The first step down the road of ditching Diet Culture is by first understanding what Diet Culture is. As widely quoted and recognized, the definition of diet culture is best summarized by Christie Harrison. Christie Harrison is a registered Anti-Diet Dietitian, podcast host, and author of the book, Anti-Diet. Harrison summarizes diet culture as a system of beliefs;
Idolizing thinness and relating it to failure when your personal body doesn’t live up the thin “ideal.”
Equates weight loss as moving into a higher authority of success and power.
Hyper-focusing on the type of food eaten, demonstrating high social currency when in public.
Belittles bodies who do not measure up to the thin “ideal,” damaging emotional and physical health. Also included in the thin “ideal,”people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and people in bodies that are not considered appropriate.
For right now I am going to focus on belief statement 1.
Idolizing the Thin “Ideal”
This infamous thin “ideal” is everywhere around us. Take a quick peep onto your Instagram feed or your Facebook feed. I am sure you are bound to find at least one beautiful young women preaching about her healthy life in colorful and envious ways. To the naked mind and eye, she is everything. She is everything others have dreamed of being. But why is that? When we see these Influencers, who are they actually influencing? Are they influencing you, certain demographics, society as a whole, or women only? The answer to those questions can be answered differently by everyone and anyone.
In order to define and understand the thin “ideal” I am going to have to get a little sociological. That is, I am going to have to take the personal act of “being healthy” to a very social and broader scale.
Where did diets come from? Why are they socially accepted and normal? Why do people feel compelled to lose weight?
The short answer, it was learned. The long answer, and one you probably don’t want to hear, is that we socially constructed it.
Certainly not a new way of thinking, but one that makes the most sense to me of how we have all shifted toward the dieting train, destination thin. If I was to go in-depth, this post would turn into a book. So I will sum it up and tell you that there was a shift in the way of living after the industrial revolution, and as well as after WWII. Beauty and cosmetic companies began to promote their version of a beautiful and successful women following trends over decades as well as demographics. And last but surely not least, there was the onslaught of the “obesity epidemic,” the rise of weight loss companies, and the marketing of the diet industry itself that has pulled on the money who were easily convinced their body was incorrect.
Over the years, we have socially learned “fat” is wrong and “thin” is correct. The very meaning we use when we think of these words has been socially constructed. We as a society have made that the epicenter of what we call beautiful and what we call healthy. It is ingrained in the American culture as strong as Red, White, and Blue.
When we think of our dream bodies, or our goal weights, where does the number or images usually go? Not toward the “plus-size” model (who happens to be a size 6-10), towards bigger bodies, or even toward average looking (and healthy) shape bodies. We go straight for the thin. The toned. The girl who can wear everything and is cataloged, broadcasted, and showcased to the world.
Part of boycotting diet culture is to resist the thin “ideal.” Not every body on this planet was meant to look a certain way, and for good reason too. When we resist the thin “ideal” we are not only changing the definition of what it means to be beautiful, successful, and worthy. We are also influencing ourselves to love who we are on the inside as well as on the outside. Anyone and everyone is beautiful, regardless of the socially constructed definitions.
EMBRACE YOUR BODY! DON’T LOOK FOR THIN. LOOK FOR YOU. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT TO DO.