75% of women are stuck in diet culture. Here’s why you don’t have to be part of that and how to get out.
November 4th, 2019 by Sara Upson
If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you? Do you remember you mom saying that to you also? It used to make me so annoyed- but now that I’m older and wiser I can see the wisdom behind it. Even though, part of me still feels annoyed!
Diet culture has become the cliff that everyone’s jumped off of; so many people are trapped in diet culture that it’s completely become the norm. And it may seem like it’s the only way because everyone around you struggles with their eating and body image also, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because all your friends/acquaintances/ family members (heck even your mom) are jumping off the cliff- doesn’t mean that you have to also.
Food freedom and body acceptance are possible. It’s okay to enjoy food and appreciate (dare I even say like) your body (or at least begin to work on hating it a little less). It might seem like this isn’t a thing though because everyone around you is always talking about their body, complaining about parts they hate or need to change, talking about their weight, latest diet, what they should and shouldn’t eat, and overall just feeling bad and guilty. This is diet culture.
Diet culture is disordered eating. A survey out of The University of North Carolina (that has a top research facility on eating disorders) found that 75% of women reported disordered eating behaviors or symptoms consistent with an eating disorder. That means that an astonishing three out of four women have an unhealthy relationship with food or body. I always like to translate that number into real life- imagine going to lunch with 3 other women. As you’re eating it is likely that three out of four of the women are going to comment on their food, talk about their diet, their weight, body bash, or complain of feeling guilty after eating.
Hearing these comments from diet culture everywhere can be frustrating, overwhelming and make you feel hopeless- but there is hope. I validate that diet culture is everywhere- but that doesn’t mean that you have to buy in. Maybe you’ve experienced the above scenario at lunch with other women. Maybe you’ve been that woman. I was. There was a time I didn’t know better. But now I do know better- and I want to share that with you.
You don’t have to be stuck in diet culture. Diet culture is harmful to your health. It normalizes disordered eating. It promotes eating disorders. It steals joy from life and takes away your time and energy. It makes your relationship with food worse not better. It increases stress, guilt and shame- all of which increase inflammation (pretty counterproductive for health). It takes the joy out of movement. It makes your digestion worse (lack of variety, inadequate intake, and stress around food). It doesn’t improve health. It doesn’t make stronger relationships. It doesn’t make you feel good. You don’t have to be stuck here. You can find freedom from diet culture.
To be free from diet culture- you must reject diet culture. So what can you do? Reject diet culture. Say no. Literally. Say no to diet culture. Yes, it’s everywhere. Yes, it might require you to take some steps to remove it, have some hard conversations, and put up some boundaries- but you don’t have to be enmeshed in diet culture. You are worthy of freedom.
Here are 5 steps on how to get started.
1. Create a diet culture free zone. Clean up your social media feeds and email accounts. Un-follow and unsubscribe from anyone who promotes dieting, diet culture, or just doesn’t make you feel good. Get my diet culture dropout guide to get started. It’ll walk you through all the different places you need to begin rejecting diet culture.
2. Build Awareness. Begin to notice the messages around you that are from diet culture. This includes anything that focuses on weight, shape, size, elimination, deprivation, restriction, and sometimes-even “health”. This also includes all those conversations with friends, family members, coworkers, and random strangers about diets, dieting, cleanses, fasting, etc. There’s a powerful social element to dieting and diet culture- IT KEEPS YOU FROM HEALING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD.
3. Call out diet culture. When you see it- say no- not today diet culture. Tell the TV, podcast, radio, book or whatever else it is that you’re watching, listening to, or reading “that’s diet culture and I’m not buying in.” Or diet culture lies or diet culture sucks. Whatever it is that you want to say. Just call it out and say it.
4. Get angry at the lies from diet culture! Diet culture sells hope by making you feel bad about yourself. Meanwhile, diet culture leads to increased stress, shame, guilt, anxiety, weight gain and worse health outcomes. It’s okay to be angry at diet culture. In fact, I say it’s right to be angry at diet culture- at the lies, at the manipulation, at the years of time, energy and money wasted. Use that anger to stop buying in and find freedom.
5. Surround yourself with anti-diet culture messages. Listen to podcasts, find friends that have similar beliefs as you, join an intuitive eating group or community. Doing these things support normalization of intuitive eating, body kindness, and acceptance. More of this please!
While diet culture may be everywhere and disordered eating is the norm, it doesn’t have to be that way. Back away from the cliff and reject the idea that it does. You don’t have to constantly feel bad in your body.