I am in no way a medical professional nor am I acting as one. I am simply providing my personal thoughts, experiences, and research done on the web in this post. Please see a doctor if you have any official medical questions.
The more I dive into health and wellness, the more I find myself despising diet culture. But what is “diet culture,” you say? It’s basically the culture surrounding a way of eating that leads people to value their weight, and physical appearance, over everything else. And I have a problem with it.
I’ve had friends who purposely skip meals thinking that will help them lose weight. I’ve had friends completely cut out food groups because diet culture has labeled it as “bad” and a “no-no” if you want to lose weight. I’ve had friends who will calorie restrict for a few months and lose all the excess weight and then let themselves “enjoy summer” only to start the process all over again – year after year.
Imagine the toll you’re putting on your body by starving it then over indulging, then starving, then over indulging. Imagine the toll on your mind and wellbeing by restricting foods and not letting yourself “enjoy” life year round. Now just think how f*cked your metabolism must be from all of this yo-yoing.
Let me hit you with the facts.
45 million Americans go on a diet a year [L1]. 95% of those diets fail [L2]. Only 5% of the 45 MILLION people in America will succeed on a diet.
So why in the actual hell are people still “dieting?” If it’s proved to not work long term for you over and over again, what is it that’s keeping you involved?
Well, I have a few theories on this:
Diet Culture feeds off of the “get skinny quick” scheme.
Hey if someone came up to me and said, “For £20, you will lose all the weight you want in 6 short weeks,” that would be very difficult to turn down. But what you’ll find is that the meal plan has you on a 1000 calories a day, you’re not allowed to work out because you won’t have any energy. You’ll shrink your stomach and become this frail person. By the end of the 6 weeks, the number on the scale will of course have decreased and you may be “happy.” But then as soon as you resume your normal eating habits, you’ll gain it all back.
Losing weight healthily does not happen fast. It’s a long process, and it’s a lot of hard work. And most people are already putting in a lot of hard work in every aspect of their lives, they just want this one thing to be simple and easy.
I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve tried lots of little diets hoping I’d lose 20 lbs in one month. And they’ve never worked, and are not sustainable. I have quit every single one and have felt defeated because of it, like I’m not good enough to diet and lose the weight.
Eating healthy for 3 months seems easier than eating healthy all year round.
To make the decision that you will eat healthy for a majority of the rest of your life is a big commitment. It’s much easier to be extreme for 3 months and then get back to enjoying life the way you like it, right?
That’s why diets don’t work though. They teach you how to limit your food intake so that you lose the weight, but they don’t teach you how to maintain it. A diet is a short-term commitment that will fail you over and over again until you learn and want to live a healthy life.
You will never be able to sustain this way of living if you don’t value it or want it enough. If you treat it like a fad or a short-term thing, it will fail you.
How else am I supposed to lose the weight?
Diet culture gives you this sense that there is no other way to lose the weight than to use a point system, restrict calories, use meal replacement smoothies and drinks, and cutting out certain food groups altogether.
This is not true at all.
I stopped counting calories a long time ago, and was incredibly nervous about it because it was the way I measured my food intake. I needed a system and something to tell me how I was supposed to be doing what I needed to be doing.
It wasn’t until I started researching more about nutrition and learning about the how and the why behind foods that I really was able to understand. I started following Megan Kober from The Nutrition Addiction blog and began to incorporate protein, a healthy fat, and lots of fiber into every meal. I immediately felt better. I got a flatter stomach because I got rid of the bloat, and started to truly lose weight while staying full and feeling nourished. My skin was glowing, and I felt amazing.
I was eating real and natural foods, I didn’t even look at the calories, but rather, made sure I was getting enough protein, healthy fats, and lots of fiber throughout the day. And it worked. It’s a maintainable lifestyle and it’s so straightforward and easy to stay on track when you get to eat the foods you genuinely like eating.
People keep going back to dieting because it does help them get skinnier. Even if it doesn’t last forever, it does work for a time and that positive reinforcement is enough to keep people coming back. They know they had success once, and believe that they’ll have it again.
You start to justify the weight gain because of emotional eating, the holidays, ate more carbs than you should have over the weekend, it was summer and I drank a lot of alcohol, etc etc.
