Home » What is Diet Culture and How to Reject It

What is Diet Culture and How to Reject It

by Dana Bean, RD

Chances are you’ve heard of diet culture before, but what exactly does it mean? And why could we benefit from leaving it behind?

what is diet culture and how to reject it

It’s a societal belief that it should be most important socially, physically, and morally to focus on being thin and losing weight. It is the thought that everyone should be working to fit into the societal “ideal” body shape/size if they don’t currently fit that description.

Because diet culture sacrifices a having certain body and constantly trying to be smaller above all else, it can lead to some negative consequences. It could mean sacrificing relationships, time, money, health (yep, health), and a peaceful mind to try to appease the never ending unrealistic requirements of diet culture.

Diet culture is super prevalent when you start looking for it. And it can be sneaky! Weight loss ads of course, but also “lifestyle changes” that promote weight loss, airbrushed insta photos of influencers, and even self help books have all been culprits of sending diet culture messages. Seriously, why so so many self help books use weight loss as an analogy? It really doesn’t apply!

How have you noticed these messages come up? Where do you see messages about needing to have a certain body size or x,y,z will happen? Where do you (untruly) hear that weight loss will solve all of your problems? Where is diet talk or body shaming talk normalized? Once we notice diet culture messages and thoughts, we can realize really how stealthy it’s been in our lives and also why it’s understandable that we’ve internalized those messages over the years.

Here are 4 ways to get started turning away from diet culture (inspired by the Intuitive Eating book) and turning to a place of more acceptance, better relationships, more happiness, better overall health, and time/energy to fill your life with ambitions other than having a smaller self.

How has diet culture affected you personally? It may help to think about different categories like social, behavioral, physical, etc… Though it can be a downer to think about, but realizing how restriction messages have harmed you can be used as lasting motivation to move away from the diet mentality.

Start to notice your own thoughts that reflect diet messaging. They may be more difficult at first to recognize! Food rules? Desire to lose weight? body checking? The diet mentality plays a huge roll in these.

My Fitness Pal, the scale, social media accounts are all example of “tools” that can enable someone to stay in the diet culture mindset. Getting rid of these things (and many more) can free up time and energy currently spent in the diet mindset. You can do this all at once or remove different items as you are ready at a slower pace.

Remember to be nice to yourself! Changing a perspective you’ve had for years can be hard (though worth it), and it doesn’t usually happen overnight.

When we leave diet culture behind and move towards listening to our own body’s cues, many things can change and it’s been shown in the research. Intuitive Eaters (vs dieters or someone using external sources to determine what they eat) have the following benefits:

  • More body appreciation (regardless of body size)
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Higher life satisfaction
  • Less eating disorder symptoms
  • More interoceptive awareness
  • Less body shame
  • Less internalization of media portrayed “ideal body”
  • Lower BMI (I hesitate to even mention this one since there are many reasons to not even use the BMI, but some find it surprising to know)

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