What is Diet Culture? And Why Does It Matter

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Before beginning my journey with Intuitive Eating and doing this work, I don’t think I had ever heard the term Diet Culture. And when I started my journey back to Intuitive Eating with Bridget and Dana in the Food Freedom Academy, I didn’t know why it mattered.

I wasn’t trying to get my doctorate in Cultural Anthropology. Being an activist for social change wasn’t on my radar. It felt obvious that the media was full of beautiful people. I can still see my exaggerated resting bitch face as we covered this topic in the group coaching calls, as I thought to myself, why does this matter to me?

I was exhausted and mad. I was sick of having to be so hyper-vigilant about food. Continually breaking promises to myself left me feeling ashamed. I felt detached from my life and starting to question efforts I had formally felt were such valuable pursuits.

I’ve learned now that this concept that I resisted understanding was the basis of all my pain.

Diet culture is a belief system that dictates to be happy, loved, wealthy, healthy, and prosperous; I would need to be thin.

TV, social media, magazines, the wellness diet, miseducation from medical professionals, small talk among friends reinforced this idea repeatedly.

My rock bottom came through a perfect storm of my escalating disordered eating juxtaposed with my children’s innocence to diet culture. I began to question these beliefs that I had so diligently followed for three decades and became intensely motivated to ensure my children didn’t internalize these damaging beliefs, values, and attitudes. For me, living with the internalized fatphobia, diet culture was hiding in everything I had been told to be true. It became a lifelong challenge, like a heavy ball that I dragged through my every season of life, and I am in a straight-sized body.

So, what is diet culture? I think the best all-encompassing definition of diet culture I’ve found comes from Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN, and host of the top-rated Food Psyche podcast.

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She states: “Diet culture is a system of beliefs that: + Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”

+ Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.

+ Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.

+ Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.”

I now know, in order to opt-out of diet culture, I have to be aware of exactly what it is, where it hides and notice how it makes me feel about my life and my body.

If you are ready to explore how diet culture has impacted your life, set up a time on our calendars, and we will get to the root of how its impact negatively affected you and how to break free today.

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