Taking back the power – how to reduce the impact of diet culture on your life
Diet culture is ingrained and systematic. A conglomerate market (the weight loss management / dieting industry is set to increase to $251.3 billion USD by 2027) such as this is unlikely to disappear overnight, but there are steps you can take to reduce the impact that diet culture has on your own life.
Change the narrative and evaluate the presence of diet culture in your life
We now have the power to push back against the harmful rhetoric that diet culture spouts as gospel. It can be difficult to reach this realisation, particularly as we’ve been conditioned our entire lives to be better, change our bodies, and look a certain way in order to be accepted. Diet culture is sneaky and may even be present in the way you instinctively speak about yourself or the conversations you have with your friends.
Spend a day or even a week noting down all the mentions you make to diet culture, and begin to question how you can change the narrative to make your conversations kinder, less judgmental and more guilt-free. Examples of this could include…
“Lucky I did X amount of exercise so I can have a ‘cheat’ meal”
Change the diet culture narrative: Instead of viewing exercise as a way to “burn off” calories, move your body because it feels good and brings you joy. You don’t need to ‘burn off’ or ‘earn’ your food either; food is an essential part of life.
“I’m being so naughty by eating this chocolate”
Change the narrative: Attaching moral values to food and categorising as “good” or “bad” is prime diet culture in action. Food is simply fuel that gives our body different types of energy and nourishment. While carrots may nourish your vitamin levels, chocolate may nourish your soul, and both are equally as important.
Choosing a “lighter” version of a food because you feel guilty. For example, choosing vegetable noodles over real pasta, because you are afraid or feel guilty about eating carbohydrates
Change the narrative: We’re not saying you should give up your zoodles or cauliflower rice if you think they are delicious, but question the motivation behind why you are choosing this option. Is it to reduce your carb intake or because they have less calories? Both answers stem from diet culture.
Anytime you make a judgement based around someone’s weight or body shape
Change the narrative: Remind yourself that all bodies are good bodies, and that people are worth so much more than their appearance. By commenting on someone’s weight you also don’t know what you are addressing – it could be an eating disorder or chronic or physical illness. The best way to comment on someone’s weight is to not.
A friend (or yourself) saying “I feel fat”.
Change the narrative: Fat is not a feeling. Fat is a benign, neutral descriptor of a body, similar to ‘tall’ or ‘short’, and should not be viewed as something negative! Diet culture has conditioned us to believe that being fat means you have to change your body, but the simple fact is your body does not need altering to fit society’s unjust standards.
Influencers without proper health qualifications promoting diets, cleanses, or suggesting you should cut out whole food groups in order to achieve their body size/shape.
Change the narrative: Remember, that even if everyone on the planet ate and exercised in the exact same way, we would all still look different. Ensure you are consuming health information from qualified sources, such as Accredited Practicing Dietitians. Use our guide on how to be critical of health and nutritional information you see on social media.
Call out fatphobia and weight stigma
If you see or hear someone being fatphobic, call them out. Educate them on “Health at Every Size”, a movement that says weight and size do not determine the health of an individual. Health and well-being are mutli-faceted and determined by much more than body weight. In fact, it’s helpful to remember that little ol’ definition of health that you were likely given in high school: The World Health Organisation defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (1948). It is completely possible to be healthy in a larger body, just like it is possible to be unhealthy in a smaller body.
And if you’re a health professional concerned about your patient’s weight – consider the whole picture, and treat the individual as a person rather than a number on a scale. Advocate instead for an increase in healthy behaviours and outcomes, rather than a reduction in body size. Make your practice inclusive, and purchase gowns, chairs and blood pressure cuffs that will fit larger bodies.
Learn how eating disorders affect those in larger bodies; NEDC has free professional development for health care professionals to better recognise, understand and treat eating disorders.
To reduce your own internalised weight bias, surround yourself with diverse body types that differ from the “thin ideal”. Research demonstrates that increased exposure and close contact with those living in larger bodies can lead to reduced weight bias, as well as a “recalibration as to what is considered to be healthy and normal”.
This can be as simple as diversifying your social media feeds; follow hashtags like #bodypositivity, #bopo, #effyourbeautystandards, #bodyacceptance, #HAES. Follow people who don’t look like you, and follow people who do. Follow people who present themselves free of filters and photoshop.
Make your feed a positive, inclusive place. Accounts we recommend include:
- @Non-Airbrushed Me
By actively being aware of diet culture’s place in your belief systems, you can act to change the narrative and instead encourage conversations and thoughts that inspire acceptance, positivity and an appreciation for all bodies as good bodies.
This Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week, start the conversation, question the media content that you’re consuming, and above all remember that diet culture cannot take away your innate value – because we are worth so much more than our bodies, weight and appearance.
- Health at Every Size (HAES) Australia
- Celebrating No-Diet Day: Our community shares why they have ditched diets for good.
- More ways to challenge fatphobia and weight stigma
- The Body is not an Apology: The power of Radical Self Love