Diet culture is a system of beliefs that equate thinness with health. Diet culture is a world that promotes weight loss as a means of being a good person and attaining a higher status. Diet culture elevates certain ways of eating while making other ways of eating shameful. Diet culture creates unrealistic expectations and it is everywhere. It permeates our daily lives, our relationships, the things that we see and read, and so much more. The mindset of diet culture is doing more harm than good because it does not focus on overall health.
A key facet of diet culture has made being on a diet the norm. There is substantial research showing the harm that diets cause in the long term. A meta-study, looked at several weight loss studies and found that most dieters were able to lose up to 10% of their weight in the short term (6 months – 1 year) but that 4 – 5 years later, they had regained the weight–plus more! Dieting has other side effects such as contributing to our damaged relationship with food, slowing down metabolism, leading to emotional eating, and restricting foods that can cause us to miss out on important nutrients.
Here are some ways to reframe your thoughts and get out of a diet culture mindset…
- Stop acting like losing weight is the most amazing thing a person can do. We’ve all done it, complimented someone because they look smaller. This compliment seems to be beneficial but it is rooted in our diet culture mindset of a person’s size equals their worth. There are plenty of other things to compliment someone one besides their weight loss, like the great job they did on a work project!
- Get rid of your scale. The scale is not a measure of your worth. It’s a number that can and does change from hour to hour and day to day based on body fluctuations that are completely normal. If your mood or how you feel about yourself can be set and determined by the number on the scale, get rid of the scale.
- Detox your technology. Take a good hard look at the social media accounts you follow, the blogs you read, and the websites that you regularly visit. Do any of them make you feel bad about your food choices or your weight? If the answer is yes, get rid of them. Then fill your technology with people and things that uplift you
- Work on making peace with food. Many aspects of diet culture are about food. Diet culture tells us that there are good foods and bad foods. It tells us that we should eat a certain way. Instead of following what diet culture says about food, make peace with food. Eat based on what your body is telling you that it needs. Eat based on what makes you feel good. Eat based on what tastes good and is satisfying for you.
Breaking free of diet culture can be difficult, exhausting, and a little scary. It’s a process and it’s okay to need support and guidance during this process. If you’re reading to ditch diets and become friends with food but aren’t sure where or how to start, please reach out – Friendly Nutrition is here to support you.
Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew A-M, Samuels B, Chatman J. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments. Am Psychol. 2007;62(3):220–233.