Let's talk about diet culture

 Well hello to you my reader chums! Diet culture is a topic I've been wanting to speak about for the longest time. I've touched on it in my post about thin privilege and body acceptance, however, I think it needs an entire, dedicated post to it, to bring the awareness it needs.

Trigger warning - This post talks about the topic of eating disorders.

Whether you're in the process of learning to love your body or like me, hate the idea of diet culture, here is everything to know about diet culture.

Let's talk about diet culture

What is diet culture?

The definition of diet culture is simply 'diet culture is the glorification of losing weight at all costs.' Diet culture is a part of the entire diet industry which profit of people's insecurities and enforce the idea that 'losing weight and being skinny is the most important thing.' It's a toxic method that's implemented more in our everyday life, than we may initially realise and is something we all need to make a stand against. Diet culture promotes and glorifies weight loss as a means of attaining a higher status - and views skinner people as prettier, better, and more worthy.

Diet culture leads to many buying into an 'unhealthy way of eating' and what I mean by that is yo-yo dieting, trying to eat 'clean', labelling foods as 'good' and 'bad', starving yourself or living off liquids because we've been marketed the idea that this is how you lose weight and that we all need to be skinny. And, that all of those 'diet' methods are a healthy way of eating - which surprise, they're not and they do your body more harm than good.

This unhealthy relationship with food and the whole industry it has created leads many to have an eating disorder and become chronically unwell and it's honestly, one of the things that really breaks my heart. There are millionaires out there making money off impressional young women/men falling into eating disorders just because they're told they don't fit society's idea of 'beauty'. It's disgusting. We live in a fatphobic society and it really needs to change.

Examples of diet culture

You may think diet culture is when weight loss companies promote 'weight loss' shakes or a celebrity talks about 'skinny teas' and it is, but it's also so much more than that - and often or not, it's internalised in how we speak every single day. Here are a few examples:

Representation in the media - This is the biggest way we see diet culture in front of our eyes at the touch of a button and it's the information we're digesting without even realising it. Diet culture is promoted across social media, print media, by celebrities, and really in a lot of marketing techniques which are to do with selling a product; it's disgusting. Influencers are often seen advertising fad diet products, skinny models are often praised over other body types and calorie counting is plastered so often in front of our eyes, it makes us seem odd if we're not calorie counting. But all of these things and the way it's represented is showing an unhealthy mindset towards foods and our bodies. At the end of the day, if we all ate exactly the same, we still all wouldn't look alike. Every body is different. 

Praising weight loss - Now, I'm all for praising people for losing weight, I think the acknowledgment of that is really important, especially when someone has worked so hard on it. However, there is a way and a time, and a place to talk about it properly. The way we talk about weight loss is construed; it's said in a way that it's the most important compliment any of us can receive, and that's why I lot of us always think we need to lose weight or 'not eat that treat', because it's a way of feeling validation (something we've internalised). But, there is more to us than our bodies and what we look like. We're often praised for dropping the pounds but shamed if we put a little bit of weight on. For instance, all those adverts and social media posts promote the idea of 'losing the Christmas pounds' which to me is the most barbaric thing. Food is fuel, it should be fun and enjoyed and not have to be restricted, especially in times of celebration - and the industry needs to stop making us feel guilty for that.

Promotion of fad diets - This ties in with the representation in the media. But fad diets aren't just advertised online or TV, they're in places like supermarkets, in restaurants, and in any circumstance where we need to think of food. Fad diets do not work. It's that simple. All these juices, shakes, and diet pills are only a quick solution - they're not going to help you maintain weight loss. They're sold in a way that makes you feel like you need to buy into them to lose weight fast, but there is no healthy way to lose weight fast. It's a process and should be done slowly and gradually in the right way. Promotion of fad diets is done cleverly as it's plastered and advertised subtly but also obviously in places in order for you to think you need it - WHEN YOU DON'T.

