New fad diets, expectations about appearance, weight loss … it is all in our faces all the time. Especially if you identify as a woman, you may find yourself at the mercy of what is called “diet culture.” Just how much you have been affected by this machine of our society depends on many factors, such as your weight, age, sex, race and even genetics. Saying no to diet culture means taking back your power to live in your body, free of outside judgement and harm.
“I just want to lose weight to be healthy”
Many of us have made the new year’s resolution of losing weight. For some, it may have been a necessity brought on by illness or a doctor’s request. For most, however, it is a direct result of our culture’s obsession with being thin. Whether or not you are trying to lose weight isn’t necessarily the issue. The problem comes when we ask ourselves why we are trying to shed those pounds.
Do we think that thin means fit? Because that is what is fed to us through the many media sources we subscribe to daily. Diet culture tells us there is one way to be (and only one way) and that you must be this way to be a good person. That is why we tend to judge people’s health based on their weight, which is a miscalculation since being thin doesn’t necessarily equate to good health and being what is called “overweight” in our culture doesn’t necessarily mean someone is sick.
What should we focus on if not weight?
Diet culture doesn’t want us to eat healthy so that we feel empowered in our bodies. Instead, it tells us we aren’t enough so that we need to eat healthy just to be worthy (by being thin). This is where intuitive eating comes into play. Yes, we have all learned that eating a healthy, whole foods diet packed with fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and legumes is incredibly important for having the vitality you need to take over the world. However, when you reach for that apple instead of something you are scared will make you gain weight, you may be caving to the pressures of diet culture.
Intuitive eating purports that it is OK to feel pleasure while eating our favorite foods. It is also OK to eat any food you want in moderation. The key is listening to your body instead of what the talking heads of our society say about weight. Beauty and health standards are not an absolute. Eating healthy is a great way to fuel your body so your inner light can shine but eating that doughnut won’t take away your beauty.
Kick dieting to the curb
If, after reading this, you are finding that diet culture may have a hold on you, welcome to the club. It has a hold on most of us, but there are some things we can do to kick it to the curb and choose our bodies over some idealized version of perfection:
- Take time to check in with yourself by looking in the mirror and seeing how you react to your body.
- Ask yourself what external factors are influencing how you feel about your body right now.
- Find what choice you have in terms of how much you want to respond to those external factors.
- Listen to how others speak to you regarding food and your body to see if diet culture is hiding within your interpersonal relationships.
- Be intentional about the language you use and the commentary you accept.
- Heal your relationship with food through intuitive eating by honoring your hunger and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.
- Work with a professional to reach your goals in a safe and healthy way.
Lastly, befriend your body by taking time to listen, paying attention to its needs, and acting with compassion toward yourself. If you wouldn’t treat your best friend the way you are treating yourself, then it is time to reexamine things. By saying no to diet culture, you are embarking on an empowered life in which you can say yes to your own body and health.