By Hanna Kuyper, MA
I was running errands with my son this morning and we drove past a gym with a giant billboard that reads "summer bodies are made here." A while later I hopped on my emails to read one that tells me how I need to 'cleanse regularly.'
This evening I was in the checkout at the grocery store and the cashier was having a conversation with the woman in front of me about her new venture into "clean eating." I waited patiently with my combo pizza, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.
This is all an example of diet culture and a great example of what is very wrong with how we view the concept of well-being.
A good friend of mine told me recently that she was about to sign up for a yoga retreat when the owner let her know it probably wasn't the best idea because "yoga is difficult for people with larger bodies." This is an example of the very real issue of weight stigma and fat-phobia.
Diet culture surrounds us everywhere. Starting a new diet, beginning a new workout program, going on a cleanse (shout-out to my liver and kidneys for making this totally unnecessary!), it can all seem harmless enough however there are a lot of negative side effects that come along with it. I could share the research, I could offer the scientific data, I could show you study after study but I think whats more important is to really take a look at how these approaches make us feel about our worth.
What happens when my son grows up reading billboards everywhere telling him he needs to change his body because summer is coming? What happens to the person who goes on a diet and develops a life-threatening eating disorder (in part due to genetic/temperamental roots)? Or to the person who starts to believe that their value lies in the size of their body? How would you feel if you were told you probably shouldn't do something because someone had a bias against your body shape and size?
As an eating disorder recovery coach for The Eating Disorder Center, I work with clients who are in recovery from eating disorders. Diet culture plays into their eating disorder on a daily basis.
So what does that look like? It looks like isolation, a living hell and treatment costing up to $30k a month. It looks like time away from their family, lost friendships and being constantly preoccupied with thoughts about food, body and weight. It looks like shame, exhaustion and a constant battle against diet culture.
Those in recovery are the bravest and strongest people I know. They're fighting an eating disorder in a culture that very much normalizes disordered eating.
The thing about diet culture is It's tricky, it's sneaky and it's created by us. Some of us may not even know we are playing into it and that's the reason I encourage you to get curious. Challenge your beliefs, your biases and your approaches.
I think one of the most important things to remember is that it's not black and white. There is room for veggies and quinoa and pizza and cake. There is room for movement and rest. There is room for large bodies, small bodies, short bodies, tall bodies and every body in between. A lot of times this makes people uncomfortable. It isn't sexy. It doesn't sell. It doesn't fit into a clean box. You can't wrap it up in a pretty marketing strategy and make $60 billion off of it. That's a tough sale.
But know this, the more we get curious, honest and real about what diet culture is the more we can fight it.
The more we can educate, stand up to it and challenge it, the more likely someone can gain their life back.
If you are struggling know that you are not alone. Reaching out for help is so brave.
You don't have to feel trapped anymore.
Click here to book your free 15 minute video initial consultation with Hanna!
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. We also offer therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.