There are a million ways one can describe a diet mentality or culture, and becoming aware of how this exists in our lives is a huge step to making food choices in a different light. The diet mentality has become so engrained in us that it takes part of everyday nuances, sometimes without us knowing. The good ‘ole “ugh, I need to work off that XYZ from this morning,” all the way to “have you lost weight? You look fantastic!” Mundane comments, even when meant to be complimentary, turn out to be dipped in morality and smothered in fatphobia. Christy Harrison defines this impeccably in her blog found here and can be summed up as this:
Diet culture is a belief system that …
- Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue
- Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status
- Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others
- Oppresses people who don’t match this supposed picture of “health”(1)
The current culture of food, eating and bodies is diet culture.
The mechanism of the diet industry isn’t complex. It’s quite simple actually – fear monger people around food and health, supply diets and ways of eating that [at minimum] have no evidence of sustainability, and cause enough shame and concern around bodies that everyone ultimately feels like a failure and tries another restrictive diet**. BIG. MONEY. Not only is this mastermind manipulation status, but it’s become so normal that we’ve stopped questioning it.
**Want more on ways diets “don’t work”? Keep an eye out my newest blog for some science on Friday, July 12th**
The crux of rejecting diet mentality is to start questioning what you know (or think you know). Why do I eat this way? What factors influence the foods I choose? Does how I feel about my body image affect my food choices? My self-worth? If so, where does the message that my body isn’t okay, come from? When did it start? This can be difficult, and often times best supported with the help of a Registered Dietitian or a therapist, but can provide a lot of insight into the depth of your diet ditch.
So, are you suddenly realizing that your diet ditch is legit? NO WORRIES. Because this is where we start to make change. There are tons of ways to reject and challenge notions of diet culture. Some will be easy, some will be challenging, but all will be freeing. Here are a few examples:
- Toss your diet resources! You know, that stack of books in the corner of your home that taught you all about Weight Watchers, Atkins, Beach Body, Keto etc. TRASH ‘EM. Throw them in your summer bon fire or let your kid tear them to shreds – it doesn’t matter how. This is a super active form of rejecting diet culture. It means getting rid of anything that has told you how to eat, what to eat, when to eat it, when not to eat it, which foods are “better than” and which to avoid. Now it’s your turn to explore and decide those things.
[Want to replace those monsters with new resources? Might I suggest getting your hands on a copy of the following: Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch, Landwhale by Jess Baker, Shrill by Lindy West, or Body Kindness by Rebecca Schritchfield and SO. MANY. MORE]
2. Detox your social media [probably the only time I’d agree with this wordage.] Time to take a Marie Kondo approach and delete/unfollow anything and everyone that doesn’t speak to your sparkly little heart. Not feeling that cousin’s before and after pics? It’s okay to take a break from them. Sick of that celebrity’s ads for yet another tea or supplement? Goodbye. Find yourself making comparisons to that co-worker with the perfect partner, and perfect kids, and perfect vacations? See ya later. Social media is FAMOUS for being used as a means to portray a highlight reel. Nothing is as it seems, and this can be super distracting when building a healthy relationship with yourself.
[Need some new, inspiring people to light up your Insta feed? Replace the old and look up some of my faves: @newmoonrd @colleenmwerner @yourhappyhealthyrd @hgoodrichrd @rebeccaschritchfield @dietitiananna @tessholliday @yrfatfriend @chr1styharrison and SO. MANY. MORE.]
3. Watch your language! Rejecting diet mentality is both internal and external work. Being critical of the language you use in your head, whether toward yourself or others, is just as important as changing your language in overt conversation. Certain phrases and verbiage to look out for include the moralization of food [ie. naming foods as good vs. bad, healthy vs. unhealthy], any means of equating body size with assumed health, ability, or morality, and of course, negative or judgmental body/food commentary. Your body is YOUR business [and vice versa]. Don’t forget, you spend the most time with yourself – make it a pleasant experience.
[Need suggestions on how to navigate unhelpful body or food conversations? Keep an eye out for another upcoming blog!]
This is just the beginning. Seriously, this can be a long and twisted road. Something I love about IE is that it reminds people that they are the experts of their bodies and lived experiences. Every persons’ adjustment to rejecting diet culture will be different – for some it may feel freeing and invigorating, while for others it may feel challenging and lonely. No matter the case, know that you deserve it, and you are never alone. You deserve to find and feel peace within yourself, and freedom from the grip of diet culture.
So, why not start now?
**Disclaimer: Nothing written on this website is a substitute for professional medical, nutritional, or therapeutic services. Although meant to provide hope and inspiration, these suggestions cannot take place of any individual nutrition therapy recommendations for any person. I intend to encompass recent research, but please understand that both research and science are constantly changing as I do my best to change with it.**
- Source: Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN, What Is Diet Culture? https://christyharrison.com/blog/what-is-diet-culture