What is Diet Culture and How to Change our Mindsets
Today it is all too common to see weight loss products being promoted all over social media, seeing certain foods labelled as “good” or “ bad”, promotion of physical activity for weight loss, and being surrounded by a society that sees people with a specific body shape/size as more worthy than others. This is all a part of diet culture. You might be asking me, “What exactly is diet culture?”. Diet culture is a set of beliefs that ultimately puts a number on the scale above one’s mental, physical and emotional health.
A common diet culture around weight loss has been promoted through the selling and marketing of weight loss products, cutting out certain food groups and detox cleanses. Many of these weight loss products and fad diets do more harm than good. Weight loss products are often expensive, may be fraudulent and may have interactions with other medications. Oftentimes, these products and marketed weight loss strategies are not backed by science, with no guarantees in improving your health long term. An effective solution is to speak with a registered dietitian or a healthcare professional who can guide and support you through your unique nutritional and health goals that fit YOU, and only you!
Similar to cutting out certain food groups and doing cleanses, diet culture is seen today by telling people what, when and how to eat. Diet culture can make us become obsessed with foods — it can make us label foods as “good” or “bad” or feel a lot of guilt around our food choices. Diet culture can really go against the importance of proper nourishment, listening to hunger cues and cultural considerations of food. It can eventually lead to disordered eating, and make it very challenging to overcome the broken relationship with food. Although easier said than done, we need to focus on eating the foods that make us feel good and eat intuitively and to fuel our body instead of seeing food as a way to control body size.
Using physical activity as a form of punishment or solely for weight loss is another common diet culture that you might have heard of. Physical activity or movement should not be seen as a chore or a punishment. By doing physical activity solely for weight loss or as a way to punish yourself for eating certain foods, you might be creating a negative relationship with food and building a set of food and exercise rules that can harm your physical and mental health. We need to celebrate our movements by doing activities that we enjoy and focus on what our bodies are capable of in terms of flexibility or strength, rather than being obsessed with a number on the scale.
Diet culture is a very broad topic and can be quite triggering. By educating yourself on how to recognize it, shifting your viewpoint on certain things, and receiving professional help from a registered dietitian or other healthcare professionals can help you on your journey to better health and healthier relationships with yourself.