What is diet culture?
It’s everywhere and once you start seeing it, it’s almost impossible to stop.
Diet culture is the idea that in order to be happy and healthy, everyone has to look a certain way.
This $66 billion dollar industry thrives on convincing people it’s their fault if the product (aka diets, exercise routines, etc) doesn’t work.
Which spirals us into a pattern of emotional eating and thinking “maybe if I try something else, it will work for me!”
So how do we fight back?
On this week’s episode, I’m glad to say I have an incredible guest with me, Dr. Alexis Conason!
She’s a psychologist and the creator of The Anti Diet Plan, a compassionate, mindful way to stop dieting and get on with your life!
Dr. Conason is sharing so much TRUTH on this episode about things like restriction, self worth, and body image.
This is my all-time favorite episode so far.
You don’t wanna miss this! Share it with anyone you know who wants to lose weight, tone up, or trim down.
Mashed potatoes did not kick a puppy.
Mashed potatoes are not BAD.
They’re a kind of food and it’s about time we stop giving morals to inanimate objects.
Same with exercise.
The act of running does not end world hunger.
Running is not GOOD.
But we grew up hearing these things in commercials, from our parents, and even in our school curriculum.
It’s up to us to change the story of how we view food. No one died from eating one piece of cake, and no one lived longer from eating one kale salad.
So, these things alone cannot be good or bad. Health is about how often we exercise (and rest) and how much (or little) we eat.
This idea of achieving a single standard of health is ridiculous.
What’s healthy for me to eat is different than what’s healthy for you to eat.
Some people have gluten or dairy intolerances, others are allergic to fruits or nuts.
So suggesting universal dietary plans isn’t just impractical, it’s harmful.
That sends a message that if you cannot follow this plan, there’s something wrong with you.
You are “abnormal.”
As if such a thing exists in a world with 7.3 billion people.
Same goes for attractiveness and beauty.
This is not a human universal. What’s considered attractive in some cultures is actually unattractive in others. So if you’re living in a place where your body type or physical characteristics are considered “unattractive” that doesn’t mean YOU are unattractive.
Over the past century, the definitions of female beauty have changes drastically.
So whether or not your beauty is celebrated really comes down to “right place, right time” syndrome, not your actual worth as a human.
Plus, each individual person has unique preferences and ideas of what they find attractive.
It’s an all around losing game, my friend.
This is why I completely reject these cultural beauty standards, because they’re a constant moving target.
Once you check one box, a new one pops up.
It’s like playing whack-a-mole, but with insecurities and fashion trends.
Why would I waste my time trying to be something one day and something completely different 5 years later when the trend changes?
No, thank you.
I’m looking inward to decide what I think is sexy about myself. Then, I embrace whatever I have working FOR me, and forget the rest.
Humans are wired to want things that are scarce.
Which is why having deadlines, limited number of tickets, and “door buster” deals are so effective for my client’s copywriting.
When you apply this to diet culture, it gets really dangerous.
Every single diet is based on restrictive eating. Which means you have to tell yourself “I can’t eat that” or “that’s not allowed.”
This creates scarcity around the food, and it makes you really, really want it.
So eventually, you crack. You “fall off the bandwagon” and binge or over indulge in that food because you’re so fixated on NOT eating it.
Next thing you know, you’re looking for a new diet plan because you gained back the weight you lost and feel even worse than before you started.
The diet industry it setting you up for failure, and they convince you it’s YOUR fault if you can’t stay on their plan.
When, in fact, it’s the entire idea of being on a “diet plan” that’s to blame.
Everything in life is about balance. Too much running damages your body, too much mashed potatoes might make you feel sick.
But in the right balance, both are healthy. See, it’s not about what’s “good” and “bad” it’s about what your body needs in order to live a long, meaningful life.
What you eat and how much you exercise should be part of your life, but not part of your every waking moment.
So instead of labeling certain foods as “off limits” why not give yourself the power to choose.
Tell yourself, “I don’t need this cookie right now,” or “I’m just not in the mood for a salad, I’d rather have pizza”
Instead of feeling controlled by your diet and your food, reframing your mindset can put YOU back in the position of power.
You can be the one to decide what you eat and how much.
Changing your mindset about exercise allows you to celebrate what your body can do instead of punish your body for eating.
Remember when fat was public health enemy #1?
Reduced fat foods were everywhere and the food industry created low-fat alternatives to everything.
Then, studies came out saying eating fat doesn’t make you fat…it’s actually sugar that makes you fat.
So everything turned into reduced sugar, and sugar-free sweeteners like Splenda and Aspertame started entering our food vocabulary.
Now we’re told those sugar-free sweeteners cause cancer and are actually worse for our health than real sugar!
How. The. Hell. Are. We. Supposed. To. Keep. Up.
What’s healthy one day is going to kill you the next.
We are so lost in this conflicting information we don’t know how to feed ourselves anymore.
Instead of listening to our bodies, we’re searching for the next super food that’s going to solve all our problems.
Guess what? That doesn’t exist. There is no magic food to eat or evil food to avoid.
All you can do is learn what’s best for YOUR body.
You do that through trial and error, see what works for you.
Tune into your body and listen to the wisdom that’s waiting for you there.
Fitness is important, I’m not trying to say exercise and healthy eating is bad.
What I’m saying is that the definitions are getting messed up.
Diet culture tells us that a rigid exercise routine and meal plan is the “right way” to be healthy.
Not all bodies respond the same way to these methods, though.
So what if you’re eating “clean” and exercising “regularly” and you still don’t look like the people with fitness Instagram profiles?
This culture makes us believe there’s something wrong with us.
When in fact, if we listen to our bodies and ditch the entire idea of “dieting” we can reach the ultimate GOAL of it all: to be happy.
That’s the big lie of the weight-loss industry, that if you want to be happy you have to change your appearance.
Now, they fancy this up and sell it to us in different ways, but this is the fundamental crux of it.
Diet culture trains us to believe it’s our fault if their diets don’t work.
So instead of rejecting diet culture and dieting in general, we reject ourselves and sign up for a new diet.
Which leads me and others, like Dr. Conason, to believe dieting is not making choices about food to get results, it’s the cycle of going off and on the “bandwagon.”
This culture convinces us that the only way to get the things we want (happiness, attractiveness, companionship) is by having a different body.
We’re being told a story about our worth and how to increase our value through our appearance.
I’m here to say, that’s false.
You might be a little happier, but you will not feel the way they claim you will feel.
At least, not for long.
Because, what if you get off the diet and gain back the weight?
You’ll feel like a failure and start looking for a new diet.
Here’s the truth, you can choose to be happier today, tomorrow, or next week.
You don’t have to change your appearance in order to change your life.
In a culture turning towards body positivity, how do you convince people they’re not good enough? Well, it’s pretty easy I guess.
We’re inundated with these messages since birth, so the industry has its claws in pretty deep.
One destructive way they’re trying to stay relevant is by adopting the language of the body positive movement.
They’re using words like “mindful eating” and “self care” but really all they’re doing is repackaging the same old diets that never work.
This is dangerous because the misuse of these terms causes confusion around what they really mean.
Anything that is restrictive or “calorie counting” is NOT mindful eating or self care, it’s a diet.
It’s not so simple to be immersed in self hatred to embracing your body and loving yourself.
When you’re trapped in a cycle of self doubt, self hatred, and self criticism, it feels hopeless to think of yourself in any other way.
But this is a story we’ve been told by diet culture. The fact that it’s a story means we can write a different one.
This journey of telling yourself a different story is difficult and takes a long time.
Start by practicing with yourself. It’s okay if you don’t know where to begin.
This is why I created this simple body confidence guide.
It’s called, Thoughts That Uplift.
When dealing with matters of the mind, patience and support is key.
It is possible to heal the relationship you have with your body, but it takes time.
Be kind to yourself, no one makes progress overnight.
No matter how slow you may go, the only thing that matters is getting there.
Rebekah Buege is a body confidence coach helping strong women process critical thoughts and heal insecurities.
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