As somebody who’s passionate about nourishing your body and leading a healthy lifestyle, I like to make it clear that I’m very against diet culture. Fighting back against the harmful mentalities that diet culture instills in us, is something that is extremely important to me. So much so, that in my first-ever blog post, one of my biggest messages was that diet culture is counter-productive to any health goal.
When I say “diet culture”, I’m referring to beliefs that honor, reward, and value thinness and an “attractive” appearance over all other aspects of health and wellbeing1.
Diet culture leads way for ill-intended companies to release “healthy” weight-loss products, and profit off of many women’s insecurities. Any products such as juice cleanses or detox programs, rapid weight-loss supplements, or anything that’s intended to be a “quick-fix’ in regards to weight, is simply diet culture in action. There is no such thing as a “weight-loss secret”, or a drink that can make you shed pounds overnight. No product exists that can burn fat, or boost your metabolism. The only sustainable way to loose weight, is to work towards diet and lifestyle changes. But, does that make these companies any money? No, it doesn’t. What makes money, is selling ridiculous, phony products that people are buying because diet culture makes them think that they need to look a certain way. None of these companies care about your health. Believe me when I say this: it’s all about the money.
Diet culture has perpetuated the idea that weight-loss comes first, and health comes second. Today, I want to talk about the harmful ideas that diet culture instills in our minds, and how you can overcome these toxic mentalities to improve your relationship with food.
Carbs and calories are not the enemy!
Diet culture has waged an ongoing war against calories and carbohydrates. I think most can agree that some of the first dieting “tips” ever received, is that we need to avoid all carbs, and reduce our calorie intake as much as possible. While reducing the amount of carbohydrates and overall calories in your diet is an effective weight-loss tactic when done in a reasonable manner, excessive restriction puts stress on your body and is not a healthy way to loose weight.
Calories are just a measure of energy- not something to be feared. Yes, a calorie deficit is the key to weight-loss, but that shouldn’t involve food restriction. The focus should instead be on creating a calorie deficit through balancing what you eat, with how you move! (In other words, your body will thank you if you choose to get up and exercise instead of starving yourself!)
You do not need a juice cleanse, or detox.
Juice cleanses, and so-call “detox” products, are probably one of the most overrated weight-loss techniques. Consuming only fruit/vegetable juice might produce short-term results, but those results often aren’t sustainable. By only drinking juice, your body is also missing out on other key nutrients, like proteins, fibers and other beneficial compounds found in whole foods.
Most importantly, the idea that a product is designed to “detoxify” your body, is just a hoax. We don’t need a product to do that for our bodies… our bodies detoxify themselves! Organs like our liver, lungs, kidneys, and colon (along with your lymphatic system) naturally to rid our bodies of toxins- and they’re at work every moment doing just that! The best, and only way, to truly detoxify your body, is to engage in habits that support these organs, and to provide your body with nutrient-dense, whole foods so that they can function to their highest degree.
So, don’t rush off to buy a juice cleanse, or detox program simply because an influencer is getting paid to tell you they use it (they don’t).
Instead, focus on things like:
- getting enough sleep
- abstaining from alcohol
- drinking enough water
- engaging in cardiovascular exercise (sweat it out!)
- consuming whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods
- reducing chemical and micro-plastic exposure by being mindful of products you’re using on your skin & body, and throughout your home
Don’t buy into the “all-or-nothing” mindset.
Often, diet culture perpetuates that idea that you need to commit fully to following a restrictive diet for a set period of time. This leads people to approach diets with an “all-or-nothing” mentality.
Does the following situation sound familiar?
You decide to start a healthy diet “tomorrow”, yet veer off track come morning, and decide to push the diet off for another day and indulge in all of your favorites for just one more day. You begin the next day with a healthy breakfast, make it through work, or school by just eating a mere salad, or small snack for lunch. Then go home and let loose, tearing through the kitchen for something to satiate your hungry stomach. Because you already ruined your diet, there’s no use in eating a healthy dinner… so you decide to start your diet, “for-real”, the next morning.
Thus begins the cycle- diet, fail, procrastinate, repeat.
What if we override this system? What if we remove the “failure” aspect, and break the cycle? So what- you made an unhealthy choice even though you’re trying to be conscious of your health, but why does that mean all the progress you’ve made go to waste? Why should we see that one small decision as a failure that ruins the rest of the healthy decisions you could make going forward?
So, go ahead. Eat a healthy breakfast, and then grab some pizza for lunch if that’s what you’re craving. Your decision to eat pizza doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your choices for that day- balance it out by making a better choice for dinner! Your diet isn’t ruined until you choose to abandon it!
Now, I’m not an advocate for modern “diets” (a.k.a. starvation). However, if you’re looking to make healthy lifestyle changes, this same idea applies. Do your best to make those changes, but remember that the progress you’ve made is still valid even if you veer off track. It’s better for your body, and your mental health. Simply keep going, and don’t be too hard on yourself! Making an effort to create some change, is better than no effort at all.
- Daryanani, Anita. “‘Diet Culture’ & Social Media.” UCSD Recreation, 28 Jan. 2021, recreation.ucsd.edu/2021/01/diet-culture-social-media/.