Graphic by Tara Steinmetz

Graphic by Tara Steinmetz

DIET CULTURE IS BAD AND WE HAVE THE FACTS TO BACK IT UP  

By Madeline Johnson

2 · 10 · 2019

 
 
 

Although the first month of the new year brings a chance to start anew, it also brings something slightly more sinister: diet culture. Though diet culture exists in our society year round, its influence peaks around January.

Have you by chance heard recently, “I’ve gotta work off what I gained over the holidays!!!!”?  Diet culture. Anyone on a brutal juice cleanse this January? Diet culture. Been hearing about Keto, or Whole30, or fill-in-the-blank fad diet? Your best friend is now “eating clean”?  Kim K’s appetite suppressant lollipops won’t stop inundating your feed? All diet culture.

It's been ingrained in us since day one that thinness equates to health, which equates to beauty, which equates to desirability.  And the diet industry makes billions exploiting these desire at the expense of people's health. It’s scientifically proven that diets slow your metabolism, deprive your body of essential nutrients, and in some individuals, can trigger eating disorders.  So, no: dieting culture isn’t necessary and it sure as hell isn’t always healthy.

But because long-held rhetoric and ill-informed mentalities are hard to kick, I’ve enlisted Christina Scribner, a registered dietician nutritionist in Colorado, to explain the dangers of diet culture using science and cold-hard facts.

Here’s what she has to say and, trust me, you’re going to want to listen:

 

Health looks different on everybody:

“People around the world eat in different patterns and different foods.  When it comes to physical performance, people from all different countries compete in the Olympics, eating their culturally defined diet.  There isn't necessarily a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of eating.

 We are all genetically predisposed to be different weights. And while not every weight is our healthiest weight, not all people need to have the same BMI.

Caloric intake varies by individual. We have calculators to estimate caloric needs, but those are only estimates. Direct measurement of energy needs is specific to time, place, and conditions. Luckily the human body has a homeostatic mechanism for allowing us to ‘stay the same’ similar to how we maintain our body temperature by either shivering or sweating. We do not need to tightly regulate our intake from day to day.”

Dieting can have harmful consequences:

“People often look at diets as almost ‘magical’ or as a way to ‘fix’ something that is broken. When people are successful at losing weight with a fad diet, most people regain that weight within one to five years.

Not listening to our body's signals and following a diet -- external food rules -- often leads to (extreme) hunger, that can be both physiological and psychological. Just like holding your breath when you drive through a tunnel, an air diet, when you get to the other end, you take a deep breath, the binge. In the world of food, the big breath at the end is often called a ‘binge’ which leads to guilt and fear that one has lost control. So yes, dieting is potentially dangerous as it has been associated with development of eating disorders and reduced performance, both mentally and physically. Our choice in food generally reflects the way we were raised, our environment or habit - not our morality.

Diets direct us toward cues or rules that come from the outside (the rules of the diet) rather than listening to and responding to internal body cues of hunger and satiety.

The more restrictive a person eats, the less likely nutritional needs will be met. Furthermore, eating less than your body needs results in metabolic down-regulation. (In other words), your metabolism slows down.”


There are always different, better ways to approach health and body image:

“HAES [Health at Every Size] emphasized all bodies as valued and all people are supposed in compassionate self-care. Take a look at this website: https://lindabacon.org/videos/

Intuitive eating is an approach to eating by 2 registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Intuitive eating is an approach that supports people in developing a peace-filled relationship with food and their body. See this website: https://www.intuitiveeating.org.

 I think it is worth mentioning that social media promotes ‘images’ that are not real. People post images that turn into a ‘masquerade party’ of sorts. Unfortunately, people seem to compare and compete with one another. It is important to consider the amount of time you spend on social media.”

 
 

So there you go, folks: the hard, cold truth. And no matter what, stop trying to shrink yourself. Instead, unapologetically take up space.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image and disordered eating, depression, or suicidal thoughts: here are some resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-8255

Body-positive Instagrams:

@bodyposipanda

@effyourbeautystandards

@ownitbabe

@dietitiananna

@nonairbrushedme

@yourhappyhealthyrd

@chr1styharrison

@nude_nutritionist