Back at it…the diet culture edition

Hi there. I’m Dani, and I have a consistency problem. It’s been a red-hot minute since my last post. Forgive me mother, for I am busy.

In all seriousness, work and network and life stuff all got in the way and the one thing I could sacrifice was this blog. It’s sad, because I love writing and would love to write a book some day. But life is just life and, like my sister-in-law so aptly put it, we can either go with the flow or get hit in the head by lots of rocks (I’m butchering her words but the sentiment is there).

So the blog is back and better than ever, for a few reasons.

#1- To be honest, my aforementioned sister-in-law started an incredible blog and I was inspired by her (check it out here!). Reading her words reminded me of the catharsis I feel when writing posts and dammit, I wanted that sense of relief back. 

#2- School is wrapping up and I should have more time. More time is good. Why not write?

#3- This gets a little tricky. I was inspired by a long series of events to start a Facebook group called Ditching Diet Culture and it seemed like a beautiful coupling. Why not dis the heck out of diet culture and write blog posts, too? I CAN HAVE IT ALL! 

So my next however many posts will be all about diet culture and societal norms and how it’s unfair and it’s bullshit and we all need to move on to be happier. 

So, let’s talk diet culture. What is it? Why is this something we should even bother talking about? Is it really all bad?

According to Behavioral Nutrition, “Diet culture is the glorification of losing weight at all costs.” Think of your daily life: how often do you see messages about losing weight, dieting, toning yourself, comparing bodies, and on and on and on. It’s never-ending. Eat this fancy seed, drink this detox tea, suck on this appetite-suppressing lollipop and then you’ll be thin and happy.

Right? It’s everywhere. Even when we don’t think about advertising, think about our daily conversations. As we’re starting to see more and more people we haven’t seen in over a year since the ‘Rona, our knee-jerk reaction to start a discussion is to comment on the person’s appearance. Oh wow, you lost weight! You look great! Keto is really working for you!

Even among your friends and family, it’s hard to escape diet culture. And I’m the first to admit, I’m guilty of many of these things. It’s hard not to mention how a person looks, especially when you haven’t seen them in a while, because their body is the first thing you see. And everyone is always on some kind of diet, so that’s a great conversation starter for a lot of people. 

So what’s the big deal? To be blunt, diet culture is toxic AF. Psychologically it leaves us in a state of never feeling “good enough” and it’s designed so that we ALWAYS feel that way. 

Think of major celebrities. We’re supposed to want to emulate them, but in addition to having stellar genetics they also have trainers and dieticians and chefs and access that the rest of us never have. And it’s literally their job to look that way. Sorry, but yeah, if I had a nanny and maid and chef and my job was to look like that, it might be attainable. But it just isn’t.

We should not be on a diet for the long-term, but diet culture has us bouncing from diet to diet to magic pill and plastic wrap for our midsections. We’re too preoccupied with trying to force our bodies to be something they might not be genetically able to be that we can’t focus on real issues that are all around us. We’re busy and stressed and being busy and stressed is absolute HELL on your overall health and well-being. 

The last point I want to make is, we’re all very unique beings. There never has been or ever will be another person quite like you. Why not embrace that? Behavioral Nutrition writes,

 “Diet and body physiology are all inherently unique so practices related to one individual’s diet can’t be applied to everyone. Corporations use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to diet because they can sell those packages at mass quantities. This unfortunately leads to a lot of negative dependencies and false philosophies on diet and health. Because we have been immersed in this way of thinking for so long, these messages often go unnoticed. When we open our minds and take a step back however, we can see just how common topics around weight and size are in society. Body image is often construed to sell products that are aimed to create dependence.”

When we put body image aside we can begin to focus on something far more important: our overall health. Obviously if a person needs to lose weight to increase their health and combat disease they should obviously follow that path and do what is best for them. But speaking personally, I’ve had the goal of weighing 140lbs for…years. So many years. Through two pregnancies and delivering two healthy wonderful babes, caring for those kids, many life events and stresses, through it all I’ve had this ridiculous and arbitrary number in the back of my mind. And why? Who, aside from society and diet culture, enforced this number on me? No one but myself and these outside forces. What if, instead of focusing on numbers that don’t really mean anything, we focused on health related goals instead? Reducing your cholesterol numbers, increasing how many push ups you can do, walking 5k steps on weekdays…these are all way healthier and attainable than a number on a scale. I’m not saying don’t have goals, but I think we should have goals that make us feel good, strong, and accomplished instead of feeling at a constant loss for why we can’t just do things right. You shouldn’t be enshrouded in shame for your entire life because you can’t look a certain way. Focus on how you feel. I’m getting ahead of myself now, but I’ll talk more about this in a later post. 

Stay tuned for more on diet culture as we move forward through the summer. My Facebook group, Ditching Diet Culture, is going to be a great resource for anyone looking to move away from diet-centered thinking. I’m so excited for this new path in my life, and I hope you’ll join me! 

Until next time, be happy and be well

-Dani

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