I don’t remember a time when diet culture didn’t play some part in my life. Even now when I personally feel free from it, it still crops up and manages to piss me off. From what we read, what we see and what we hear there is always something about what women should look like, eat or move. Comparison after comparison, diet plan after diet plan. Photos telling us who ‘looks bad’ who ‘looks good’ red circles of shame showing ‘flaws’ and comments from everyone and anyone on someone’s body. No wonder we are a society of women struggling with our self confidence and body issues, who wouldn’t?
Every time I log on to social media there is story being shared by some rag of a newspaper with comments hating on a woman’s body or telling us about an “amazing transformation” whilst body shaming someone else. How often do we see in a headline about a woman something mentioned about her looks or body? It’s like a rite of passage that for a woman to have made the news we have to focus on her physical appearance.
I recently asked on Instagram what external factors made women feel like they can’t accept their bodies and most of the replies came under the umbrella term, diet culture. I wanted a chance to air my views and maybe raise awareness for anyone that thought this wasn’t a thing. I also apologise in advance if this becomes a bit of a rant, it’s a topic I am very passionate about.
What is diet culture?
If this is a term you are not aware of or have heard but don’t really understand let me explain what I mean by it. To me diet culture is a system of beliefs that weight and size are more important than health. It is the combination of thoughts and processes that are promoted to put forward this ideal of a perfect body and shames any other bodies in the process. Where loosing weight is the be all and all regardless of any other factors. It’s a very negative environment that makes women feel inadequate unless they look like the poster girl of diet culture (who by the way does not exist). The thing about diet culture is that it is getting harder to spot as people start to hide it ways that seem meaningful and helpful. It’s started to boycott movements and lifestyles that were once diet culture free for example intuitive eating is now being used by certain people as a way to lose weight which goes against what intuitive eating actually promotes.
The sad and scary thing about diet culture is that our society is so wrapped up in it, it can be hard to spot and avoid. From new lifestyle choices to wellness tips to healthy eating all wrapped up in a parcel to make you feel good about your choices but the outcome is always the same, a change in your physical body to become smaller.
How to spot it
If something sounds too good to be true the chance is that it is.
Is there a focus on weight and size over health?
Are you being told to eat a certain way or cut out certain things?
Are you being told to follow a plan to reach a certain aesthetic goal?
Are you being made to feel ashamed of yourself and body?
Is it being endorsed by people that have no qualifications to back them up?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions its diet culture.
The negative impact this has had on women and continues to do so.
We are forever being judged, by the media, by others and by ourselves due to this perfect body ideal that doesn’t exist. During my lifetime we had the heroin chic look of the 90s the size 0 waif like body of Kate Moss. Then it was all about having washboard abs and toned but not too big arms and legs. Now it’s all about having curves but not too curvy, a big bum but a thigh gap and a tiny waist. We want “real women” but only if they are the generic size 8-12 and aesthetically pleasing on whoever is judging at that time. Now if the perfect body existed why does that keep changing and who the bloody hell decided what that was?
And this is the issue. The fact that there needs to be a perfect body. The fact that women are shamed if they don’t look like that, whether they are bigger or smaller they get slated. The fact that it’s deemed ok for comments to be made about women’s bodies and we accept this. I know this also happens to men but not as much and for the purpose of this post I’m focusing on women. Every woman on this planet is unique, offering something new to the world. No one is the same so why should we all look the same.
We are so often pitted against each other based on what we look like or what we wore. When a woman looses weight it is celebrated and when she gains weight its is treated like she has failed. No concern for health is ever thought about or personal choice for such things. When a women gives birth she is pressured to “bounce back” and even throughout pregnancy her ever changing body is critiqued rather than celebrating the fact SHE IS GROWING A HUMAN.
Start to notice if you see this happening around you. Do you find yourself thinking that you have to look a certain way? Question why this is.
Are you comparing yourself to other women based on looks? Why do you feel the need to do this?
There is this notion that a woman is only as good as she looks
Which is wrong on so many levels. Looks have nothing to do with ability, qualifications and achievements. A woman can do incredible things but if she doesn't 'look right' then that's what get commented on nothing else. In certain industries there seems to be pressure to look a certain way to be employable rather than your actual talent. Creating a whole load of problems that shouldn't have been there in the first place. This is why Photoshop has become more and more prevalent in the media. It has always been around we know that. Models and celebs getting airbrushed in magazines was a common (not great but common) occurrence but now there are apps anyone can use to completely change their bodies. Change them to the point where they don't look real in order to fit in with this perceived notion of perfection. Which in turn creates these false expectations and ideals women strive to meet.
Next time you are comparing yourself to someone on the internet stop. Remember you are you and they are them. You are both doing your own thing on your own path.
Also have an awareness of Photoshop and truly check before you assume.
When did it become socially acceptable to body shame?
It happens everywhere, the media, random passersby in the street, family and friends. Someone somewhere always has a negative comment to make on a body. Getting horrible comments on our bodies because they are not the picture perfect airbrushed bodies in media. But this is the norm and a lot of the time we accept it and hope it will just stop or go away on it's own.
If you see this happen, call it out.
If you are guilty of doing it, stop
We need to support each other and stand up for one another. You don't have to like everyone but you definitely son't have to shame someone due to their body shape or size.
Let's start celebrating ALL women for being who they are.
Celebrate successes. Tell them you a proud of them and what they have achieved. Talk to women about anything other than their weight or what diet they are on.
We are so much more than our body and no matter what diet culture says you don't have to shrink yourself to fit in.
Don't let diet culture win
Speak out. Call out the companies that profit of insecurities. Start to notice whats happening around you and unfollow anyone that makes you feel bad about yourself.
Unsubscribe from the media ideal of perfection. Stop picking apart flaws in your body because they don't exist.
I am going to writing a blog post on accepting your body if you need help with this so keep your eye out but for now .
Be true to yourself, embrace your body as in and know you are worth so much.
You are enough.
P.S fancy more content along a similar line? Let's connect over on Instagram come say hey @vickimellard