Why Diet Culture is Toxic
Written by Rev Nutritionist, Angela Biondo
Diet culture has been inflicted on all of us at some point in time. “Don’t eat carbs, you’ll get fat,” “Are you really going to eat all of that,” “I’m on a diet, I can’t eat that” and so on and so on. It’s exhausting and toxic! Diet culture has tried to tell us what, when and how to eat for so long instead of listening to our bodies which is what we should all do. Dieting does not have to be an all or nothing scenario and everybody’s body is different and unique. What works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for someone else and that is okay, but diet culture has led us to believe that if we don’t follow the fad diets or the newest find, that we are doing it wrong.
We have been taught to believe that being thin means being healthy which is NOT always the case. This causes us to believe that if we don’t look like someone else (most likely someone famous on social media) then we must be unhealthy. Diet culture works in a way of making us feel guilty for eating certain things or not being in the gym 7 days a week. It is very set on labeling food as “good” versus “bad” which causes a downward spiral when a so-called “bad food” is eaten and it has normalized taking severe actions to make up for this. This leads to feelings of guilt, restriction and then binging. There is no such thing as bad or good foods, food is food, and it is what fuels our bodies and is necessary for survival. Food does not need to be a stressor in life.
Diet culture has regularized being obsessed with the number on the scale. This develops into an unhealthy relationship with weight, body image and essentially food. Leading to decreased food consumption when the number on the scale might be a little higher than it was yesterday or making you feel bad about how much you weigh. With that being said, the number on the scale is an incomplete number and can change for SO many different reasons: if you ate late at night the day before, if you weighed yourself at a different time of day, if you just worked out, if you had a saltier meal and are holding on to more water, and so much more.
Diet culture has also glorified undereating, making us feel that when we are eating a healthy amount of food that our bodies need to flourish, that we are actually eating too much and will gain weight which is not the case. In terms of fat loss, undereating in a drastic measure is not the way to go, as our bodies do not want us to starve and will hold on to the fat instead of burning it. But, diet culture doesn’t take overall health and well being into consideration or even factual evidence. It has developed a reward and punishment system in terms of eating, saying “I worked out today so I can eat this,” “ I earned this cookie” or “I ate too much with lunch so I can’t eat dinner” is detrimental to our overall relationships with food.
Do not let diet culture make you feel that you are any less than awesome. You do not need to justify why you are eating a slice of pizza or a bowl of cereal other than that it is delicious and what you felt like eating. Self-worth is not determined by the number on the scale or how we look despite what society has made us all feel at one point in time. We are all worthy and capable of anything that we want!
B.S. Nutrition and Food Science, Applied Nutrition