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LET'S DITCH 
DIET CULTURE

At its core, diet culture promotes the idea that thin bodies are “better” bodies. It tells us that some foods are “good” and that others are “bad.” Diet culture also has a lot to say about “health,” and about what “healthiness” entails. Because only certain foods and body types meet diet culture’s standards, many of us feel guilt and shame when we fail to comply." 

by Rebecca Fulp-Eickstaedt, MS, CNS, LDN

Rebecca Fulp-Eickstaedt, MS, CNS, LDN is an anti-diet nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor from the Washington, D.C. area. You can follow her on Instagram at @lookwithinnutrition

If you’re active on Instagram or TikTok, you may have come across posts or videos about “diet culture.” Over the past several years, hashtags like #dietculturedropout, #ditchdietculture, and #dietculturesucks have been trending more and more. But what is diet culture, and why is it worth ditching?

 

My favorite definition of diet culture comes from another anti-diet clinician named Christy Harrison. According to Harrison, diet culture is a “life thief”—a powerful force that loves to steal our time, our energy, and our money. At its core, diet culture promotes the idea that thin bodies are “better” bodies. It tells us that some foods are “good” and that others are “bad.” Diet culture also has a lot to say about “health,” and about what “healthiness” entails. Because only certain foods and body types meet diet culture’s standards, many of us feel guilt and shame when we fail to comply. 

"What diet culture doesn’t tell us is that trying to live up to its standards can take a toll. It doesn’t tell us how exhausting it is —both physically and mentally — to stick to a restrictive diet or an intense workout routine. It also doesn’t tell us that 95% of diets fail, and that an estimated 25% of dieters go on to develop eating disorders."

 

Diet culture thrives off this guilt and shame. Fundamentally, it uses these emotions to keep us working towards unrealistic ideals, like the “hot” body or the “healthiest” diet. In pursuit of these ideals, people invest a significant amount of brain space, effort, and money. Why? Because diet culture has taught us that by eating the “right” foods and achieving the “perfect” physique, we can also attain acceptance, love, and happiness.

 

Spoiler alert: This isn’t true. What diet culture doesn’t tell us is that trying to live up to its standards can take a toll. It doesn’t tell us how exhausting it is —both physically and mentally — to stick to a restrictive diet or an intense workout routine. It also doesn’t tell us that 95% of diets fail, and that an estimated 25% of dieters go on to develop eating disorders.

 

Clearly, diet culture can cause a lot of harm. That said, it can also be hard to ignore—especially when friends or family members are stuck in it. If you’re trying to ditch diet culture—or want to start doing that now—just know that it’s okay to take your own path. Know that diet culture doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and that it’s okay to prioritize your own wellbeing. 

 

So, how can you separate yourself from diet culture, and take care of yourself?

 

  • Eat foods you like and that make your body feel best. Despite what diet culture may say, there are no “good” or “bad” foods, and all foods can have a place in a healthy lifestyle.
     

  • Move your body in ways you enjoy! Exercise should be a fun, enlivening expression of what your body can do—not a way to “make up” for eating. 
     

  • Unfollow social media accounts that promote dieting, weight loss, or unrealistic beauty standards. A good rule of thumb is that if an account makes you feel bad about your body or your eating habits, unfollow! Instead, follow “anti-diet” accounts that make you feel good about yourself. 

 


While these practices are helpful for many of my clients, the reality is that letting go of diet culture is a highly personal process. It can also be a challenging process, but one that is so worth it. If you’re on this journey, I encourage you to keep going! Let’s ditch diet culture—and help our society to ditch it as well.