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Bye-Bye Diets! – Why Diet Culture and Fat Shaming Needs to Disappear ASAP

  • What is diet culture anyway?  
  • How and why fat-shaming has such a negative impact on overweight people and general society.   
  • While dieting healthily is totally fine, taken to extremes, it can have hazardous, even fatal, consequences.  

Ingesting tapeworm eggs. That’s how far some will go to achieve their ideal weight. Touted as the ‘tapeworm diet,’ an alarming number of people attempt to lose weight this way. When you do the tapeworm diet, you ingest a pill that contains an egg from a tapeworm.   

Eventually, the tapeworm will hatch from the egg and grow inside your body, feeding on whatever you put in your mouth. Because the tapeworm is eating all of your “extra” calories, you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. At least, that’s the idea. In reality, you suffer from symptoms like nausea and diarrhea and open yourself up to critical consequences such as neurocysticercosis, a complication of the brain and nervous system which can cause dementia and vision issues.   

That’s just one example of a fad diet. Plenty more exist, but you get the picture. Fad diets and diet culture are extremely concerning and have been on the rise recently. Read on to find out more.   

Diet Culture  

If you haven’t heard the term before, you’re probably wondering what diet culture is. According to Very Well Fit, “Diet culture is the pervasive belief that appearance and body shape are more important than physical, psychological, and general well-being. It’s the idea that controlling your body, particularly your diet, is normal by limiting what and how much you eat.”   

To help you get a clearer picture, we’ve included some examples, courtesy of Choosing Therapy:  

  • Labelling foods as good or bad 
  • Exercising to “burn off” a specific number of calories to “earn a treat”  
  • Limiting or avoiding entire food groups for being “bad” (e.g., carbohydrates, dairy, sugar) 
  • Feeling guilt or shame for eating 
  • Attempting to suppress your appetite with caffeine, nicotine, skinny teas, or water
  • Avoiding certain social situations to avoid eating.  
  • Feeling unworthy or unattractive due to your body 
  • Weighing yourself and changing your behaviours based on the number on the scale 
  • Worshipping thinness and weight loss 
  • Assuming that your body is responsible for good or bad things happening 
  • Engaging in fat-shaming or body-shaming behaviours or talk
  • Feeling envious of others for their weight or perceived self-control 

The Connection Between Diet Culture and Mental Health Issues  

Diet culture can bring intense feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and hopelessness. The ultimate goal is weight loss, no matter what, whether that means starving yourself or throwing up meals on purpose. When this goal isn’t accomplished, it can make you feel like you’ve failed and, as a result, harm your mental health in the following ways:  

  • Fostering worrisome thoughts (e.g., stressing over what you should or should not eat, planning your subsequent meals, dwelling about “eating errors”)  
  • Increased guilt and humiliation  
  • Affecting your relationships  
  • Discouraging you from taking significant risks or attempting new hobbies since you lack the “appropriate look” for them  
  • Using risky measures such as drugs, alcohol, laxatives, purging, or excessive exercise to compensate for eating  
  • Distracting you from your work, school, or other obligations  

Fat Shaming and Its Devastating Impacts on People  

Fat-shaming involves criticizing and harassing overweight individuals1. Some believe that making people who are obese.  

In fact, there are entire internet groups dedicated to making fun of people who are overweight or obese in whatever way possible. Unfortunately, stigma and prejudice against people who are obese have a significant negative psychological impact and can exacerbate the situation.2   

Individuals Who Are Overweight Eat More After Weight Discrimination  

The stress, extra calories, and weight gain caused by fat-shaming are well-documented. According to Healthline, exposure to weight-stigmatizing information made women who are obese eat more calories and feel less in control of their eating, according to a study of 93 women.   

  Additionally, research on 73 women who are overweight found that those who watched a stigmatizing movie ate three times as many calories as those who watched a video with no stigmatization.   

People Who Are Overweight Have an Increased Risk of Obesity  

In one study of 6,157 individuals, those who felt weight discrimination were 2.5 times more likely to acquire obesity in the following years. People who are obese and who face weight discrimination were 3.2 times more likely to stay obese. This proves that fat-shaming does not drive weight loss. One more study of 2,944 adults indicated that weight discrimination increased the likelihood of obesity by 6.67 times.  

The Risk of Suicide Increases  

Depression is a leading risk factor for suicide. Research on 2,436 people found that extreme obesity was related to 21 times increased risk of suicidal behaviour and a 12-times increased chance of attempted suicide.  

Saying No to Diet Culture   

Reflection and Self-Examination  

To reject diet culture, you must be conscious of its influence on your life. You may want to think about keeping a diary to track diet-culture behaviour. Note down when you automatically dismiss a dish as “unhealthy” or make a presumption about someone’s size.  

Try not to judge yourself during this activity. It’s actually to improve your self-awareness of diet culture’s triggers and habits. Insight is key to making essential changes.  

Find A Great Role Model  

Limit your exposure to images that promote an unrealistic beauty ideal. To attain this goal, you may need to reduce your social media or TV usage. Search for real-life role models who inspire you, not their bodies. Focus on their energy and personality instead of the way they look.  

Cut Off All and Any Body Shaming  

To avoid diet culture, you must resist body shaming. Avoid criticizing your body in front of others (and to yourself). For example, if a buddy starts criticizing their appearance, acknowledge their feelings but gently divert the topic away from it.  

Run, Run, Run Away from Fad Diets  

Remember the tapeworm diet we previously mentioned at the beginning of this blog post? That’s an example of how deadly and harmful dieting can be. Fad or crash diets can harm your metabolism and cause increased appetite, food preoccupation, and depression. Instead, talk to a doctor or certified nutritionist about changing your diet for medical reasons.  

No More Labeling Food  

If you can, stay away from terms like cheat, treat, healthy, clean, or indulging. These are vital phrases with the potential to convey strong messages about what and how you eat. Try to be more neutral in your approach. It becomes less intimidating when you learn to let go of your preconceived notions about food.  

Make Goals for Your Future  

You shouldn’t spend your entire life trying to achieve the “ideal body.” Even if you reach a specific physical goal, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be happier. Consider your other objectives, such as improving relationships and engaging in fun hobbies and fulfilling work, and focus on pursuing them instead of just on your health.  

Wrapping Up  

Diet culture is a pervasive problem in contemporary society, and it does not appear to be dying down anytime soon. Unfortunately, taking part in a diet culture can worsen depression, anxiety, and shame.  

It’s possible to feel more fulfilled if you reject the status quo and love yourself and your body. It can also help to talk with a counsellor or reach out to a friend you trust.  

We hope you enjoyed this blog post, and please share your thoughts on diet culture in the comments below. 

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