Checking Our Intentions
Last week, I posted a blog about the dangers of using exercise as a maladaptive coping mechanism as well as some tips on how to avoid those dangers. One such tip was to “check your intentions”. I wrote that “we work out because we like to do something good for our bodies” and I’d like to examine that a little further this week. While I mentioned that exercise is great for combatting anxiety and depression, as well the magical power of endorphins, what I did NOT bring up was weight loss. Equating thinness with health is one of the centerpieces of diet culture and that’s poison we don’t need in our lives.
A Working Explanation of Diet Culture
Christy Harrison, an RD and host of the podcast, Food Psych, has a great four-part explanation of what diet culture means. As you read over the list along with my commentary, think about how often you see these things every day. It might be through first-hand experience, via the media, etc. You may be surprised at how pervasive this mentality is.
A Moral Virtue?
Christy starts by stating that “Diet culture is a system of beliefs that worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin ‘ideal.'” Working at a treatment center that specializes in eating disorders, I see the consequences of this every day. Spend any amount of time on the internet or in front of a TV. You’ll see elements of this idealization within minutes. What I’d like to bring attention to is the equation of thinness to “moral virtue”. How often does society write off larger-bodied people as lazy or worthless, based on their size? It’s insidious and all-too-common.
The Worst Kind of Treadmill
She continues by saying diet culture “promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body”. Furthermore, it “demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating”. Entire industries spring from this way of thinking. Consider juice bars and spending ten dollars on what is essentially a bottle of sugar water. Think about all the money made off of gluten-free alternatives. They make you feel awful about yourself so they can sell you the cure.
Diet Culture Hurts Us All
Finally, diet culture “oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of ‘health,’ which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health”. Some might find that hard to believe, despite the history stereotypes in the media? However, consider this University of Connecticut study which found that soda and candy ads are shown twice as often to black children as white children.
Diet culture is toxic and it affects all of us. However, movements like body positivity and intuitive eating are moving toward the mainstream. More and more people are becoming aware and are calling diet culture out as the poison it is. To learn more, check out Christy Harrison’s blog here.
Ocean Recovery is a residential eating disorder and substance abuse treatment facility located in Newport Beach, California. If you or someone you know is suffering, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.