Every day, I’m reminded that diet culture is powerful and widespread. Diet culture plays on the fear and worry in today’s world. Now, on top of being afraid of COVID-19, we’re prompted to fear, or at least question, our choices and our bodies, too.
In the last few months, I’ve been saddened to hear and read comments like: “I put my jeans on every few days to make sure they fit,” or “I’ve been eating so much since I’ve been working from home.”
Social media is full of “before and after” COVID memes, as well as ads that promote weight loss and dieting. These messages are common, and often accepted, in diet culture.
What is diet culture?
Diet culture is a set of harmful beliefs about bodies and eating, such as:
- “Thin” bodies are the most desirable and “healthy” bodies.
- Eating a certain way is “good” or “bad.”
- Eating “healthy” will produce a “healthy” body.
- A “thin” body is the goal, regardless of what you need to do to get there.
How does diet culture harm?
Diet culture makes promises it can’t deliver. It promotes ideas and actions that do not always support health. Diet culture risks harming people of all sizes, because it:
- Normalizes a focus on weight and the “thin ideal,” which can lead to unhealthy behaviours.
- May trigger a relapse in people living with disordered eating.
- Causes shame in people who do not have a “thin” body or do not have the resources to eat “healthy.”
- Fuels weight stigma.
- Does not accept that our actions, like what we eat and how we move our bodies, have little impact on our body weight.
To learn more about what truly effects health, learn about the social determinants of health.
How do you distance yourself from diet culture?
Now, more than ever, it’s key to be kind to yourself and to protect your health, including your mental health. Here are a few tips to consider.
- Know that your eating patterns may be different at this time, such as what, when, and how much you eat. Let your body guide you in your choices.
- Be active in ways that feel good for your body. Measure activity in joy, not in calories burned, steps gained, or time spent.
- Weed your social media feeds to limit your exposure to diet culture messages.
- Choose social media accounts that value all bodies. A few top picks:
- Practise your response to diet culture comments from others. This might be as simple as ignoring a comment and changing the topic.
Since diet culture is so common, it will take time and effort to make the break. To start your journey, check out these links:
- A Healthier You: Shifting the Focus from Weight to Health
- Dietitian Emilia’s story: Ditch the diet, rekindle your relationship with food
- Dietitian Rilla’s story: Making friends with food for your health
- Christy Harrison's webpage