Opinion: Diet culture promotes societal toxicity

The emphasis on dieting and weight loss is a harmful cultural trend, but there’s alternatives for how we view healthy eating.

The+College+of+Public+Health+Building+as+seen+on+Thursday%2C+Dec.+14%2C+2017.+

James Year

The College of Public Health Building as seen on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

Krystin Langer, Columnist

With the holidays upon us, it seems as if, more than ever, companies are advertising the latest weight-loss fads.

Whether it is Weight Watchers, Noom, or any one of the many weight-loss shakes that promise a smaller waistline by Christmas, it is clear that this $66 billion industry has one agenda — promoting diet culture.

Diet culture has been an ongoing toxic trend in society, but what exactly is it?

The definition of diet culture varies, but it often includes describing some food groups as inherently bad and other foods as healthy or good.

The mentality of this in society also equates losing weight or being “thin” with beauty and enforces the idea that someone’s self worth is entirely based off of which foods they eat and their weight on a scale.

Contrary to its name, diet culture can have an effect on everyone — even if you don’t consider yourself to be someone who diets.

The cycle is continuous and maintained by certain expressions and actions that seem to be harmless, such as being praised for ordering a salad over a burger and fries or using phrases such as “I’ll just be bad and eat another piece of pie” and “My diet starts tomorrow.”

These thinking patterns make people believe that they are doing the right thing by striving for lower numbers on the scale and restricting certain food ingredients.

The mentality of this in society also equates losing weight or being “thin” with beauty and enforces the idea that someone’s self worth is entirely based off of which foods they eat and their weight on a scale.”

Although watching the calories you consume can at first seem to be innocent, the consequences of these practices can be severe.

“Diet Culture is dangerous and harms people of all sizes, including by perpetuating eating disorders and making a full recovery almost impossible,” according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

While not everyone who diets necessarily develops disordered eating habits, it is important to recognize that there is a direct link between dieting and an altered body image.

Thankfully, our generation is slowly starting to rebel against these toxic notions.

Body-positivity activists and celebrities such as Jameela Jamil and Iskra Lawrence are speaking out against the diet industry and the harm that it inflicts on society.

Jamil has even been credited with the recently revised Instagram guidelines that restricts the promotion of content related to diet products.

There has also been a sudden growth in the number of registered dietitians and nutritionists that are promoting the Health at Every Size movement.

This movement provides a counterculture to the dieting fad by affirming that every body shape and size is beautiful and believes they shouldn’t be reduced to damaging stereotypes.

While these types of movements may seem like a big step toward disrupting the dieting mindset, people can make everyday changes on a smaller scale that are beneficial to ending the stigma.

Replacing phrases such as “over-eating” and “guilty pleasure” and using positive language to describe your body is equally as important.

Having compassion for yourself and others by remembering that what you eat has no correlation to your self-worth will lead to the eventual demise of diet culture’s influence in our lives.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


Facebook Comments