You may have heard me talk about diet culture, shared my view on it briefly perhaps but today, let’s talk about it more. Let’s dig in, so that we can see what it is and how it may be influencing us unknowingly.
Awareness is key to almost everything in life and it’s something I have grown deeper in myself and to help others grow into as well. Without awareness, we miss out on so much potential for growth personally and professionally. And without it, we can easily get caught up in things we never signed up for to begin with.
And this is how I personally feel about diet culture. Listen, not everyone is going to agree with me on this and that is OK. We all have different levels of growth to attain and awareness of what is around us. To me, this is the next level outside of deciding that dieting isn’t working, won’t ever work for you and NOT everyone will be ready to hear this or have this same perspective I do. Because this is my own.
I most certainly wasn’t ready to hear or even try to understand this years ago, until I was. I actually came across this similar message by others before I came to my own conclusion on it but pushed it away thinking, “those women are crazy”, or “they just haven’t found the right diet yet” etc.
But I spent years of my life dieting, living life how I was told I should. Focused on things I was shown I should focus on, like college, buying a house, having the best car, finding the right man, getting married, having kids, not gaining weight during pregnancy etc.
I never questioned if I WANTED to do or have any of that, it was just expected. Expected to want those things, be those things, and follow those things. And this is how I ALSO got caught up in eating disorders and gained major self-confidence issues.
I thought I should WANT to look thin, blonde and have wicked abs. I wasn’t TOLD that I didn’t “have to” OR that I shouldn’t want to. I just saw from my surroundings what I didn’t have and then focused on that 100%. Trying to attain that which was impossible for me, but finding out I didn’t even want that to begin with!
I just wanted to be happy. Find someone to love and who loved me. Create an amazing family. Be at peace, not in debt, live free and totally rock this whole life experience feeling good, feeling healthy inside and out AND whole or complete. I really could care less that when I am 90 if I actually attained rock hard abs and ass cheeks that never jiggle.
I aim to be soulfully happy and have the opportunity to have SO many life stories to share with my kids, grandkids and complete strangers that will listen. Life stories that are inspiring to ALL the generations beneath me, inspiring them into also living their best life too instead of getting caught up in someone else’s dream or what mainstream media tells us to do. It’s not fun wasting your precious time and life, getting caught up in shit that doesn’t matter at the end of it all and SO, this is how diet culture caught me hook, line, and sinker AND I didn’t even know it. Is it catching you too?
What Is Diet Culture?
So, what exactly do I mean by “diet culture”? So much of our world today (at least from the view I have) we are surrounded by words and phrases that are tossed about, yet without clarification or really understanding what it means or is meant by (whatever the term or phrase is)?
Diet culture by definition, so we all are on the same page, is a society that places value or importance on being a certain size, weight, or shape OVER actual health. The term “diet” has SO many different definitions too, that it would take me a whole other post to go through but I think we can mostly (because there is always one or two or three), if not ALL agree, that diet has been known more as something we DO to lose weight. Something we GO on to change the shape, size, weight of our bodies.
And so, going forward this is what I mean when I say “diet culture” or “diet”. There are so many perspectives on this subject, but again this is mine and so I hope this serves you.
It took me years to get to a place where that word was neutral for me. DIET. Where it wasn’t loaded. Where it didn’t give me a stress response in my body. Now, diet to me is just what I eat. The “Sabrina diet”. And those foods NOW, can be anything I choose. Cake cookies, candy, chips, burgers, pizza, ice cream, broccoli, salads, water, coffee, avocados, chicken, steak, potato etc. are ALL on the “Sabrina diet”.
Does this mean I eat cake all the time, heck no. Does that mean I live on salad 24/7 (like I used to) heck no! It just means I put little to no emphasis on my diet in the way I use to. I don’t count calories or macros. I live life in freedom focusing on feeling good. I count feeling good as a WIN now, not when I hit 1200 calories or less in my fitness pal or when the scale drops 5 lbs.
I just want to live my life sustainably, so that I don’t yo-yo with my weight anymore YET enjoy my body, feel energized, and enjoy being fully present in my life, in every moment. That is a WIN for me when I can do that everyday without the side of guilt, shame and anxiety from not ever making it back to a size 2.
Diet Culture Awareness
Examples of diet culture can show up like…feeling trapped and like you can’t avoid conversations about your weight, what you are currently eating, or “doing” to lose weight. Talks about killing it at the gym to fit into a specific size or punishment for eating “bad” foods.
Dreading the doctor’s office because you will get hounded MORE over what the scale says, than what you ate for dinner, are doing at the gym or where your stress levels are at.
And let’s not forget, the disguised as motivation…incessant number of invites to weight loss challenges at work, in your family, on the street corner etc. PLUS, the constant advertising of weight loss in order to make you more attractive, happier, and successful.
