Click below for the audio version.
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth
Last week Kim Kardashian received a lot of backlash from the body positive community because of her endorsement for appetite suppressing lollipops. The Good Place Star Jameela Jamil who is part of the body positive community expressed how she felt about Kim’s endorsement "MAYBE don’t take appetite suppressors and eat enough to fuel your BRAIN and work hard and be successful.”
I was so proud to see so many comments on Kim’s post of women who just had ENOUGH. Enough of the giving a shit about diet culture and the pressure to be perfect. It was also mental awareness week and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate is usually women and most of them never receive treatment. This week I wanted to talk about what Diet culture is and how you can stay away from it with a new way of thinking about food that involves intuitive eating where you trust your body to eat when you are hungry to fully nourish it.
What is Diet Culture? Diet culture is a system that focuses on valuing someone’s health based on how thin they are, and their moral character based on their food choices. When I heard the term diet culture I thought that it just meant the obsession people have with the newest fad diets. As that is part of it the meaning and harm diet culture has on people goes so much deeper. Diet culture targets women specifically and equates being healthy with being thin. It focuses on weight loss instead of teaching people actual health. This is where all the magic diet pills, shakes, and programs come from telling us that first, we need to change ourselves because surely, we can’t possibly love ourselves not being thin. Diet culture puts images in our head that fat is disgusting and that if you have rolls you are unworthy or anything in life.
As Jameela Jamil stated why can’t women be concerned about changing the world instead of changing our pant size? Diet culture takes away so much energy and time from us and we don’t realize it. Stressing out and feeling guilty about eating a donut should not be normal. Punishing yourself at the gym because you ate “bad” food instead of exercising because you want to. Diet culture has assigned what is bad and what is good food and makes sure to embed in our brain that if you’ve eaten the bad food then you are bad. Right, have you heard “you are what you eat.” Diet culture equates being thin to being healthy. When I post a picture of a diverse set of women with different body types there will always be those “health concerned” people who are usually and almost always white men who say things like, “unhealthy”, “Heart attack waiting to happen”, “they will die early.” Tell me that diet culture hasn’t created such awful stereotypes and discrimination against fat or overweight people. The women in the photos are not even obese and these types of comments will be made.
Therefore, as I said diet culture goes deeper systemically and politically. Diet culture says if you are not fit or thin you are not healthy and doesn’t consider different body types or people with disabilities or illnesses. Diet culture then overlaps with racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and classism. There are inequalities within our food system and diet culture doesn’t consider the different lifestyles and means of everyone. Diet culture is sexist just look at the commercials about weight loss. Yogurt commercials for example, why is It only women are in them? Start noticing the deeper connection to what ads are telling you and much more stay away from them. Women have more power than ever and diet culture is raging made to distract women from contributing to amazing things of this world. Diet culture wants us to think we are not happy because they need you to so these diets along with the beauty industry can profit from us. We must stop thinking that beauty is all women should strive for.
Getting Rid of the Diet Culture Mentality. This one is tough. I have become aware of what diet culture is and how it has affected me as a woman. I have always felt guilty or ashamed of eating Cheetos or just feeling hungry god forbid. When at every turn you have a billion-dollar industry coming at you with ads and telling you that you are not healthy because you are not a certain size or haven’t lost that ten pounds it is hard to stop believing them. I am 31 and for 29 years of my life, I was brainwashed by this crap. As a woman being taught that no one will value me unless I lose that weight. When I did get to that goal number I still felt like I wasn’t skinny enough, so I then realized it wasn’t about my weight it was about these ads telling me I wasn’t worthy. You must learn that first and foremost the meaning of your self-worth and value. Your weight doesn’t give you more or less value as a human being or your body type. You are not your weight. Once you learn that you have meaning and a self-worth you will not take those ads personally instead you will learn to separate yourself from them. It is a journey just as anything else I still struggle with shaming myself when I eat certain things. It is all about learning to talk to yourself in a different manner. If you are eating some ice cream don’t say things like “this is so bad for me”, “I will have to work harder at the gym”, “this is bad.” Start enjoying the food and just say nothing or positive things. What I’ve learned is that our bodies talk to us and we must listen to what it is wanting and needing. I have learned this through intuitive eating which has truly changed my way of eating.
What is Intuitive Eating? Intuitive eating is an approach to honor hunger and respect hunger while not tying morality to food choices and to stop diet mentality as discussed above. I have only been introduced to intuitive eating for a little under a year, so I am still learning a lot about it. I’ve learned through intuitive eating how much of a negative relationship I had with food and still have at times as old habit. I don’t same myself as much anymore for reaching for something bad and I eat when I am hungry and what I am craving. For instance, some mornings I just really want a bagel but I would say to myself in my head “it’s bad” “it’ll go straight to your stomach”, “carbs are so bad” just all this negative diet culture talk. So now I just go get the bagel and limit the talk because as I said it still comes up I just have to hush it up and I enjoy the bagel and go on with my life. I want to go into more detail next week about the benefits of intuitive eating as there is a ton to cover as it is a lifestyle. For now, you can read this amazing book that goes into detail about what intuitive eating is.
What is important to know here is being aware that diet culture exists and again these ads are powerful making you think twice about your self-worth and value. Your value is not tied to your weight or some measurements of health that doesn’t consider many diverse factors and thinness doesn’t equal health outright. You can have a great relationship with food instead of feeling guilt and nourish your body with intuitive eating so that you can live your best life and the life you want.