Exposing The Scary Truth About Diet Culture
We're going to suggest you sit down for today's blog because if you’re not aware of the harmful effects of diets (all diets), we're about to drop some very real facts that may or may not make you confused or uncomfortable. We want to encourage you to lean in, be curious, be a little confused, get a little uncomfortable, and then lock arms as we all fight the good fight against dieting lies and body shame!
If you’re already living the #antidiet life, then today will be a much needed reminder of why you ditched diets in the first place.
You ready? Let’s do this!
Diet culture, which is rooted in narrow beauty and thin ideals, crushes women with its unrealistic expectations and justifies this harm by falsely equating smaller body size with health, morality, character, and success.
In other words, the diet industry makes billions of dollars each year by making you believe that:
- Thin, slim, light, small, less = good & healthy (whether you’re talking about bodies or food)
Fat, large, heavy, big, extra, = bad & unhealthy (whether you’re talking about bodies or food)
Why is this so messed up? Because not only has the idea that “body size = health” been proven false time and time again, but this cruel marketing tactic has made it incredibly difficult for people of all sizes to tune in to their bodies and trust their warning signs of deprivation, sickness, disease, and more.
One survey conducted by the University of North Carolina and Shape Magazine discovered that:
75% of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 report having disordered eating behaviors and/or endorse some unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies. 75%!!
What kind of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are these?
Restricting a major food group such as ‘fatty’ foods or carbohydrates
Use of diet pills
Fatigue and poor sleep quality
Constipation and/or diarrhea
Feelings of guilt and failure
Experiencing low moods
Lacking in energy levels
Developing poor health
Dieting is one of the most common forms of disordered eating and is considered the norm in today’s society. With clever diet “code names” like the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan, 7 Day Slim Down, Whole 30, 60 Day Challenge, Cover Model Meal Plan, Clean Eating, etc., it’s no wonder that 75% of those women were bound to experience disordered eating!
That 75% not only makes sense, but scares the crap out of us too. Why? Because most people don’t even know these diets, these behaviors, are considered or contribute to disordered eating. Instead of making the connection that a symptom of disordered eating might be the result of the most recent diet attempt, you say, “Gosh. I’m so tired and feel terrible! I need to commit to this diet even more and step up my workouts.” And the dangerous cycle continues.
If this is true (which it is) and diet companies and fitness and nutrition brands are damaging women’s bodies and self-esteem to an alarming degree, then why in the world are these products and services still being sold?
Yep. Money. (And to be honest, a few well-meaning people out there just don’t know better.)
So much money in fact, that the diet industry is worth 68 billion dollars annually, with women spending an average of $30,600 each in their lifetime on diet products and services (source) HOLY COW, WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH 30K??!?!?
*excuse us while we catch our breath*
How is this possible? Well, on average, women attempt 3 diets per year, with an average duration of only 19 days. Women also diet a total of 34 years of their life (ages 25-59). Which means:
The average woman diets 3x a year, for 34 years of her life, which in return makes her less healthy, increases her weight set point range, creates disordered eating behaviors, body image issues, and develops an unnecessary fear of food. All for the low price of $30,600.
This means the diet industry has been profiting off an incredibly harmful marketing cycle:
The most interesting thing is that the diet industry has found a brilliant (yet creepy) way of making you (the consumer) think that their 95% failure rate of their products and services is always your fault, for a total of 34 years.
If any other product or service in your life had this low of a success rate (3x a year) among you and your peers, you’d be demanding to speak to the manager, texting everyone about it, and creating a public boycott.
Which is what we’re doing RIGHT. NOW.
We’re screaming, BS! every time we see a clever diet ad, and we’re telling you all about it, and boycotting any and all diet products or services FOR GOOD.
But this is only half of the story. There’s some good news in all of this too. You see, you’re not destined to fight under the crushing weight of diet culture forever. There’s another way to live. In fact, tons of people are already living this way!
How to escape the diet mindset and make peace with food.
Everything we just laid out about diet culture is pretty upsetting. We encourage you to give yourself space to process, and give yourself some heavy doses of compassion.
Escaping the diet mindset and making peace with food is a process. It’s going to take time. But please believe us when we say, it’s so incredibly worth it! Life doesn’t have to be a bunch of rules, restrictions, and daily body comparisons. You are not the problem. Your weight is not a problem. Your body is not a problem. You do not need to be “fixed.” You can live a full, freeing life without having to restrict food you love, count calories, or be a slave to a metal box on the bathroom floor. You can exercise, dance, hike from a place of joy and freedom instead of a place of hatred and body punishment. And we know this to possible because there are so many women out there living this kind of life that are proof of this! There are moms, dietitians, doctors, teachers, personal trainers, life coaches, psychologists, models, researchers, etc., who are no longer aligning with diet culture. Instead, they are fighting the good fight with and for you!
With that said, we need your help. Or at least your curiosity. Because the more women and professionals out there who stand up to diet culture, the healthier our world will actually be.
If you’re ready to escape the diet mindset and begin the process of making peace with food, we’ve included a few first steps below:
If you’re currently struggling with an eating disorder, find a treatment team that includes medical professionals, therapists, and/or registered dietitians who use a Health At Every Size (HAES) approach.
Stop labeling food as “good” or “bad” or “unhealthy” or “healthy.”
Give yourself permission to eat when you’re hungry.
Give yourself permission to take up space.
Be kind to yourself.
Join an online support group whose focus is to make peace with food. Our HHHeCourse has an incredible support system built in!
Unfollow accounts that only promote the thin ideal.
Continue educating yourself about the harmful effects of diets and share with others. Here’s a handy little graphic in case you need a visual reminder
Amanda Adams (Rowland) is a former international fitness cover model, marketing strategist, certified doula, and co-founder of Fresh Work.