In an ideal world, diets would focus solely on giving us the nutrition we need through balanced meals that satisfy us physically and mentally. Unfortunately, many diets revolve around appearances and social pressure instead of actual health and wellness. This is where diet culture comes from.
Diet culture teaches people—especially women—to prioritize physical appearance over well-being. Moreover, diet culture often disguises itself in health trends and other seemingly positive thoughts and behaviors. Recognizing diet culture’s role in our eating habits and self-esteem is important. By understanding the dangers of toxic diet culture, we can build healthier lifestyles that help us thrive mentally and physically.
Social Media and Glorified Lifestyles
From blogs advising us on how to achieve a bikini-ready body to influencers promoting complex and unrealistic diet fads, we’ve all seen and heard trends that support toxic diet culture. These messages glorify certain looks and lifestyles that society sees as the ideal, which creates an aggressive cultural influence that causes us to prioritize looks over health.
Not all these influences are obvious, though. Many harmful ideas and behaviors disguise themselves as social media trends. This leads to entertaining influencer posts about the trend, paid partnerships promoting products or services, and pressure from friends and family who have engaged with the trend. As a result, we face pressure from people we know, like, and trust—often without even recognizing the hype as dangerous or harmful.
Food and Morality Don’t Mix
Diet culture has a way of assigning feelings of morality to food. Certain foods become real, clean, and good, while others are fake, dirty, and bad. However, these labels don’t just apply to nutritional value; they start to apply to our value as human beings.
For example, if you eat at a fast food restaurant, are you a bad person? Of course not, but diet culture makes us feel like the answer is yes. A healthy diet mindset tells you fast food has little nutritional value, so you should balance it with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Diet culture, on the other hand, tells you that fast food is bad, so you should feel bad about enjoying it.
Risk Factors for Eating Disorders
Another significant danger of toxic diet culture is that it heavily overlaps with eating disorders. For example, many warning signs of anorexia—such as an obsession over food, weight, and appearance—are thoughts and behaviors that diet culture encourages. Because diet culture disregards actual health and wellness, it often promotes habits that work against our physical and mental well-being.
How do you break free from the pressures and expectations of diet culture? Awareness is half the battle. Identifying diet culture’s influence allows you to think clearly about the way you view food, weight, and yourself. Without the pressure of toxic diet trends and habits, you can find healthier, more productive ways to improve your well-being and build a happier life.