How to escape from the prison of diet culture

In a recent post, I promised a follow-up piece about diet culture and how to escape from it.

Make no mistake, diet culture is a prison.

Diet culture is the system of societal beliefs teaching and reinforcing that thinness, appearance, and shape are to be valued above health and well-being.

Diet culture enforces and encourages fat phobia, which is the fear of being in a bigger body and the belief that being in a smaller body – and constantly pursuing weight loss and “health” – is morally superior.

It’s all utter garbage. But it’s not easy to break free from diet culture, because we’ve all been soaking in it since birth and most of us hear these messages from our own families all our lives.

Diet culture is as firmly entrenched in Western culture as the patriarchy and white supremacy. In fact – hold onto your hat for this one – diet culture actually, directly stems from the patriarchy and from white supremacy.

What diet culture is and looks like:

  • A lifelong, societally-induced nightmare of poor body image and mental/emotional pain
  • A lifelong, societally-induced brutal fight with your one and only glorious body
  • Constant pressure to lose weight and be in a thin body
  • Parents telling young children, “you mustn’t eat too much or people won’t like you!”
  • The medical establishment (and all other aspects of society) prioritizing thinness above all else 
  • White, Western culture equating thinness with health
  • The root cause of eating disorders, bullying and even suicides
  • Parents telling teen/college-age children, “keep your weight in check or you won’t be able to get a good job or find a good spouse.”
  • Constantly dieting because we’ve been trained to all our lives
  • Constantly obsessing over, criticizing and hating our bodies because we’ve been taught to all our lives
  • A social construct based and founded on misogyny and oppression
  • A healthcare system that encourages otherwise healthy individuals to surgically amputate parts of their stomachs in order to lose weight
  • The insanity that pressures a new mother to “lose the baby weight” immediately, putting both her own and baby’s health at risk
  • A hamster wheel of dieting, deprivation and misery, forever going nowhere (but lining the pockets of the titans of the diet industry)
  • A system designed to keep us down and ‘in our place’ by occupying all our time and energy
  • Something we CAN opt out of and feee ourselves from with some hard mental and emotional work!
  • A societal, systemic mindset that physical appearance and thinness are to be valued above all else

In 2021, diet culture knows better than to use the words diet or weight loss. Instead, diet culture today masquerades as wellness culture or good, healthy living. It took me several times of doing the popular Whole 30 “nutritional cleanse” to realize that it was a gateway drug for diet culture – and that’s why I had to stop doing them.

So, how can we escape diet culture and get off the hamster wheel of misery? It is possible, but it takes constant, ongoing work. Here are a few pointers to get you started in the right direction.

How to break free from diet culture:

  • Read about the Health at Every Size movement
  • Read about the anti-diet book and movement 
  • Work with a coach or dietician specializing in anti-diet work
  • Listen to Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast
  • Follow feminist life coach Kara Lowenthiel and take her free body image workshop
  • Detox and cleanse your social streams of all toxic diet, fitness or weight loss related channels or content. Literally unfollow anyone talking about diets, weight loss, etc.
  • Follow people doing amazing things in bodies of all sizes, not just traditionally fit or thin ones
  • Eat in ways that feel good to your body and mind – intuitively. Listen to your body. Don’t limit or restrict yourself. Don’t count calories, weigh or measure food, think of certain foods as bad or off-limits. FREE your body AND your mind from the shackles of diet culture!
  • Move your body in ways that feel good – intuitively. Have fun. Dance. Stretch. Play. Be free. Don’t force yourself to meet arbitrary exercise goals or minimums.
  • Know that dieting only leads to weight gain and ultimately yo-yo dieting, and that is a greater risk to one’s health than simply being “overweight” in the first place.
  • Know that being stigmatized for your weight is a far bigger risk to your health than what or how you eat
  • Believe that health comes in all sizes and is not a moral obligation anyway!

Recovery IS possible! But remember, you’re not just trying to escape from diet culture – you’re also still living in a world obsessed with it. I have been working on this hard for the past year and I still find myself thinking thoughts like “maybe I’d be happier if I just lose some weight” and “could my weight be holding me back in my career and professional life?”

Breaking free from diet culture won’t be easy. It is a constant battle. But it’s a battle that can be bolstered with good food and good company. You are not alone!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on diet culture and how fat phobia has impacted you in your life – and how you’re finding ways to break free. Hit me up in the comments below or over on Facebook!

About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat, snake and guinea pig mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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