5 Ways to Ditch Diet Culture for Good

Diet culture is a group of beliefs and practices that celebrate thinness and equate body size with health and morality. It is also the lens that beauty is often viewed and defined. In other words, diet culture reflects socially prescribed standards based on whatever is considered “hot” or “perfect” at the time. The saddest aspect of diet culture is that it sets consumers up for failure and disappointment because, truthfully, the “perfect body” does not exist. If we continue to chase it, the only thing we will catch is frustration and a constant fear of not being “enough” as we are.

Shifting Standards

 Much like the fashion industry, the “ideal” has shifted over time and throughout the decades. In the 1500’s, having more body fat did not carry the same stigma that it does today (this is seen throughout famous paintings in that era). Instead, it was once considered a sign that you were wealthy and healthy. Further, depending on the era, women’s beauty standards evolved from voluptuous and curvy to hourglass to supermodel-esque bodies. Today, we see a greater focus on “ripped” physiques and lifting heavy weights.

This is not to say that men’s attractiveness standards have not also changed. In the 60’s and 70’s, a thinner physique was glamorized. Now, the “standard” is large and muscular. This is seen even in kids’ action figures – in the 80’s GI Joe was small-framed; in the early 2000’s, those same figures become much larger.

These standards, along with the pervasive diet culture lies, are a constant source of external pressure that sends the message that we’re not good enough. Instead, what we need understand that it is ok to want to make healthy changes to our bodies while accepting that there is nothing “wrong” with how we are currently. This is known as body harmony.

Reject the Diet Culture Messages

 These messages are not all that diet culture. However, what follows is a list of the most common diet culture lies that tend to throw us off track and have us questioning ourselves and our “enoughness”. Let’s examine these messages and how we can reframe our thoughts around these lies.

  1. Consuming bread can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Bread is not bad. Bread is a staple food in many meals. It is a tasty food product that can provide quality nutrients. Bread by itself will not cause weight gain. Overconsumption is what causes weight gain. You can eat bread as much or less than you need unless you have an allergy. Whole grain options are better for blood sugar control. You can pair them with natural nut butter, cheese, and other protein or fat.
  2. Sugar is evil.The message should be: ExceedSugar intake can cause concern. Sugar overdose can lead to dental problems, nutrient deficiencies, and problems with blood sugar control. It is fine to enjoy small amounts of sugar such as desserts, coffee or tea. 
  3. Always eat clean. The first concern with this statement is the dichotomous thinking – that foods are either clean or dirty or good or bad. There’s no moral value with food. Food is food. It’s fuel. Food is nutrition. The second concern is with the word “always”. It is impossible for humans to imagine it. AlwaysOr Never do something and carry that on in perpetuity with no “slips”. Lastly, there is no specific agreed upon definition of what “clean” is. Does it refer to organic? Does it refer to whole foods or packaged food? It can be interpreted in many ways. Instead of removing or reducing food, it should be emphasized to add more nutritious foods to your diet (fruits and leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables, and lean protein). Food is not bad or dirty. Food is usually nutrient-rich and energy-dense. Sometimes it’s both.
  4. Weight loss is a healthy step.Body weight, when taken as a standalone metric, is not helpful and does not indicate disease or health. If weight loss is significant, it can be a sign that there is a problem or disease. To truly define health, we must consider metrics like blood pressure and mineral storage, sleep fitness levels, stress levels, mental well-being, body composition, resting heart beat, body temperature, and others. Weight represents a person’s relationship with gravity, not their health.
  5. Work out to burn calories and get food.No one has to work hard to get their food. We are physical beings, and food is essential for maintaining our health and weight maintenance. It is important to pay attention to your hunger cues, eat a healthy diet, and engage in regular physical activity and NEAT movement. This refers to the calories burned by our daily activities. Exercise is not a punishment for eating dessert or a way to get a slice of pizza. Food is not money that can exchange for work. Eat. Move. Enjoy.

We will not likely eradicate diet culture and the insanity of its messages. We can only call them out, and recognize them as what they are. Diet culture is all about image and restriction. A scientifically valid and effective approach to optimal health involves behavior change, patience, finding harmony between what your body needs, and what you enjoy. It is not about the body, fitness and health. It is about how you relate to your body. This is where we find our power.

Source: acefitness

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