Phrases like 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'  - When you look at films/media over the years and the way food is portrayed especially for women, the phrase 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' is thrown around a lot. And it feeds into the days where models were unhealthily skinny on the catwalk and people aspired to be them - and it's an unhealthy way of thinking and something that is still joked about today. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and said out loud 'I won't have dessert as I'm trying to be good?' That my friends is diet culture as we're told from a young age that indulging in treats is bad as it'll make us fat. And we live in a fatphobic society. But food is fuel and we all deserve our indulgences.

How can we make a stand against diet culture?

I could speak for days of the examples of diet culture but the best way to talk about is to share what we can do, to overthrow the idea of it and normalise eating intuitively and being happy in our own bodies.

Education - With any topic or issue, the best way to make a change is with education. And that means educating people about how toxic diet culture is, how it's feeding into many of us being unhappy with our bodies, and leading to many people developing eating disorders. It's all about unpicking a system that has spent years making money out of people's insecurities - and teaching each other about what's really healthy. Eating intuitively, getting out and about, and understanding that cellulite, hip dips, and 'flaws' on our bodies are all normal.

Spread awareness - Once you begin reading and learning more about how toxic diet culture is, it's time to spread awareness about it. You don't need to be an influencer to do this, it's all about starting a conversation with your friends and family. By talking about it, you can make more of an effect than you may realise - and help those impressionable people in your life who are easily influenced by the media.

Normalise normal bodies - It took me to my adult years to realise how normal cellulite and a womanly figure were. Growing up in the 'thigh gap' era where that was heavily praised, it was something my teenage self longed for, which was such an unrealistic expectation. And that's the same with all these 'Instagram ideals' today. It's important to start normalising normal bodies. Normlaise cellulite. Normalise stretch marks. Normalise bloating. Normalise imperfections. When we start doing this, it will help us all accept our bodies for what they are: healthy and working to make us who we are.

Look at your relationship with food - Diet culture can really affect our relationship with food. I've always been against calorie counting and all these foods which claim to be 'low fat' or 'low sugar' as often these foods are just packed with chemicals that are actually not good for your overall health. Calorie counting is restrictive as you're constantly watching what you eat and preventing yourself from what your body is really craving and this can lead to a disordered style of eating. This is why it's so important to look at your relationship with food and if it's healthy or not - because often a lot of the time we have a bad relationship with food is due to diet culture and what we see, or what we've learnt growing up. 

Work on yourself - This may seem a bit of an odd point, but, it's hard to help spread a message or talk about a topic if you're not 100% feeling yourself. Learning to love yourself is so important and that means accepting your body and all your flaws. If you're comfortable in yourself, it will help you have more of a clear vision of how toxic diet culture is and the wrong message it is spreading.

Throw out the scales - Since I was a teenager, my parents made the decision to throw the scales out as they didn't want me to be concerned about my weight, which is one thing I'm really grateful for in an impressionable time in my life. And to this day, I don't have scales in my house. I don't like the idea of knowing the weight and I don't like to discuss weight at all. The concept of weight is barbaric to me, as your weight doesn't necessarily mean you're healthy. Weight fluctuates throughout the day and also, just because you're skinny, it doesn't mean you're healthy. You shouldn't measure your health on the scales. You should measure your health about how you feel physically and mentally - and not compare your weight to anybody else. Discussing weight is toxic and it's important to be aware of that when you open a conversation about the idea of diet culture. You never know who may be triggered.

Talk to an expert if you want to lose weight - Losing weight can be needed sometimes if you're looking to improve your lifestyle but, it's about doing it in a healthy way and ensuring you're not restricting yourself or using fad diets to go about it. If you're looking to get healthier, it's important to speak to a professional about going about it as they'll inform you of the right and steady way to do it rather than going down the unhealthy root of ditching pounds fast. Speak to your doctor, a nutritionist, or a dietician, someone who has the right experience and knowledge to ensure your relationship with food stays as a good one.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder or need to talk to someone, call the Beat Eating Disorder hotline on 08088010677 or visit their website.

I hope you enjoyed this post. What do you think about diet culture?

