Estimated read time 7 ½ minutes.
First, lets get clear on what diet culture is. It's the systems in place that value thinness and appearance over health, ideas that shame you into thinking that there's something wrong with you if you are not thin. This is a cultural system of oppression that harms everyone. I really appreciate Christy Harrison, the dietitian, and her definition of diet culture.
Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:
I want to go a bit deeper into the origins of this messaging…diet culture is actually rooted in white supremacy. It was created to bring separation of white women from the slaves; painting slaves as bad and a White Christian women as better and of a higher status. They created the idea that thinness and eating restrictively was virtuous and tied this idea to religion. This has only been around for a relatively short period of time. We didn't always value thinness over other body types.
Unfortunately, today, the healthcare system is inundated with Anti-fat bias and diet culture messages as well. Most doctors/clinics/hospitals are still measuring health based on weight. The BMI is bogus. You can reference an article here about that. BMI or weight are not good measures of health.
But you're told again and again, that being thin is a good measure of health, and along with that, the message that you're actually better if you're thin, even morally superior. Diet culture is total BS. It's really important to call out those systems, reject those systems, and recognize that a lot of us, well almost all of us, have an internalized anti-fat bias due to the system of oppression of that culture. It's important to bring awareness to that wiring within yourself, and start to dismantle it, because it creates shame. It also increases your preoccupation with your body, being thin and consequently with food.
The question is, is this consuming you? It causes you to really focus on that pursuit of thinness, of eating perfectly and of a certain body aesthetic. It creates shame when you don't meet that ideal, making you feel like there's something bad or wrong with you. It makes you also believe that your value and your worth are tied to that ideal. You feel like you're not good enough perpetually. Again, it's really important to reject those ideas and weed out those thoughts and start to recognize where it's impacting you so that you can shift away from that preoccupation with that constant pursuit of fitness or thinking about how you need to control or manage food and your body.
What percentage of your mental and emotional energy you are spending on your body and on your relationship with food? More than you’d like to be? This is what I would call preoccupation in the food attachment model. If you're curious about your food attachment style, here's my online quiz. You can check it out and get the information about your style so that you can start to shift your way of thinking and your relationship with food in your body. But here's some other thoughts to consider.
What does that look like? If you aren’t sure how much mental and emotional energy you are spending on food and your body, here are some things to consider…how often are you checking in the mirror? How often are you weighing yourself? How often are you trying to move your clothes? Body checking in the sense of do you look okay, are any lumps or bumps showing? Is this shirt right? Do you need to adjust anything? How does this start to show up when you walk into a room and you can compare your body to the bodies of the other people in the room? Are you sizing them up? Are you having judgmental thoughts about yourself every time you get dressed? Are you able to look in the mirror without having a lot of self critical criticism? How is this diet culture consuming you and how often is it consuming your thoughts? Is it kind of invading your day? How often is it hijacking your mental and emotional energy? And for food…are you counting calories or macros? Do you weigh all the consequences of each food choice? Do you beat yourself up if you eat something you think you shouldn’t? Do you push away hunger signals?
Some of the other ways it may be showing up is in your conversations with your friends. Are you spending time talking about diets and your bodies? I find it tremendously boring now to talk about diets, our bodies, and nitpick ourselves. We have so many other more interesting things to discuss. I just want to get to know my friends; I don't want to be spending so much time focused on our bodies, I want to focus on them and who they are in their lives. What is fulfilling and enriching to their lives and what's hard for them emotionally. So…is it invading your relationships in that way? Is it invading your relationship with a romantic partner? Are you able to pursue a romantic partner if you want one or do you think you don’t deserve one?
I'm writing a book, as many of you know, and I was sharing with my book writing coach about how much body image issues impact the sex lives of my clients. We both cried at how tragic it is that people are denying themselves that pleasure and closeness because of feeling bad about their bodies. I’ve been there, before healing my relationship with food and my body, it impacted my own sex life. For years, I felt self conscious, I didn't want to engage in sex because I was worried that I would look fat. Now I know that I deserve pleasure, regardless of how my body looks at this moment. I deserve pleasure and having love and acceptance for my body and being in relationship with my body is something that brings me closer to accessing pleasure, and makes things more enjoyable. You can read more about that here. So, is it impacting your sex life?
How about your sense of safety and connection at home? Is diet culture impacting your relationship with the other people in your household? Your housemates, your spouse, your children? Does it make it so that you can't eat and enjoy food meals with them? Does it make it so it feels like you have to hide and you can't just eat what you'd like to eat in front of them?
How is it impacting you in terms of your communities? Do you avoid events because of the way that you feel about your body? Or the way you feel about food? Does it make you feel like you have to make excuses for yourself when you're out in public or when you're eating with others. There are so many ways that culture consumes us and creates this preoccupation with food in our bodies. It prevents us from accessing joy and being fully connected in the relationships that we have in the world and in our communities.
In part two of this blog, I'm going to be talking about “What are you consuming?” What are some of the ways that you can start to consume media and things that will support you, instead of hinder you. In the meantime, we're going to talk a little bit about what it could be like instead. How would your life be different if you're able to really reject diet culture, have acceptance, and have that relationship with food in our body that feels nurturing and connected? In my world, I call this secure attachment with food and your body. It looks like being in relationship with food in your body, feeling connection and trust with your body. Feeling acceptance over your body is good as it is at this moment. Knowing that your value and your worth is constant and inherent and non negotiable. Your value is not tied to looking a certain way or eating perfectly. Secure attachment looks like having ease and peace in your relationship with food and your body. Knowing that these outside things don't dictate what is right for you and what feels good to you. It also looks like eating in a way that is resonant for you, this alignment that feels like you're taking care of yourself, like you're actually enjoying food. You're not restricting, you're able to have what you want when you want it but also eat in a way that is honoring of your body and is attuned to what does and doesn't feel good for you and your body. This is all possible for you! It starts with rejecting diet culture BS.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments or feel free to email me at Tiffany@coachtiffanyrn.com if you want to talk about what it could be like instead, just share your vision, or share the changes that you've made and how just simply starting to call out and reject some of those diet culture messages has allowed you to build more connection and trust and acceptance in your relationship with your body and help you to find more joy and peace.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale.