3 Reasons to Stop Participating in Diet Culture

Sunday night is grocery night in the Schatz house. I am a list person. That means grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do, because I can check things off my list and feel like I accomplished something. The past few weeks at the grocery store I have noticed how many things have labels like sugar free, gluten free, soy free, dairy free, organic…you get the picture. It deviously gives the message that there are good foods and bad foods. Then there is the health and wellness aisle that is loaded with weight loss pills, protein powder, protein shakes, bars and the like meant to help aid you on your weight loss journey. Before a person has even made it to the check- out line they have been bombarded with countless messages pertaining to living the “healthiest lifestyle”.

Before I go any further I want to say that I truly believe there are real health problems that cause people to need dietary restrictions. I do not have a problem with that. I do have a problem with diet culture and the messages it continually conveys about what a healthy lifestyle is.

I want to talk about the three big reasons our society needs to put an end to the diet culture mentality.

  1. It puts you in a dangerous mindset

The idea of foods being good or bad can lead to an eating disorder. Eating disorders are complicated and different for each person. The idea of restricting certain foods can spiral out of control very quickly with the right set of circumstances. What starts out as an innocent diet of cutting down on “bad foods” like sweets, can then turn into cutting out whole food groups, such as all things dairy, and it only continues from there. How can it not when we are constantly being sold the message that sugar is bad, dairy makes you bloat, and gluten is not to be eaten?

This is not the only problem.

Social media has a large role in diet culture too. A few years ago pro-ana websites, sites that promote anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle, and #thinspo were a big problem. Don’t get me wrong, these are still a huge problem today, but now the problem has expanded. We have moved into a time where #fitspo #bodygoals and #fitnessmotivation has taken over social media and promotes the same underlying messages that #thinspo and pro-anorexia websites promote.

The message that thinner equals healthy, beautiful, and desirable. Right now on Instagram there are over 44 MILLION pictures with the tag #fitspo, 22 MILLION with #fitnessmotivation, and just over 2 MILLION with #bodygoals. How many hours a day do young adults scroll through these pictures and compare their own physical bodies with touched up, posed, and filtered bodies? This is mind blowing to me that we do not see this as an issue.

  1. It is full of mixed signals

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and “Never miss a Monday” are probably two of the biggest sayings that are meant to inspire you to go workout and restrict your food. Then two seconds later you might also hear, “treat yo self” and “splurge! You deserve it! You are perfect the way you are!” Umm…What? You cannot have it both ways.

Society tells people it wants them to be individuals and to love their bodies, but only if they fit into the acceptable mold of what society expects you to be.

These kind of mixed signals can start a cycle of restrict, splurge, and guilt. How many of us have experienced this cycle? A person starts a diet on a Monday, by Wednesday that person is so hungry from restricting food they throw their hands up in defeat and give into eating everything they said they would not eat. After this the individual is overwhelmed with guilt that they then vow to try harder next Monday. It’s a vicious cycle. Trust me, I get it. I am still wrestling with feeling the same guilt after meals.

  1. It tells you that losing weight and having a small body should be your life ambition

It all boils down to this one simple idea that smaller is equal to better, more successful, more beautiful, and the answer to everything.

Losing weight should not be your life goal.

If we took all the time and money we spend trying to attain this smaller body and put our efforts into other causes we have passion for, we could make a huge change in the world.

I am not saying that people should not eat healthy. I think we should all be doing what we can to live a healthy life. Working out is great. It can be fun and an excellent stress reliever. Eating a balanced diet is key to living long lives, but this obsession to attain the perfect body is dangerous.

Thinking that only one body type is healthy is dangerous.

Thinking that an entire food group is bad for you is dangerous.

Restricting yourself from food is never healthy. We need to stop prescribing unhealthy rituals with food to people society deems as “larger bodied” that we would diagnose as disordered eating in “smaller bodied” people. This mentality is why people who do not fit the mold of being extremely underweight have trouble getting help for their eating disorders. The world does not see it as a problem until you are suddenly “too thin”. The double standard has to go and we need to say goodbye to the diet culture mentality.

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Not Enough.

Smart enough, thin enough, athletic enough, creative enough, etc…

The list could go on forever.

I believe the majority of people at one time or another has felt as if they weren’t enough of something, and I am no exception.

I have been thinking about this frequently and I have come to the conclusion that this feeling of not being enough _____ comes from one thing, success. What is success to you? Is it money…followers…friends? Is it finally getting to the top of your company? For many people who work in ministry, success can be seen as the number of people attending worship and church events. This is the easiest way for people to “measure” your success.

This past year I have been a part of a continuing education class called the Leadership Initiative.  One of the key discussion points we have covered this year is focusing on the wins.  Wins are not numbers.  A win is when I see the youth I work with put together the ideas we have been discussing all year.  A win is seeing them step into leadership positions and be a Christ like example to their friends and family. A win is seeing these kids open up to each other about the real issues occurring in their lives, and seeing trust grow between them. Wins are not things we can measure. Wins are passed on by telling others about the growth, trust and faith that are building within the group.  Numbers do not equal success.

When I start looking at numbers or comparing what I’m doing with my youth compared to what other youth directors are doing, that is when the “not enough” feelings come up. Not creative enough…not doing enough…not good enough.  Not as good as _____ at _______. I don’t have the same gift sets as others, but others might not have some of the same gifts that I have. God gave each of us different gifts for a reason.  It would be so boring if we were all good at the same things. You could have 5 different people work with the same group of kids and they would get something different from each of the 5 leaders. How awesome is that?

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing  to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8). We are made uniquely!

Whenever we start having those “not enough” feelings, remember that success is not a dollar amount. Success is not the number of followers you have on Instagram or the amount of the people who show up to an event. Success is the way we are using the gifts that God has given us and having the confidence to be our own unique selves. No one can impact the world in the same way you can. Don’t ever feel like your gifts aren’t enough. They are.

Trudging Through Fear

Have you ever reached the point of frustration where all you feel like doing is crying because you don’t know what to do with all your feelings? Is that just me?

I have been at that point for about two weeks. This pain in my lower legs just won’t go away. It has spread from my shins to now encompassing all of my lower leg muscles.

At first I thought it was because I was wearing heels too much. By too much, I mean I wore them to work two days in a row and then had some serious muscle soreness the next day on my run. I know, I know, what a rookie, right?

I thought the new shoes had fixed it, and yet here I am three weeks later with only a handful of runs that had no pain. The most frustrating part about this is that all the pain hits me at once. It’s not a slow build up of aches, it comes in full force like a fireball. Worse than that, is it hits a tenth of a mile in to my run. A. TENTH. OF. A. MILE friends! That’s not even a minute into my run.

In all of the frustration during my last run I have come to grips with the fact that what this brings up in me is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being told that I won’t ever be able to hit this goal. Fear that I just put myself out there to all my friends saying I was going to do this, and then not following through. Fear that once again that little voice in my head telling me I’m not talented enough to do this, is right. It is a vicious cycle.

BUT…

Fear is fickle. Fear is a liar. It usually comes up when something great is about to happen. I was afraid when I transferred to a new college, and that ended up being the best thing for me. I was afraid moving to Seattle, and there have been countless things that wouldn’t have happened if I would have listened to fear.

So, fear not friends. I am not setting up camp in the struggle. I am not going to give up. Fear is just false evidence appearing real. I have hit a roadblock, but I won’t let myself camp out with fear by my side; not in running, and not in life.

Hopefully my next post won’t be such a downer. In the mean time, run, sweat, and do something that will help you get closer to your goal.