Freezing off your fat anyone?
It’s villainizing certain foods and lifting up others. Its thinking we are “good” when we eat kale and we are “bad” when we eat a donut.
It’s walking around feeling like crap, depressed, any negative emotion ALL because you feel “broken” and that you need to be “fixed” because you don’t look a certain way.
It’s only ordering from the skinny menu when you want to order from the regular menu, all because you don’t want others to think you are fat and you want them to think you are in control of your eating and food choices.
It can also be afraid to go up a size and shop for clothing that actually FITS because you are afraid of what that larger size means or because you have to shop a different section and don’t want to be seen.
PLUS, a million more ways this can manifest for you or even me.
We ALL see these messages, and most of the time we don’t think twice about it. They are everywhere and we can’t escape them because they are part of “what’s normal today”. This messaging even pops up in our social media from ads and friends, many books, a lot of movies, women’s magazines, on food packaging, and in our daily conversations…It’s literally everywhere. But once you start to notice it, you won’t be able to stop seeing it.
And sadly, it’s directed at all ages, stages and anyone with a pulse. Even pets. The FEAR of gaining weight and right next to the ad or convo, of course a way to “lose the weight”. My oldest and youngest daughters whom are 7 and 10 see it and take in these messages on YouTube, in video games etc. If it wasn’t for me seeing this stuff because I listen to their words A LOT…they would be walking around thinking to be accepted you must be “thin” already at age 7 and 10.
They would be thinking that jiggle and wiggle is bad. Thinking they are FAT!!! And this crap just HAS to stop! We should ALL be accepted as we are because damn it!! We are f-ing human beings. We all deserve love, respect, dignity and to live the life WE want to live! Not the life we are told we must or the one we think everyone should.
And it’s totally ok if someone is heavier than you. Wears a larger size than you. It’s safe to be different. That doesn’t take anything away from you or me. And just because someone looks heavier doesn’t mean they don’t care about themselves or that they are lazy or that they are unhealthy. Those are just labels that we have learned overtime and now it’s time to UNLEARN them.
Diet culture isn’t JUST fad diets. You don’t have to be following a specific diet in order to get caught up in our culture of dieting. It’s NOT any one specific “lifestyle” or “program” we are following or not following. We can even see it confused and wrapped up in our messaging of “wellness” too. It all feels so harmless and snuggly under a different umbrella, or so we think.
And I know that this term can be a hot button for people who are following weight loss programs or lifestyles diligently and getting results for the first time or yet again. It used to me too. I even feel prey to it by using the term “lifestyle” in replace of the word “diet” for years unknowingly.
To me lifestyle meant for life, long term, something I would adopt and never look back but that’s even a slippery slope back to diet 101. If it has rules, It’s a diet.
But that is how I think you can also identify a diet if you aren’t sure and that is by having to define or defend your food at all. By having to explain “your lifestyle choices” or “food decision” to anyone.
If eating a certain way or eating something (like gluten free and you don’t have a disease) makes you feel in control, better than someone else etc. that’s a diet. Otherwise, it would just be eating.
And the last time I checked, when people “just eat”, they don’t talk about food in any other way than “I enjoy this” or “this tastes good”, or “this place has the best pie”. People whom aren’t dieters, don’t have eating disorders etc. DON’T get caught up in talk about the pros and cons of any food. It’s just simply food, eating it, and moving on. As my husband says, “It’s just a means to an end”.
Once I finally stood up to my own self because I was quite the bully and I ditched diet culture…I just ate.
Sometimes that is a sandwich with bread, a salad with chicken, or an ice cream when we are out when I want it. My focus has shifted to eating foods that feel good and allowing my body to lead the way, versus eating foods that DON’T make me fat or steering clear from foods that have too many calories.
I no longer live in that mindset of lack, fear and self-hatred. Now, I just eat. I am a diet culture drop out and still learning how to get further and further away from it. How can you do this too?
START with awareness. With seeing the ways diet culture sneaks in to your life and makes you feel like crap. Feeling guilty or shameful and then decide how you want to feel about your food. How you want to feel about yourself and start being aware of it.
Once you are aware of it in your life and those around you, you can then start making the choices to be free from it. By not participating in the conversations, the social media before and afters, etc. And eventually you can get to the place of just eating too.
This was THE hardest step and takes a lot of mind drama managing. But if you can start with seeing it and working on NOT being apart of it you will be well on your way, step by step being free from it. You can do it.
And if you want help, need some support, want to be guided into awesomeness, I can help. This is what I help my clients with and how I help them start to unlearn all the years of dieting rules and diet mindset that binds them to the same cycle that never ends up getting them any closer to the success that was promised from the diet industry. You can unlearn it too.
With Nourishing Love,