What is diet culture and do you have a diet mentality?

Diet culture is defined as a system of beliefs, messages, and behaviors that places value and focus on weight, shape and body size over and above health and well-being. The message of diet culture is that weight and body size are the ultimate measure of self-worth. This is especially true for female identified folks. Culture tells us that what we look like on the outside, that is, our physical appearance is more important than who and what we are on the inside. Diet culture tells us that it is our moral obligation to pursue health and a thinner body at all costs. We wrongly assume thinner bodies are “healthier” and therefore morally acceptable.  Diet culture promotes black and white thinking with “good/healthy” foods verses “bad/junk” foods. You are morally inferior or superior if you eat “healthy” versus “unhealthy.”

Diet culture is over 70 Billion dollars strong! The diet industry exploits our deepest unconscious desires and insecurities.

As humans, we all want to be accepted and loved. Diet culture convinces us that in order to belong, we must follow certain rules and expectations. It’s insidious and hard to see because diet culture is the water we all drink, the air we all breathe. It’s considered normal to focus on weight, it’s considered normal to talk about the newest trendy diet. It’s never questioned or challenged. People make comments about other people’s weight and body size as if it’s their business. It’s normal for people to feel guilty for eating “too much” chocolate – or anything for that matter! It’s normal to apologize for eating potato chips as if it’s a character defect.  It’s normal to deny body diversity and it’s normal to be afraid of fat bodies and fatness and to believe that fat is the worst thing in the world. Well, I don’t know about you but…I’m done with normal! Normal is boring! LOL.

Diet culture wants you to keep upholding these oppressive systems. Don’t rock the diet boat. Keep on dieting!

That’s why what’s “normal” is actually quite abnormal. It’s NOT normal, or natural for a culture to obsess with weight and health. It’s a symptom of something else. The more our cultures fixates on “health/wellness/dieting,” the more eating disorders this creates!

The diet mentality is the internalization of all the rules and expectations of diet culture.

It’s the underlying thought patterns and belief systems that cause disordered eating behaviors. It’s the all –or-nothing mentality that creates and perpetuates a restrict- binge cycle of eating. If you find yourself binge eating with periods of compensating or restricting in some way, you are likely caught in this painful cycle.

Do you have a “diet mentality”?

Here are some indicators that a diet mentality is alive and well in your psyche: ask yourself these questions: Do you…

  • Avoid keeping certain foods in your home for fear they will cause weight gain or fear you will eat them all? You can’t trust yourself around food.
  • Categorize foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and subsequently internalize the belief that you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ if you eat these foods.
  • Believe that emotional eating or overeating is a character flaw that needs to be fixed.
  • Believe that good health can only be achieved if you: remove gluten, white flour, white sugar, dairy and or grains from your diet.
  • You used language such as “clean eating” and then have “cheat days.”
  • You think that the body needs to be detoxed or cleansed on occasion to rid yourself of toxins or to “get back on track.”
  • You believe food cravings need to be curbed, conquered or denied. You work hard to avoid temptation.
  • You feel guilty after eating, feel overwhelmed or worried about making the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision with foods.
  • You believe you need to follow an eating plan to feel in control.
  • You believe you must exercise to ‘burn off’ or compensate for foods eaten.
  • You often count, measure or track your foods, and or exercise to feel in control. Maybe you always check your Fitbit to see your ‘progress.’
  • You compare your body to others and feel bad because it seems they can eat whatever they want but you can’t.
  • You weigh yourself often; the number on the scale controls your moods.
  • You believe that your self-worth as a person hinges on your body size.

If you answered YES to some or all of the above, don’t worry my friend!

You are not alone. If you were born and raised in the good ol’ USA, then chances are you have absorbed some degree of the diet mentality. So, please don’t be hard on yourself!

AND…once you see, you can’t unsee!

Do you want to break out of the dieting trap? Do you want to heal your diet mentality?

Start by getting a copy of the book Intuitive Eating, or one of the many amazing books on my resources page. Educate yourself.

To get started right away, download a free copy of my Intuitive & Mindful Eating Guide here: https://www.mindful-nutrition.com/

Much love,

Karen Louise

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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