Increasingly, the general public is becoming more aware that diets do not work and are a product of large companies trying to sell a product for their own profit. Though we may feel able to reject formal diets, diet culture runs much deeper and we could be participating in diet culture without even realizing it! Diet culture is the societal systems, structures and media representations that consistently idealize thinness, putting it on a pedestal, and in turn equating fatness with “bad” “unhealthy” or “wrong.”
Though diet culture praises thinness, it is a shapeshifter in how it appears transforming from diets to “wellness plans” or “lifestyle goals.” Anything that tells you what or how much to eat is a diet. Regardless of what it’s called.
Don’t get tricked by diet culture in disguise! These are three habits that don’t consist of following a “diet” but are examples of perpetuating diet culture:
- Making food choices solely based on calorie, carb, fat, etc. content
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and simply ordered what you wanted off the menu just because it sounded good? Not because it was the “healthier” option or the one that produces less guilt?Sadly, this feels unfathomable to many.
If you’re deciding what to eat solely based on the nutrition label, this is still a form of restriction. Gentle nutrition is very valid (e.g. I want to incorporate some protein on my plate so I stay full for longer on this shopping trip) but it is a later step in the intuitive eating journey after you’ve given yourself permission to have all foods, labeling none as “good” or “bad.”
- “Working off” a big meal or eating less because you feel you ate too much previously
Even if you “allow all foods” – engaging in restrictive or compensatory behaviors to “make up” for eating a meal is still assigning that meal a level of morality and suggesting you can only have it if you burn it off or restrict in other ways. You did nothing wrong. You had a meal and are maybe even a little full. Fullness is not a sign of failure and guilt has no place on your plate.
- Complimenting weight loss
“You look so good!” “How did you do it” “What’s your secret?” We see this everywhere from Instagram comments to passing remarks between friends said casually as a compliment. When you’re complimenting someone’s appearance or weight loss you could be complimenting an eating disorder, grief, disease, postpartum depression or other internal struggle that is manifesting itself in weight loss. Though your intention is to pay a compliment, this person may be feeling stuck – other non-appearance compliments could be “Your humor lights up a room!” “I always feel so understood around you” or “You’re such a good listener.”
If you find yourself curious about diet culture, how you might be participating in it and how to escape, reach out to our therapists for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC