What is diet culture?

Hi everyone! Hope you had a great week! It ended up snowing/raining here this weekend so the hike to Antelope Island didn’t happen. Pretty bummed about that, but we will just have to plan for another weekend. Anyways, spent some time actually relaxing which is kind of unreal and I feel rested for the upcoming week!

This week is wanted to talk about diet culture.

So what is diet culture? 

Diet culture tells us that our weight and the shape of our bodies is more important that our overall health. It tells us that only a certain level of fatness is acceptable and applauds behaviors that achieve that desired look, regardless of what measures were taken.

Diet culture tries to tell us that the shape and size of our bodies defines our merit as a person.

Because of this, our current culture accepts dieting and body hatred as the norm. And because so many people are unsuccessful at losing weight, maintaining weight loss, or achieving their “desired look”, many people end up feeling like personal failures. Repeating the whole cycle of body hatred. But, my friends, you are not a failure.

Where do you see diet culture? 

  • on social media
  • in magazines
Womens health magazine
Diet culture = “shred kilos (British here), build muscle, strip fat”, “best weight-loss advice”, “workout & mindset that built my body”, plus the fact that this is a thin, blonde white woman.
Laura Thomas PhD diet culture
Laura Thomas (another RD) re-did the cover to show what a real health promoting magazine might look like.
  • in movies & TV shows
  • on radio stations
  • on food packaging

 trader joe's guilt free mac and cheese

  • fashion stuff (clearly fashion-savy here (aka not), but take a look at the models next time you shop)
  • weight loss products (before/after pics)

Diet culture tells you to not eat xyz because its “bad” and to eat xyz instead because it’s “good”; assigning some sort of morality to foods. Diet culture is when you see messages at your gym that say “making fat cry”. It’s advertisements that flaunt “getting your pre-baby body back”. It’s when your friend tells you she’s “bad” for eating cake. It’s on food packaging that promises “no guilt” (do better Trader Joe’s). It’s when that old creepy man on the street tells you “to smile because you’d look better”. It’s when your loved ones make comments on your weight and body shape. It’s comments about “working off that pie at the gym”, or “I need to get back on track”. It’s hearing about the latest celebrity diet and immediately thinking, “oh if I do what she does, I will look like that too!” It’s seeing all these images, hearing all the comments, internalizing it, and believing the messaging that you and your body aren’t good enough.


Diet culture also goes above and beyond food. It tells us that thin people are somehow better. It tells us that the ideal is a white blonde woman in a size tiny. It becomes an issue of feminism. Of equality. Of activism. On behalf of women (and men!) and those who live in diverse and/or marginalized bodies. 

So what can we do? 

Diet culture is so deeply ingrained in our culture, that it is impossible to escape it (as much as I wish we all could). But what you can do is notice when it occurs.

So – notice! Try and pay attention. Can you identify what diet culture is? Where do you see it? How are people talking? What images do you see on a daily basis? What messages are you receiving that make you think you need to lose weight/look a certain way?

And question it! If you look at the praise that people who are “achieving” this ideal, how are they getting there? Do they have a social life? Can they eat fresh-baked ooey-gooey brownies? Do they spend __ hours at the gym? Why does your best friend think she is “bad” for eating a piece of cake? Our society is applauding this behavior. But know that this is not what health truly is.

Now, remember you are in charge of what messages you chose to take-in. Can you nestle yourself all cozy into a little non-diet bubble?

rupi kaur - rose matton rd blog So – try and recognize where you see this diet culture occurring. Question it! And remember that you can choose to not absorb that messaging. Or participate in that conversation. Walking away from diet talk can be extremely helpful. Can you be a #dietculturedropout?

For the past couple years, I have slowly noticed all this crap around me and I refuse to not call out the bullshit. As a health practitioner, I know that I am not treating body size. There is nothing wrong with your body. It’s just society that tries to tell us otherwise.

Since I am low-key obsessed with Linda Bacon right now, she writes, “change comes from valuing and caring about yourself enough to want to improve your life.” If you want to make changes in your life, can you cultivate them from a place of self-compassion and respect? It all starts with you.



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