Diet Culture: A day in the life
If you're not familiar with the term "diet culture," it's okay because before 2 weeks ago, I wasn't either. Once immersing myself in anti-diet culture via social media, podcasts, blogs, and books, I am finally coming to terms with how messed up our pro-diet culture really is.
I originally fought it, but it eventually clicked, and I now feel like my eyes have been opened. If you're like me, you won't even know diet culture is a thing until you take a step back and start questioning it all.
Diet Culture is anything in society that promotes changing the way your body looks. This is typically done through dieting in order to lose weight, to eventually reach what society has deemed the 'perfect body.' Diet culture loves image, and with over half of women being on a diet (most of them are already at a healthy weight), it can sell you things by tugging right on the insecurities we all have.
The weight loss industry is a $60 billion industry that does not accept all bodies. In fact, it rarely even represents a realistic body.
Here are some examples of Diet Culture:
1. Anything labeled guilt-free
This implies you should feel guilty for having the "real" version. Having the guilt-free option probably won't even satisfy your craving, which will only lead you to crave that other food more. When we deem something as guilt-free, we demonize the other food it is portraying.
2. Clean Eating
Believe it or not, this used to be a phrase I used in my bio. I didn't understand why people were against it, and then it clicked. By eating super clean, you are implying that all other foods are dirty and harmful. If you love eating only foods from the farmers market, that's awesome! You're also not any less than if you enjoy a PopTart either.
3. Diets themselves
While most of us are familiar with Slim Fast and Weight Watchers, there are some that fly under the radar but are indeed diets. Whole 30, Paleo, Veganism, Meal Plans, etc. Before I piss anyone off, if you enjoy eating these foods and don't miss anything, then great! Why does it need to be labeled, then? Why can't they just be foods you enjoy? Most people don't do Whole 30 to feel better. Weight loss, if not the first, is one of the driving forces to start.
4. Magazines + Social Media
Some studies show that introducing television to societies greatly increases their incidence of eating disorders. As you scroll through your instagram feed do you see any overweight women, short women, elderly women, or non-air brushed women? It is very rare to find overweight or elderly women in magazines, and instagram is full of filtered and airbushed women. If that's what we are constantly exposed to, then that tends to be what we compare ourselves to, even if it is at the subconscious level.
5. Fat Phobia.
I'm amazed I never knew this was a thing, because once I understood it, I realized it's EVERYWHERE. No matter what weight women are throughout their lifespan, they tend to always want to lose that "last 5 pounds." Studies show most women rate their happiness on the number they see on the scale, and like I said before, most women dieting are already at a healthy weight. We are constantly dieting, but why? To not become "fat."
Think about why you choose things in your daily life. Why are you working out? Why did you choose to eat that? More often than not, these decisions are driven by Diet Culture and ultimately our fear of becoming fat.
Today (Wednesday) I went through my typical day, except I documented when I came into contact with Diet Culture. I want to show that Diet Culture isn't just a commercial for Nutrisystem. It's everywhere, and the first step to breaking up with Diet Culture is awareness. Here is what I came into contact with throughout the day!
1. In my house (6:30 am)
I honestly wasn't expecting to find anything in my own house, but when I went in the freezer to grab a veggie burger to pack with my lunch, I saw veggies with "healthy weight" plastered on the front. It then went on to say eating vegetables helps you maintain a healthier body weight.
Okay Mr. Jolly Green Giant, this box of sad-looking vegetables is not going to make someone lose weight, and also who are you to tell me what a healthier body weight is?
As for Halo Top, I wouldn't have thought that was a part of Diet Culture until I saw this post earlier in the week.
2. morning commute (7:30 am)
I was flipping through the channels trying to find the one possible song playing during the morning shows, and heard a commercial for cool sculpting. For those of you who don't know (I didn't before this morning), it "freezes" off fat. Not only does that sound absolutely nuts, the commercial had people saying they finally felt confident again once they had this done. How about you work on feeling confident now? I can almost guarantee your cool sculpting won't sculpt yo confidence. Aw snap.
3. Pinterest (9:10 am)
While the kids were watching TV, I found myself scrolling through some social media and WOAH. Pinterest gets an F minus in Diet Culture class. I saw pins for cleanses, detoxes, and lots of workouts to make you look like the very thin woman shown. I then thought this was biased because I only really use Pinterest for recipes, so I searched "fall fashion."
What came up was a slew of white women with thigh gaps and the occasional flannel. I kid you not (I scrolled a longgggg way down), every gal had a thigh gap, was extremely tall, very slender, and had really good flowy hair. I get it, models tend to fit this description, but again, why? Fall fashion is something that is searched often, and there is little body diversity. Women search this to get inspiration, and are subconsciously getting inspiration for how their bodies should look too.
3. Television (10:00 am)
Before you think I'm watching Bunk'd on Disney Channel in my free time, I'm a nanny haha. The kids I babysit were watching this, and I was so pumped because they had a full-figured woman as one of the main characters! As I kept watching, I noticed something interesting.
This full-sized woman was sort of an outcast. She was clearly different, didn't have a boyfriend like the other girls, and made awkward comments. I noticed this to be true in shows and movies I enjoy. Just because shows are now including woman who are larger, or different than what society deems the "perfect woman," check out the role that they are playing in that show. Can you think of any full-sized women as a romantic or serious role in a movie?
5. INstagram (11:00 am)
If this is what most Med Spa's are like, then I hate them. Sorry not sorry! This ad comes off in an innocent way. It talks about inner beauty, confidence, and being the best you! It has to be good, right?
Let's look deeper. Feel sexy, confident, and amazing once we fix the way you look. You can have inner beauty once you change your outer appearance. Ugh.
6. Calorie Labeling (1:00 pm)
At first, I was all about this. Let's put calories next to Frappacinos so maybe people will see how many calories are in those babies! We are in the middle of an obesity epidemic, right?
Some studies show that calorie counts on menus don't affect the consumer's choice. Knowing this, it only promotes a diet culture. "You shouldn't have this because there are lots of calories. Choose the one with the least amount of calories even if it definitely won't fill you up." These numbers promotes calorie counting, and disregards intuitive eating.
"Man Foods" Vs. "Women Foods"
Yeah I'm goin' there. I honestly never noticed this until I was looking for diet culture foods. I stumbled across Hungry Man and was pumped! Yay something that promoted hunger, not being skinny. Then I kept noticing these words with a common theme.
Foods that were marketed to men (tended to be dark color, thick font, or well just had the word man, men, or a male's name in it) used words like thick, chunky, hearty, hungry, beast, strong, etc.
For example, there was a yogurt that was stereotypically male and used the word strong. Meanwhile, the purple yogurt with a flower on it used light and fit and hell, has 80 calories. Like, that will get me through 20 minutes after eating it. Give me the hearty stuff please! I deserve it.
Maybe if we started to treat what women ate as socially acceptable as what men ate, maybe we wouldn't feel restricted, hungry all of the time (believe it or not you'll still probably be hungry after that cup of 37 calorie popcorn, 80 calorie yogurt, or 200 calorie salad for lunch. I know crazy, right?), and maybe we wouldn't feel the need to constantly diet. I know that is making a broad correlation, but hey, it's a start.
Also, I just had so much writing this last part. I might make it a new topic for a separate blog post about gendered foods! Here are some fun quotes I found on SpoonUniversity.com.