If you survived life through the early 90’s – 2000’s then you are aware of how bad magazines and TV stressed eating barely anything and being a size 000. The covers of those magazines showed super skinny models and showed you how to develop an eating disorder with food. This all revolves around the term diet culture.
Diet Culture Definition
Diet culture by definition is valuing someone’s body size and appearance for their health status. Diet culture glorifies being thin and associates that with optimum health. In addition to this, people are taught that you have to follow crowds and the latest and greatest diet trends.
I’m sure you’ve seen it – but no overweight / obese body can be healthy. As in – your body size is the only thing that matters to people in diet culture. The worst thing that I’ve seen is healthcare professionals idealizing those that remain thin and think that overweight / obese individuals are lazy and have no willpower to be thin.
From my experience, it’s not that people that are overweight lack any willpower or are lazy – it’s that diet culture is tough to follow. How can you expect someone to follow such a rigorous diet that eliminates entire food groups and glorifies being thin over being healthy? In order to be part of diet culture – you typically follow the 5 steps of The Diet Cycle.
The Diet Cycle
- Step 1 – Start Diet
- You want to lose weight so you are searching for the newest weight loss trend out there. You know you want to lose weight so you look for the one that has the quickest weight loss.
- Step 2 – Restriction
- Now you are following whatever new diet has been created by influencers out there to “help” you lose weight. It’s going to have a lot of strict rules and foods that you have to avoid in order to be on the diet.
- This usually lasts anywhere from 10 – 14 days. After that 10-14 day period of restricting, you find it very difficult to actually stick to the weight loss diet. You do see weight loss because you’re not consuming as many calories as your body is burning. Moving on to step 3.
- Step 3 – Frustration
- You are now frustrated with your diet plan. You are stressed more because you are consumed with thinking about what foods you cannot have and can have. You are obviously hungry because these diet plans are only 800 – 1200 calories a day. This is not enough to keep you full in a day, which leads you to being frustrated on the food that you’re eating.
- Step 4 – Give in
- The inevitable will happen at some point – even if you outlast the 14 days of frustration. It could be a month, maybe two, but eventually you give in. You lose control over your diet and break down. You start eating normal food again. You find you are overindulging on your favorite foods because you haven’t had them in so long. Now you want to eat all the food and snacks you’ve missed out on.
- Step 5 – Guilt
- Once you break your diet, you feel guilty about giving in. This is the part that no one usually talks about. You don’t like yourself for breaking your diet but can’t stop eating the foods that you really enjoy. The guilt lasts as you see your weight go back up to your pre-diet weight. Then you start the cycle over and over again.
How to Spot Diet Culture?
There are some pretty big red flags when you think about diet culture, which makes it easy to spot once you know what to look for. You can avoid the diet cycle by looking for the red flags of diet culture.
Rule #1 – Strict Rules
The first red flag for diet culture is the use of very strict rules. I.E. – you have to avoid entire food groups like carbs or fruit (because that is the most common). If you don’t follow these set of rules you are a terrible person that doesn’t know how to follow a diet that works for everybody else. The people giving you these diets tell you that only certain things are allowed and it usually involves avoiding foods that you like.
Rule #2 – Weight Lost Matters
The total amount of body weight that you lost is the single most important aspect. It doesn’t matter if you lost 2 # of fat or 2# of muscle – the only thing that matters is that you lost 15# total. When you lose a lot of weight on these diets, you are not just losing fat mass. In fact, you are typically losing a lot of water and muscle weight.
Rule #3 – Failure is Not Allowed
You cannot fail. It’s that simple. If you do – it looks bad on the diet and on the people selling the diet to you. Diet culture is successful by using people that actually lose weight. You have to provide before and after photos as well.
How to Break Away from Diet Culture
- Do not follow people on social media promoting diet culture and the diet cycle.
- Focus on eating more foods that have lots of vitamins and minerals rather than restricting your food.
- Keep a journal on how you feel when you start taking care of your whole self rather than thinking only of dieting and losing weight.
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