Thank you for reading <3

59 comments

  1. Wow! This is sooo informative and I'm learning so much from your post, Della! This is really good xx

    lenne | lennezulkiflly.com

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  2. Unfortunately, I'm massively affected by diet culture. As I get older, I realise that it's something that's had a huge effect on my my whole life, it still does. It's going to take a lot of un-learning to make up for lost time. Thank you for sharing this, I think it will resonate with lots of people like me.

    Rosie

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    1. I completely get that, that's why diet culture is such a huge problem and I really hope you can begin the process of unlearning and come to realise how amazing you and your body are xx

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  3. Something I do is make sure to never mention someone's weight loss or gain - we don't know what's going on in their life.
    Cora | https://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

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  4. I LOVED this post Della. I'm prone to thinking less of myself because I'm not your typical "Skinny". However, my body and health is perfect condition, it keeps me alive everyday without fail. I try to stick to a healthy diet as much as I can, avoiding fad diets shared online. This was so informative and I will definitely look back on this when I'm feeling a little down!

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  5. Love, love, love this post! So well written and, as someone who has had anorexia for years, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see other bloggers talking about the mess that is toxic diet culture.

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  6. This is such a good one Della! Diet culture is such a horrible culture in my point of view. And it has such an effect on people. I do my best to not to let it affect me because nothing should be allowed to ruin my self image and my mental health. Great post

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  7. love this post, it's so informative and i learnt a lot from reading it. thanks for sharing.

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  8. I love this especially the part you said about praising weight loss. I always found it weird when a person lose weight they are praised but if a person who was skinny or recovering from an eating disorder gains weight they are not met with same energy.

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  9. This is an awesome post! I think my favorite moment was your story of growing up in a scale-less house. There is no better way to stop obsessive weight-checking (of which I used to be guilty of) than removing the means.
    I am pretty comfortable in my body, but that does not mean skinny celebrities and diet culture do not make me a little unhappy about my appearance from time to time. Normalizing normal bodies, especially in the media, would be so incredible and inspiring to many, many people!
    Thanks so much for sharing, Della, some great reasons to love our womanly shapes, as well as healthy ways to go about losing weight. :)

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    1. Thank you so much lovely, I appreciate your lovely comment xx

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  10. Love the post.This is really important topic to discuss. Thanks for sharing!
    Lots of Love: Mariann Yip
    https://www.mariannyc.com/june-2021-goals/

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  11. I love this post! In high school I was bullied for being fat even though I had a normal body so I had low self-esteem & I wished I could be like all the skinny girls in my school & models in magazines...in college I started my journey of self love, but diet culture is still so prominient with celebrities promoting the latest thing & fad diets constantly popping up.
    I agree education & spreading awareness are so important & normal bodies definitely need to be normalized!!!

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    1. Thank you so much lovely! I'm sorry you went through that but I'm glad you're on the route to loving yourself as you're so beautiful in every way xx

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  12. I love that your are talking about this topic. So many people are so focused on dieting that they end up spending most of their lives on a different diet. In reality, if we educate ourselves on the nutritional side of what we are actually eating, we can work out for ourselves what is good for us. Everyone is different and our bodies each need different things which is why a diet would never work.

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  13. Hi Della.

    What a brilliantly detailed and informative post, thank you.

    I think that there are 2 sides to this which need to be addressed:
    1. The promotion of one particular body type as being more attractive than another. (Note I say 'attractive' and not 'healthy')
    2. Self-confidence

    We need, as you rightly say, to educate people to understand that there is a reason why certain looks are promoted. Teach them to be cynical and look for the (profit) motive.

    And we need to teach people to have more confidence in themselves. I'm pretty sure that I don't match what is considered to be the ideal body type. Do I worry about it? Hell no! Why should I care what other people may think about it? ;)

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    1. Thank you so much! I love your honest thoughts x

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  14. Oh, how I wish this did not affect my life at all - such a thing growing up and also now, in my 30s, trying to loose weight but no idea why or how. So many options out there but you're right, I should probably speak to someone like a dietitian. Thank you for this article, I never realised how diets have affected me until now. x

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    1. I'm so happy to hear you found this article helpful xx

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  15. All you say express what we all can realise everyday! Slim industry is huge... People tend to forget that the important thing is to be healthy physically and mentally.

