Written By: Emma Hesse, Student Nutrition Volunteer
I have spent most of my life picking apart my body. I can remember starting my first diet around age seven, and that cycle lasted about 14 years. That is a long time for anyone, but especially me since I am only 23. I spent 14 years picking my body apart, wishing I looked like someone else.
I have spent way too much time questioning what I should eat, adding up calories, and stressing over social events. I have changed outfits fifty times before going out to find something “flattering.” I have passed up activities on a hot day in fear of wearing a bathing suit or missed out on events due to a bad body image day. I have turned down dinner with my boyfriend because it wouldn’t fit my calories for the day. I went to bed hungry, and I was one HANGRY girl. I had a horrible relationship with others and myself until I broke up with diet culture.
Diet culture is the nagging voice you hear in your head when you reach for a snack, the voice telling you to pick the “healthy” option, the voice you hear screaming at you to run when all you want to do is a leisurely stroll. It is all over social media and totally normalized in our society. I bet you hardly even notice it.
It is hard to break up with diet culture and feels wrong at first because it’s something that’s become so ingrained in us. Over time you get to see how diet culture forced you to eat things you never liked or move in ways you hated. Going rogue when it comes to diet culture is actually fun when you finally get to ask yourself, “what would I like to eat today” and “what form of movement would be the best today.” Breaking up with diet culture allows you to see yourself in a new way. Below are the top 5 things that can happen to you when you give up diet culture FOR GOOD too.
The most rewarding part of breaking up with diet culture? Food freedom. I eat what I want when I want it (CRAZY, I know). I don’t spend time adding up calories or counting macros. I don’t overanalyze what I eat. I pick foods that satisfy my mental AND physical hunger. I don’t beat myself up if I eat a food diet culture has labeled “bad.” I don’t spend an extra hour at the gym after eating out. I don’t “fall off track.” I simply eat and I have so much more brain space available for other things because of it.
2. 95-98% of people who start a “weight loss journey” gain the weight back plus some¹
Most people who intentionally lose weight will end up gaining the weight back plus some within 5 years. I know, it’s not a pretty fact to hear. This happens because no matter how hard you try….. your body is smarter than you!!! Your body has a set point where it naturally feels comfortable. This set point changes as you grow and life events occur. Do the work and learn to be comfortable with your body’s set point. You don’t need to spend the rest of your life trying to manipulate the way you look.
3. Disordered eating and eating disorders
35% of “typical” dieters go on to develop disordered eating habits. 15% of these same “typical” dieters go on to develop an eating disorder². That is A LOT of people who ruin their relationship with food in hopes for a smaller body. Why take the chance of being a “typical” dieter who progresses to disordered eating or an eating disorder? In hopes for a smaller body, you are shrinking your life.
We cannot end racism until we end diet culture³. Fatness and Blackness went hand in hand when white scientists were trying to think of reasons to continue to enslave Black people; these beliefs did not go away when “slavery ended.”⁴ Instead, the idea was reframed. Today, we have public health agendas trying to shrink black bodies to fit the white norm and standards. We use a BMI chart (total bs btw) to diagnose conditions that do not consider the Black body and how it is different. Our diet culture society puts Black bodies at risk even more than the white body. Our fatphobic society MUST be addressed to make sure proper care is given to EVERYONE.
5. Weight stigma
Every time you say “yes” to diet culture, you are strengthening weight stigma. You are reinforcing the idea that there is something wrong with living life in a larger body. When in fact, there is nothing wrong with living life in a larger body. We are so fatphobic as a society we have deemed being larger “bad.” We have conducted unfair studies that have been rooted in fatphobic beliefs, so most of the data we read is skewed. Doctors recommend weight loss and exercise for practically everything for someone in a larger body. In most cases, patients need real help, whether that be medication, physical therapy, or surgery, but instead, they are told they should no longer live their life at their set point weight. I encourage you to say “no” to diet culture to help yourself and help others around you.
I encourage you to break up with diet culture. I encourage you to stop manipulating your body. I encourage you to make peace with your body and food. It is possible, and there is a life without food restrictions.
Not sure what health and/or wellness looks like when it’s not tied to a diet? Come join us at the Wellness Revolution Book Club! We’re exploring all things HEALTH, WEIGHT, and NUTRITION without the food rules or diet culture BS that aren’t actually serving you. Learn more about us HERE.
¹ HARRISON CHRISTY. ANTI-DIET: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness through Intuitive Eating. S.l.: YELLOW KITE; 2021.
² HARRISON CHRISTY. ANTI-DIET: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness through Intuitive Eating. S.l.: YELLOW KITE; 2021.
³ HARRISON CHRISTY. ANTI-DIET: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness through Intuitive Eating. S.l.: YELLOW KITE; 2021.
⁴ But how exactly does diet culture uphold white supremacy? CNC360. https://cnc360.com/but-how-exactly-does-diet-culture-uphold-white-supremacy/.