Okay, well first things first, what even is diet culture?
Diet culture is effectively a belief system that focuses on and values weight shape and size over wellbeing.
Those who argue against diet culture believe that it would rather you were malnourished and extremely ill but “skinny” than being a healthy version of yourself but storing a little bit of extra fat. It glorifies people being their absolute leanest, whether thats through the pro-anorexia term #thinspiration or the more fitness focused #fitspiration.
But why does this exist you may ask?
Because it a multi-million dollar industry. It relies on people’s insecurities and knows exactly how to exploit them. Think skinny teas, Herbalife and diet shakes. Diet culture sells you things that will damage your health long term but with the one pro that you’ll be deemed “skinny”.
Obviously we can all agree that this kind of diet culture is toxic, but where is the line drawn. Some people argue that counting calories and tracking macros are obsessive parts of diet culture, but some would just say its how they chose to collect data. There are few that argue weight loss itself feeds into diet culture.
Many think that to be apart of debunking diet culture you need to completely step away from health and fitness altogether, because surely there’s no way you can get rid of one toxic part of an industry without getting rid of it all, right?
Wrong. You definitely do not need to step away from fitness in order to debunk diet culture, and heres how to. Debunking diet culture isn’t all about eating cake and forgetting about kale.
1. If you want to lose weight, find your ‘why’.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose a bit of weight, but think about why you want to do it. If its only for aesthetic reasons do some self reflecting on why you feel that way and what has made you feel that way about yourself. Is it because what you saw in a magazine? If so you’re probably feeding into diet culture. But perhaps when you think about it, while yes you do have aesthetic motivators, your main reasoning is because you remember before daily activities, like going for a walk, were easier than they are now. Or maybe you want to be able to chase your children around and play with them.
Non aesthetic reasons are still valid reasons for wanting to lose weight, and by thinking about weight loss like this it can stop you from feeding into diet culture.
2. Stop calling it a ‘diet’.
Okay, great so you’ve found your ‘why’ but now you keep talking about your ‘diet’. Stop.
By calling it a diet you’re feeding into diet culture. If you’re truly focused on becoming a better
version of yourself call it a lifestyle change. Because, realistically, that’s what you’re doing. You’ve changed aspects of your lifestyle in order to reach a new goal. Its the same as if you wanted a promotion at work you might change how you act in order to get that promotion. By creating a ‘lifestyle change’ as opposed to putting yourself on a ‘diet’ you take yourself further away from the toxic elements of diet culture.
3. Do movement you enjoy.
One of the key components to living a healthy lifestyle is staying active. How can you take this away from diet culture?
Do what you enjoy! If you don’t want to do all of the Insanity DVDs on repeat, don’t do them. A massive part of diet culture is that what you’re doing in pursuit of being ‘skinny’ makes you miserable. So, to debunk diet culture here just do whatever you enjoy. That could literally be putting your favourite songs on and having a dance party for one in the kitchen, going on a walk or spending an hour in the gym doing some heavy lifting.
If you find a type of exercise you enjoy you’ll probably find you’ll reap a lot more mental benefits from it as well and therefore you’ll enjoy the process a lot more than when you’re forcing yourself to do something you hate.
4. Eat foods that nourish you but also foods you enjoy.
Obviously a massive part of diet culture is taking whole food groups out in the pursuit of weight loss. From keto to being vegan (for weight loss reasons, obviously if you choose to be vegan for ethical reasons that has nothing to do with diet culture), restriction is a major part of diet culture. But the reality is, if you want the cake eat the cake. However, if you want to live a healthy lifestyle still make sure you’re getting your fruits and veggies in. I promise you there’s nothing wrong with carbs, but diet culture wants you to think otherwise.
5. Remember – you are an individual!
Everyone is individual in their needs and wants as a person and that’s something diet culture forgets. Diet culture wants you to think its a one size fits all approach and if it doesn’t work for you there’s something wrong with you, when realistically thats not the case at all. Each body is different and each body reacts to things differently. Never beat yourself up because you see someone being successful on something like the grapefruit diet, because chances are 1. They’re malnourished, and 2. They aren’t happy.
Just try and create a lifestyle that works for you as individual regardless of whether it works for anyone else!
Lastly, diet culture can be a very difficult thing to debunk. Whether we like it or not we find that its rooted deep within our subconscious and it can take a really long time to get out of the diet culture mindset of fearing food groups and forcing yourself to do exercise you hate. It might take a long time to stop subconsciously valuing yourself based on your weight, shape and size rather than you’re wellbeing, but thats okay, just try to remember you are so much more than that regardless of what skinny tea adverts on instagram will tell you.