Two years ago I had no idea what diet culture was.
I had no idea I was deeply immersed in it or how it was affecting me.
What is diet culture?
“Diet culture is a society that places value on being a certain size, weight, and shape over actual health. Diet culture also promotes the false notion that health equals to thinness.”
What I have found since sharing more about leaving diet culture is that using this term feels offensive to many people who have chosen a weight loss program or diet to follow to achieve their version of healthy. Many people live believing that their “diet” is actually a “lifestyle change”… and what they possibly haven’t realized yet, is that it isn’t a lifestyle change at all.
Wow, Amy. That’s pretty bold of you to say isn’t it? It is. Here is why I am sharing this unapologetically.
I’ve been that girl.
The one who defended her “lifestyle change”.
The one who didn’t think I was making sacrifices to be in a thinner body that were unhealthy.
The one who thought that I was “better” because I was thinner.
The one who thought I had it “all figured out” because I finally reached my goal weight.
Joke was on me.
Also, admitting those harsh feelings out loud feels scary and wrong… so be kind. I don’t like that I felt that way.
But, that’s why I’m talking about it. Because I know there are women out there who feel the way I felt.
When it came crashing down on me and the weight started creeping up again, I was the only one there to save myself.
I did it by walking away from that so-called “lifestyle change” and had to dig down deep inside myself to figure out what true happiness was going to look like not based on the number I saw on the scale, or a group of people that didn’t understand that the unhealthiest thing I could have done for myself was to stay on that weight loss program.
Where do we see diet culture?
- Social media
- Food packaging
- Clothing ads
- Radio Ads
- Before/After photos
- Conversations with friends and family about their bodies, or someone else’s body
I had no idea how much I was surrounded by the voice of diet culture until I knew what it was. IT IS EVERYWHERE.
We are bombarded with how to become “thinner”, get our “pre-baby” body back, lose 10 pounds quick, try this detox, take this pill for weight loss, etc. The sad part about all of this is that our environment has been saturated with it for so long we don’t see anything wrong with it until we take a step back and examine it.
Why did I leave diet culture?
This could be an entire post itself but I’ll give just a few reasons.
- I’ve dieted since 4th grade and I was exhausted measuring my worth to whether I was losing weight, needing to lose weight or was gaining weight.
- I reached my “goal weight” for the first time ever in 2018 only to find out that with that goal weight came an intense amount of pressure to stay there for fear of what people would say behind my back if I gained it all back.
- My health was being measured up against the BMI scale, and the way I am built I would look sick at the highest number on my range. That weight would never be a weight I could maintain in a healthy way either.
- I didn’t want my kids to learn that a body has to be thinner to be better or to be considered healthy. I wanted to teach them how to take care of their bodies without it being linked to how they look. For example, I wanted to teach them that healthy foods make our bodies FEEL good, not that healthy foods make us healthier simply because we are thinner.
- Freedom. Tired of tracking. Tired of overthinking. Tired of it all.
I’ve learned my body actually does know what it needs when I take the time to listen to it… and trust it. When we are wrapped up in diet culture our mind is clouded with what we are supposed to do to “stay on plan” versus what our body needs based on what it’s telling you.
There were lots of times that I wanted to stay on plan so my own internal cues were shut down so I could lose weight that week, fit into an outfit, or just be able to say I’d had a “good” day.
I’ve immersed myself with information that serves as a constant reminder to why I left diet culture, and why it’s important I continue to spread this message and help others recognize how their lives may be affected by it as well.
I’m not here to judge you.
I am here to offer support and encouragement and tell you that if being healthy is your goal, you have options, going on a diet is not your only option.
I’m ready to leave diet culture… what are my options?
- I started in therapy in 2008 to address my disordered eating issues. Therapy helped me immensely. I didn’t realize how disordered my thoughts and behaviors were until I talked through them.
- Read the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole. This book has been instrumental in helping me. It laid a foundation for me to understand that my body can be trusted… it’s just going to take time and patience to get there.
- Give yourself time. Relearning how to trust your body takes patience, trial and error and a lot of time. Healing is not linear either.
I want you to know if you are currently on a weight loss program or a diet, you are not a bad person.
Calling out diet culture isn’t calling YOU out. Many people are unaware how harmful it actually is. I had no idea how some of the things I was sharing years ago on Instagram was triggering for people and harmful for their emotional well being.
I shifted my focus.
I swallowed my pride knowing that not everyone would agree with me and some people would hate me for sharing what I had to share.
Maya Angelou said “then when we know better, do better.”
I know better now.
I see how my past with dieting and my weight loss strategies weren’t beneficial to myself, my family, or those who watched on the sidelines.
My focus now is being healthy from the inside out, starting with my emotional well being. My focus on being healthy has so much more to do with my self talk and the choices I make and how they will physically make me feel versus how they will make me look. If weight loss is a by-product then that’s ok, but it can’t be my driving force for making healthy habit changes anymore.
I want to share some other resources that have been helpful to me to explain diet culture. Do yourself a favor and learn about what it means and how you may be impacted by it.
- Nutrition Redefined Podcast- Chronic Dieting: What it is + Why it’s a Problem. This episode was my ah-ha moment and the final straw for me to leave diet culture.
- What is Diet Culture by Christy Harrison
- My personal journey with Intuitive Eating: I shared how each step of Intuitive Eating impacted my journey the last several months.
I’ve been there.
When you climb that mountain though, and you look back on all you’ve gone through and see the view from the top where freedom awaits… you’ll be so happy you chose this path. I’m waiting at the top of the mountain to welcome you to the beauty of a life without rules, without shame, without guilt… a life filled with self love, hope, freedom and acceptance.