life matters and there are a lot of anti-diet dieticians and nutrition professionals now sharing their knowledge online – particularly on instagram. By surrounding yourself with positive anti-diet influences in your virtual space, and reading the information they share, you will (slowly, but surely) make tracks towards a healthier (actually healthier) relationship with food and your body.
There are soooo many people you could follow, but the few accounts I’ve shared below are the ones who initiated my own interested in anti-diet culture, and that share their knowledge in a way that is easy to digest, understand and take on board. Whether you’re a fan of a lengthy caption, a podcast, or the quick and simple infographic, there’ll be someone for you…
Evelyn Tribole: The Original Intuitive Eating Pro
Tally Rye – Personal Trainer and advocate for a ‘Health First’ approach to fitness
Tally and the rest of the @GirlGains crew also have a podcast called Fit and Fearless (linked) which also comes with 10/10 recommendation from me!
Laura Thomas, PhD – Intuitive Eating and Non-Diet Registered Nutritionist
Another podcast recommendation – Laura hosts her own podcast, Don’t Salt My Game, where she chats to industry experts and body-positivity advocated about all things health and wellness. She also has a book, Just Eat It, which I’m yet to read but am led to believe is amazing.
Christy Harrison – Anti-Diet Dietician
Caroline Dooner – Author of The F*ck It Diet
You can also follow me, and my health and fitness journey, as I try to implement the anti-diet approach and health-first mentality into my training, food choices and self-care routines, day-to-day. You can find me on instagram @moll_eatsandlifts.
Until next time,