cartoon holding a plate of food

The unbearable weight of diet culture

The weight of diet culture can feel overwhelming at any point during the year – but the diet messaging in January can feel especially pervasive.

Christmas is seen as a season of indulgence, relaxation, and no food rules, but it is almost guaranteed that someone you know has spoken about a new diet or exercise they will follow in the new year.

Post-Christmas, the messages shift completely and there’s almost a change in mentality to eliminate certain food groups and to change yourself in what you wear and look.

Ellen Jennings, Communications Officer at Bodywhys said: “Diet culture is a part of popular culture, which we are exposed to all around us.

“It encompasses a number of different factors such as equating weight with health, putting a moral value on food e.g. seeing foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, weight loss support groups, weight control products and plans.

“We know that the environment around us has a huge impact on how we feel about our bodies and relationship with food, so when everyone around us is trying to change something about their body it can be difficult to avoid that type of thinking. 

“What about focusing on factors of health that have nothing to do with a number on the scales, such as energy, mood, stress levels, sleep quality and how we feel rather than how we look?

“We need to remind people that worthiness is not linked to weight, and you are worthy regardless of your weight, shape or size.”

Restrictive eating habits are particularly high in January as 72% of British dieters cut out major food groups according to recipe box Gousto.

The countless diet advertisements and health plans promote an idea that you will be happier, but in reality, shame is brought to the person when they fail at something that was not sustainable.

The portrayal of this seemingly straightforward picture of perfection can be loud and intrusive to those who suffer with eating disorders.

Ellen said: “We need to be more inclusive and self-compassionate towards ourselves and others, we know that weight is not a clear indication of health.

“A key aspect of ED recovery is letting go of the idea if I control my weight I will feel better.

“We know that eating disorders can occur at any shape or size – dieting can be a key factor in the development and maintenance of an eating disorder.

“We need to be mindful that there are a number of people that may be vulnerable to that kind of messaging.”

Bodywhys encourages those struggling to remember that what we see online is not real life, and to be mindful of the conservations we engage in and the content we are exposed to.

To visit Bodywhys’ website click here.

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