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  16. Such an important topic to discuss! So informative too, I 100% agree that 'normal' bodies should be well, normalised. I think the fact that there are so many edited pictures of what someone should look like is so damaging, and keeps the toxic circle going, doesn't it?

    Thanks for sharing:)
    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

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  17. Great post! The idea that we should glorify losing weight is disgusting. I think if a person wants to lose weight for themselves- or they have healthy fitness goals- that's a different subject, but this issue of diet culture makes losing weight something you must do- and that's not okay. Thank you for sharing this insightful post x

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  18. Love this post Della! Thank you so much for spreading awareness about eating disorders, I wish that I learnt about them more in secondary school. Maybe it could have prevented mine to have had more awareness & mental health awareness too. Throwing out my scales was the best decision <3 x

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    1. Thank you so much, I'm really glad you liked the post xx

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  19. Amazing post, Della ! Diet culture is so extremely toxic and is the root cause of so much self hate and low self esteem in so many women today. I wish the world accepted that all bodies are beautiful bodies and that you don't have to look a certain way to be considered as conventionally attractive.

    Nons Mshengu
    Creator of Cher Belle
    https://cherbelle.co/

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  20. I really enjoyed this post! Diet culture definitely needs to be changed in order for us all to accept our bodies as they are - especially as we age. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. As someone who suffers from an eating disorder, diet culture can hit quite hard. I am happy for those reaching their goals but I don't like want uneducated facts being shared. What worked for you may not work for others and being more educated on healthy eating in school probably would have helped a lot of my issues. Thank you for shedding some light! Em x

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    1. Thank you for your honest thoughts, I really appreciate it xx

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  22. I love this so much, Della - your blog always contains the most informative and relatable content. Diet culture is so toxic - I hope we get to a point as a society where we just focus on being HEALTHY rather than our appearances xx

    mia // https://beautiful-inspiring-creative-life.com/

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes exactly, I agree with that completely xx

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  23. This was a really interesting read. I'm always conscious of this when talking about food etc online, I don't want to fall into the trap of labelling things as bad and good but it can be a hard area to navigate when you're talking about the nutritional value of absolutely everything. Your comment about going through your teens without scales was so interesting to me, my mum is someone who has always put a heavy focus on her weight and I've wondered a lot as I've gotten older what impact that may have had on me when I was younger.

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

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  24. Thank you for sharing, I have found that diet culture one of the things that I have watched over the years wondering why have it in the first place. I have always tried to eat well, with some treats and manage my weight as it can result in not good results for my Diabetes, it's all about balance to me :)

    Nic | Nic's Adventures & Bakes

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    1. Thank you so much! Balance is really important x

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  25. Normalising the average woman's body is SO important right now! I really loved this post Della, it's the kind of thing young girls should be reading!

    Katy | www.katystephenson.com | www.thegrownupsclub.com

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  26. Diet culture is so toxic,I think surrounding yourself with positive body influences really helps me!

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  27. I think it was Kate Moss who said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels when she was younger, and she said she regretted saying it ever since. Diet culture really is toxic, so thank you for sharing this post, Della, it's so helpful x

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  28. what a great post! I totally relate when you talk about representation in the media. I went down to 5 stone after intermittent fasting, and although I was so happy with my body, there are so many side effects. If I had known that was super unhealthy and it would cause headaches, insomnia, IBS and anxiety I never would have done it. Luckily my weight is now back to normal but my god was it scary! Great post!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm really glad you're doing so much better xx

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  29. Lovely post, Della! You're so on point with this one! Diet culture is so toxic and it's so important to be educated and normalize normal bodies! x

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

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  30. I think only a healthy diet and exercise can control one's weight reasonably and effectively.
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