When I was in third grade, a boy in my class told me that I was fat. He said it in a way that let me know that fat meant wrong.
I spent the remainder of my childhood and teens, and most of my 20’s afraid of being fat.
I dieted, binged and purged, tried to starve myself, over-exercised, and took diet pills. I was obsessed with being thin. I, of course, believed that I was pursuing health.
After I had spent over a decade in this cycle, I finally began to realize how much it was impacting my emotional and mental well-being. I also began to realize how steeped in diet culture I was and how fatphobic my beliefs were about myself and others.
It felt uncomfortable to face my own beliefs, but it helped me start a journey of practicing compassion and body acceptance.
When I mentioned diet culture, you may think of diets in general or being on a diet. But diet culture is really a system of beliefs.
Anti-diet dietitian Chrissy Harrison’s definition really encompasses the complexities of diet culture…
According to Harrison, diet culture is a system of beliefs that:
- Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
- Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
- Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
- Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.
It’s important to know that diet culture is entrenched in fatphobia and weight stigma. Fatphobia is a dislike of fat people or a fear of becoming fat. Weight stigma is the beliefs around and attitudes toward fat people.
Diet culture, fatphobia, and weight stigma are normalized and often celebrated in our society. But people that experience weight stigma often have fewer job opportunities, have more difficulty traveling, don’t receive adequate medical treatment, and more. This can cause mental and physical health issues. It’s so important to acknowledge the real harm that fatphobia and weight stigma can cause.
Once you begin to recognize and understand diet culture, fatphobia, and weight stigma, you can begin to help dismantle the system. If you don’t experience weight stigma, become an ally to those who do.
To begin dismantling the system of diet culture, fatphobia, and weight stigma, you can:
- Notice your own fatphobic thoughts about yourself and others. This can be uncomfortable and challenging, but shifting your beliefs will help you support others.
- Learn about Intuitive Eating (What is Intuitive Eating?) and Health at Every Size.
- Practice body acceptance. Accepting your own body is an important step in being a part of tearing down the structures of diet culture. The more accepting you are of yourself, the less likely you are to participate in diet culture. (The Damage of Dieting)
- Talk about fatphobia and weight stigma when you hear people make derogatory remarks about fat bodies. Calling people out can feel uncomfortable, but having a respectful discussion can help people understand the harm they’re causing. (My Anti-Diet Reading Recommendations)
- Follow people with diverse body sizes on social media. Exposing yourself to different body sizes helps to normalize all bodies. You’re also helping to support those people through their online platforms. (Body Positive Women to Follow on Social Media)
Check out the resources in my Virtual Yoga Studio such as my mini workshops – How to Shift Your Focus Away From Weight and Toward Well-Being and Intro to Intuitive Eating or my yoga class Body Positive Yoga Flow and Yoga for Body Acceptance or my 7 Ways to Honor Your Body Guide.
I’m also opening up a few spots for private anti-diet health coaching. You can schedule a one-time coaching session or choose a coaching package here.