If you really look around, you might notice how much the world talks about diet. Whether it is seeing social media ads about paying loads of money for a program or product that will make you shed weight in no time, or seeing the diet section in almost all grocery stores, diet culture has now become in every corner we turn and every street we cross. It feels like no matter how you decide to go about your day, it is highly likely that you will come across something that reminds you of dieting.
We see diet culture everywhere. We see it when people point out how important it is to shed baby weight right after giving birth. Or even worse, when the only compliment a pregnant woman hears is that she has not gained a lot of weight. We see it when we catch up with friends and the first thing they say is how much someone has lost weight and how prettier they look now.
Some might say that these things are normal day to day chatter, but just because something is normalized does not mean it is okay or healthy. Because what these situations indirectly tell us is that our body image, size and weight determine our self worth and whether we will be accepted or not. And relating our worth with how we look brings up the most destructive part of diet culture, which is when we see it in ourselves. It’s when we see it when we look at ourselves in the mirror with self-content.
We see it in ourselves when we throw out all our favorite foods in order to compensate for our lack of self control. Or when a pair of jeans does not fit and we go on a downward spiral of self-loathing. And if you think about it, this has become a normal reaction to living in a world that links beauty and acceptance to being thin and fitting into a predefined criteria.
“I binged on the slights, swallowed the aggressions, and carried the weight of everyone’s actions until their perceptions of me became mine.” – Dara P. Kapoor
So what can we do to fight back against diet culture?
Diet culture primarily traps us with the idea that in order for us to be worthy and loved then we have to shrink our bodies. It tells us that the only way to be healthy is by being thin and thus it feeds on the self-doubt that comes with needing external validation and wanting to fit in. Not only does diet culture make us doubt ourselves and feel unworthy, but it can also cause severe mental distress.
With diet culture comes a lot of stigma that many people go through and just like with all stigmas, weight stigma can cause mental illness such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. So how is diet culture making us more healthy when in fact it is causing more harm than good to both our mental and physical well being? The answer is diet culture does not make you healthy, but instead it fuels negative self talk and even self-loathing. Therefore, instead of falling into its trap, we need to stand up for it.
The way to fight diet culture is to fight the self-doubt, guilt and shame that comes with it. Maybe instead of hating our bodies and ourselves, we need to focus on creating meaningful connections with ourselves by being compassionate and kind. By showing compassion, we are combating all the hate we have for our bodies, and understanding that we are worthy of love just the way we are.
Once we become aware that we are much more than just a size or number on the scale, we can strive to become healthier without turning to diet culture. We can become healthier and fit by listening to what our body needs and fueling it with the right kinds of food and exercise. Because being healthy has more to do with taking care of your mental and physical well being than it has to do with what size you wear.
From personal experience I can tell you that reaching your ideal weight will not magically make you feel content, beautiful and worthy. I have struggled with weight loss almost half of my life, and even though I am at my ideal weight and everyone keeps complimenting me about how much weight I lost, I still struggle with my body image. I still have issues with how
I see myself and my body. And that is largely due to the fact that I have made a life out of diet culture for so many years that I have been programmed to believe that I will never be beautiful enough or worthy unless I conform to what society wants me to look like. For so long I believed that the way to happiness and self-love was shedding my weight. But that was anything but true, because I am still the same girl who is unhappy with her body but with a smaller waist and a lower weight.
This made me realize how diet culture feeds upon us falling into a vicious cycle of dieting and binge eating, and the way out is to break the cycle and realize that we are worth so much more than that.
What so many of us fail to see is that there is no one definite way to being beautiful. To each their own beauty, so why are we trying so hard to mold ourselves to fit in places that we have already outgrown? We are so much bigger and more beautiful than how the world wants us to be, so let us embrace who we are. We are all born different and yet we are the same.
Because at the end of the day, we all want to feel loved and accepted. So no matter what size you wear, the number on that scale or how you look, you are beautiful and so damn worthy of being loved just the way you are.