How many times have you been scrolling through your social media and seen an ad for a magic green juice that will help you lose 10 pounds in a week? Or a friend trying to sell a little pill that will burn all the fat in your body and get you ready for hot girl summer? Welcome to diet culture, my friends. There isn’t a single day that goes by that I am not reminded that to be “healthy”, “attractive”, or “love my body” I must strive for thinness.
“Diet culture has many facets and nuances, but to put it generally, it’s a belief system that values body shape, weight, and size over actual health and wellbeing,” said Callie Exas, CMPH, MS RDN, and founder of Calie Exas Nutrition & Wellness. Diet culture has taught us that certain foods are “good”, and others are “bad” and if we are to achieve health and wellness then we can’t eat the “bad”. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a recipe for some shame and self-hatred.
Still not sure you know what diet culture is or if you’ve ever experienced it firsthand? Well, let’s talk about 3 myths diet culture has taught us that you might not have even been aware of!
Over the years, the body type women are told they should strive for (as portrayed largely in the media) has fluctuated some, but there has always been the underlying belief that thinness is the gold standard and the key to loving your body. How many times have you thought “if I just lose 20 pounds, I would be happy”? If you were one of those people that went on the diet and drank the green drinks and lost the 20 pounds, can I ask you something? Were you happier? Some of you may say yes, but I can bet that most of you would answer, no. That’s because the amount of weight you lose does not equate to the satisfaction/love you have for your body. The scale does not tell the whole story.
We have been conditioned to believe that being a certain weight means you are either healthy or unhealthy. For so long, society viewed the Body Mass Index (BMI) as the ultimate detection of whether you were healthy, simply by measuring your height and weight. I’m here to tell you folks, the BMI scale is bologna (not only is that my very strong opinion, but it’s also been proven to be completely inaccurate). What the BMI scale did teach us was the belief that you had to be a certain size to be healthy. There are plenty of people in thin bodies that are unwell, just like there are loads of people in larger bodies that are in optimum health. We simply can not use weight as an indicator for health, happiness, and body positivity.
Society is changing and so is the acceptance of larger, curvier bodies. Unfortunately, the movement of body positivity has brought along this belief that you should love your body all the time. I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not feel positive about my body all the time. Does that mean that I can’t still respect my body and recognize all the cool and wonderful things that it does for me? ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is an unrealistic expectation to love your body 100 percent of the time. An expectation that will likely lead to harsh tactics like restrictive diets and feelings of shame, disgust, self-loathing, the list goes on. When it feels impossible to love or even respect your body, it can be helpful to try and take a stance of body neutrality. That is, you don’t have to cultivate a love for your body, but you can still respect and appreciate all that your body does for you. Because it does a lot!
Bottom line, diet culture may try to disguise itself as something positive but if the underlying goal is to try and get your body smaller, it’s not wellness. It’s a diet. If you are struggling with the effects diet culture has had on how you view your body, food, wellness, etc. we’re here to help! Book an appointment today or give us a call!
Emily Urbaniak is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Lifeologie Katy. She specializes in eating disorders, anxiety, athletes/sports performance, Christian counseling, life transitions, and young adults. She aims to create a therapeutic relationship built on positive regard, empathy and congruence. To find out more about Emily, check out her biography!