GROWING UP AROUND DIET CULTURE
by Abbigale Kernya,
Youth Editor, KBI Inspire Magazine
Our Youth Editor, Abbigale Kernya, is a first year University student with a passion for music, art, reading, and film.
"...diet culture is strangers telling you what you should and should not look like. It does not care how kind you are, what makes you interesting, how you love or how you create - diet culture does not care about what makes you, you."
I remember vividly standing in a Walmart checkout line several years ago looking at a photo of Chrissy Teigen on the front page of some celebrity gossip magazine with the title “Chrissy flaunts rolls at the beach.”
As Florence Pugh recently said, “it isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last time a woman will hear what’s wrong with her body by a crowd of strangers.”
I cannot even begin to explain the implications that one moment had on my young mind. Seeing a photo of someone who, like me and most people, have rolls, being painted as this negative, gross, and unworthy portrait is something that I am still recovering from. Diet culture is everywhere. It silently tears apart children’s minds leading them into fractured adulthood that repeats this vicious cycle.
A child’s mind is so impressionable. For me, seeing that tabloid of Chrissy Teigen taught me that my body was gross, that my natural rolls should not be there and that I need to have this perfect thin and smooth body if I ever want to be liked. I was no older than 10 years old. After that moment, everything became a blur until suddenly I was a young teenager scrolling on social media where content like that gossip magazine was more accessible and more frequently in my feed. This notion that diet culture has continuously been promoting for years is one centred around conformity. That people must fit into this unattainable box modelled by celebrities who paid to fit themselves into that box. Throughout middle school, high school, and even university, some nagging voice in the back of my head kept reminding me that if I only looked like that, then maybe people would like me more. Somehow, the natural curve and genetic makeup of my body was wrong because it didn’t fit what I had seen in every piece of media I had consumed as a child.
Diet culture, in its most basic form, is a silent killer.
As many things often are, social media has proven to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, there are deliberately facilitated fashion trends and brands that promote unhealthy eating to vulnerable consumers, but there is also this blooming community of creators online that demonstrate and fight against this notorious fad of dieting that has been circling around the media for years. Lizzo, Florence Pugh, and Jonah Hill to name a few, have all recently opened up about their struggles with their bodies as a result of diet culture and the forced upon desire to be thin and delicate. Though social media can have harmful effects, creators like these have shed new hope on the future of social media to help end this breeding ground for harmful content.
The truth about diet culture that took me nineteen years and several long nights to realize, is that it’s made up. It is a made-up notion that has very real consequences. Nothing about the ideas, models, and latest low-carb meal plan is based on anything substantial. To rephrase Florence Pugh: diet culture is strangers telling you what you should and should not look like. It does not care how kind you are, what makes you interesting, how you love or how you create - diet culture does not care about what makes you, you. To the corporations and companies benefiting from this unforgiving cycle, you are just another number. I recognize that saying this is easier said than done, but the reality that diet culture has preyed on me, and millions of other vulnerable people. Chances are, it has preyed on you too.
But there is hope wound up in all of this. The barrier that is slowly being broken between the real world and the online world can help to reintroduce young children and even adults to a world where they do not have to feel guilty for existing as they are. Improving tabloids, removing unhealthy diet advertisements, and having real conversations can help the world move into a place where children don’t have to grow up ashamed of who they are, and adults who feel confident enough to live life unafraid of a mirror.
Life is simply too short to let strangers dictate how you live. There is so much beauty in this world that exceeds the box diet culture has convinced us we belong in.