So you get right back on the diet train thinking/”knowing” you’ll be able to lose the weight again. You know how this works. Just eat lettuce for the next few months and you’ll be back to your “skinny weight.”
Same thing. Every time you gain the weight back, you start talking bad to yourself. You tell yourself you’re ugly, fat, worthless, undeserving of the foods you enjoy, can’t be trusted to make your own food choices, etc. etc.
And the diet gods are telling you that once you lose the weight you’ll feel better, you’ll get your confidence back, “we’ll tell you what to eat so you don’t have to think for yourself,” etc etc.
Guys, this is classical conditioning, is it not?
The one thing a diet will never teach you is how to love yourself along the way. How to appreciate your body and your willpower. How to make your own food choices. How to eat what you want (in moderation). How to lose weight and simultaneously enjoy what you’re putting in your body every day. It won’t teach you why an avocado is good for you and why eating too much bread can put your body into fat storing mode, therefore making you gain weight. You won’t learn a lifestyle, you’ll learn a temporary fix.
Now this is the real problem. We’re addicted to food. We’re seriously addicted to refined sugar and don’t even know it. We’re addicted to processed foods. We’re addicted to dieting. We’re addicted to doing what everyone else is doing. We’re addicted to fad dieting – Keto, Paleo, Atkins, Whole 30, etc. We’re addicted to everything.
And diet companies know this. And they know the psychology behind it and they know how to suck you in and keep you coming back for more. They feed off of it, literally. This is how they make their money and stay afloat. This is why you keep coming back. This is why you can’t keep the weight off.
Nothing is wrong with you and your body. You just need to take a different approach. You need to learn the why.
Last year I made a promise to myself to learn more about wellness in relation to food and fitness. I ended up learning way more than I had ever imagined. I researched the sugar intake people have these days and was absolutely astounded. This led me to start reading the ingredients list on everything I buy from the grocery store now. I started buying and eating only real foods (for the most part). I started cooking and baking more because then I knew what was being put into my food.
I stopped eating refined sugar and started eating more superfoods like kale, spinach, and avocados. I finally cleared up my hormonal acne. I got into a really exciting and healthy fitness regime and felt amazing.
I was feeling so good and proud of myself. My clothes were fitting better, some even getting too big for me. I just made healthy food choices and managed to lose weight without feeling restricted.
Now I understand that that can be difficult. We’re all on different levels in our wellness journey so maybe you struggle with putting meals together or what foods are actually good and which ones aren’t. If that’s the case, there are food programs you can try. They’re designed to teach you how to eat well as a lifestyle, versus eating well for a short period of time. They’re aimed at teaching you the how and the why behind nutrition and I would highly recommend you take the time to learn that.
You can try Kayla Itsine’s BBG Program. It comes with daily workouts as well as a meal plan. She sends out emails and blog posts regularly which explains different aspects of health and fitness.
You can try Sarah’s Day’s ebook full of workouts. She doesn’t have a meal plan but does provide recipes for healthy foods on her Instagram and blog often. Definitely follow her on Instagram as she offers a lot of helpful tips daily.
You can try Megan Kober’s 30 Day Metabolism Makeover, where she teaches you the best types of foods to eat to keep you in fat burning mode and increase your metabolic function (currently what I am doing). It’s the protein, healthy fat, and fiber I talked about above.
Diets are like putting a bandaid (plaster) over a deep wound. They mask the problem. And once that bandaid (plaster) comes off, you’re still left with the issue.
Learn how to feed yourself with natural and real foods that fulfill and nourish you until your next meal. Learn to want to make good food choices instead of feeling forced into it by a diet. Aim to live a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy alcohol and the not so healthy options every once in awhile. Learn that balance is key to sustaining a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Please feel free to take a look at some of the links I’ve provided for you below to learn more and begin your own research. WARNING: you may learn something new today 🙂
- What Is Diet Culture? – Christy Harrison
- Diet Culture and Diet Mentality – Feel Good Eating
- 25 Best Diet Tips – Healthline (these are basically what I go by)
- You Need to Eat More Fiber – Megan Kober
- How to Order When Out to Eat – Megan Kober
- Key Nutrition Terms Explained – Kayla Itsines
- Why You Should Stop Counting Calories – Sarah’s Day
What are your feelings on diet culture? Share your thoughts with me below.