The Best Nutrition Advice You're Probably Not Getting: Diet Culture And Your Relationship With Food
Updated: Jul 14
Have you ever felt guilty after eating a piece of cake? Or like you're a "bad" person because you didn't eat enough vegetables today? If so, then you've experienced the harmful effects of diet culture. This type of thinking is pervasive in our society, and it can be incredibly damaging to our relationship with food. In this blog post, I will discuss the negative effects of diet culture and how to create a more supportive relationship with food. I hope that this information will help you make peace with food and live a healthier life!
Diet culture is a set of beliefs that has become deeply ingrained in our society. It tells us that we should restrict certain foods, lose weight at all costs and be thin to be healthy or happy. This type of thinking leads people to develop disordered eating patterns such as bingeing on junk food followed by restrictive dieting which can be incredibly harmful to our physical and mental health.
In the nutrition and fitness profession, we are often taught that dieting is the key to good health. However, this is not only untrue, but it can also be very damaging. Dieting can lead to weight cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting), which is when a person repeatedly loses and gains weight. This is not only incredibly unhealthy, but it can also be very frustrating and demoralizing.
So how do we break free from diet culture and develop a more supportive relationship with food? The first step is to become aware of the harmful messages that are constantly being marketed to us. Once we become mindful of these messages, we can start to challenge them. For example, advertisements for a diet pill might trigger some negative thoughts about your body. Fear-mongering headlines about diet and exercise may make you feel guilty about not "taking control of your health." Celebrity-endorsed products and diets may make you feel like you're not good enough unless you lose weight. All of these thoughts need to be challenged and approached with compassion and self-empathy. Are these messages really true? No.
The second step is to develop a more intuitive relationship with food. This means listening to your body's signals and responding in a way that is respectful and nurturing. For example, if you're hungry, eat! If you're not hungry, don't eat. If you feel like eating something sweet, go ahead and have a piece of cake. Just make sure to enjoy it in moderation and without guilt.
The third step is to be more mindful of the language that we use to talk about food. For example, instead of using terms like "good" and "bad" when talking about food can be harmful to the way we perceive food (that has no moral value) and even further, harmful to the way we perceive ourselves (does eating "bad" food mean that I am bad?) Neutralizing the language around food will help you start to develop a more positive relationship with food.
The fourth step is to be accepting of all body types. Diet culture tells us that we should all be thin and that being overweight is unhealthy. However, this isn't true! Being overweight doesn't automatically mean someone is unhealthy or unhappy, and being thin certainly doesn't automatically mean that you are healthy and happy. When the stress of body size overwhelms the decision making process around food, we may feel out of control and helpless. Reducing the stress and expectation around body weight will help you approach your health more critically and effectively.
The final step is to stop comparing yourself to others! We all have different goals in life and different bodies; there's no need for comparison when it comes down to what makes us happy or healthy.
I hope that this information will help you develop a more supportive relationship with food. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition! What works for someone else may not work for you, and that's okay! Be gentle with yourself, and take things at your own pace. I wish you all the best on your journey!
Kelli Foerster, MS, CPT
Nutritionist, Personal Trainer
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