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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.