Diet Culture Talk that Needs to Go
Current diet culture is full of self-demeaning, guilt-producing phrases that have no place in your life. It’s a new decade, so let’s embrace revolution and roar with self-love and acceptance as we talk about our bodies and the food we eat. Fight the diet stigma by paying attention to and removing these phrases from your vocabulary.
1. “I look fat in this.”
You don’t allow fatphobia toward others, so why is it okay toward yourself? The negative connotations surrounding the meaning of fat in this phrase is a huge issue. Calling yourself fat in an empowering way to embrace your body is good. Calling yourself fat in a negative, self-deprecating way, not so much.
2. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
This idea that skinny is the only kind of body that feels positive, and therefore good, is problematic. It insinuates someone cannot feel good about themselves without being skinny. Not only is this kind of thinking damaging to your self-image, but it also glorifies skinny bodies. While skinny bodies can be fit, they can also be malnourished or have a disorder or illness. Skinny doesn’t always mean healthy. And size should have no impact on how good you feel about yourself.
3. “I’m being bad by eating this food.”
Current diet culture pins “good” foods against “bad” foods. Truthfully, there is no moral value to what we eat. Food isn’t evil, and you aren’t bad for eating it. This phrase boils down to make you feel guilty and shameful about what you eat. It can lead to a vicious cycle of dieting, discouragement, and poor body image. You are not defined by what you eat. Sure, some foods have more nutrients than others, some are organic, others processed. But, even so-called good and bad calories are just that—a unit of energy. Certain foods may be better for your health, but life is all about balance. Find yours knowing you are a whole person, not just a food machine.
4. “Carbs are so bad for you.”
Remember, food has no moral value. Carbs, meats, diary, vegetables, and fruits all break down into caloric energy your body uses to carry you through the day. You probably grew up hearing carbs are a no-go and low-to-no-carb diets are the only way to live. Psych. Your body needs carbohydrates to function! A healthy diet is a balanced one. Go ahead and eat whole-grain pasta and veggies, have a baked sweet potato, bake some bread, and enjoy everything you eat with your overall nutrition in mind.
5. “I feel fat today.”
Again, labeling your body can be really detrimental to your self-image and self-worth. Break down this phrase into something specific. Are you feeling bloated? Did your jeans shrink? Are you retaining water? Change this kind of thinking to something more gentle like, “I feel uncomfortable today.” Maybe this even translates to acknowledging some weight gain. Gaining weight is okay. The body fluctuates so much during any given week. And, you get to choose how you respond to that change. It’s your choice whether you are happy with your body or if you’d like to make changes to it. Choose to be confident either way. You have so much more to offer than just what’s on the outside.
6. “I’ll work out for hours after eating this.”
Here’s one I really struggle with. This mindset looks at exercise as a punishment rather than a way to celebrate your body for being strong and able. Yes, we need to move and exercise to burn the calories we eat and build muscle. But, if running laps or lifting weights is a punishment for eating, it creates an unhappy, negative relationship with food. Work out because it’s good for your health, clears your mind, relieves stress, and uses all the impressive muscle groups that make you, you.
7. “You’re so skinny—go eat a burger.”
Assuming you know why someone’s body looks the way it does is problematic and, frankly, pretty rude. Commenting on someone’s weight can be really triggering and bring up private parts of their life they don’t want to discuss in public. Also, you never know why someone has lost weight or appears small. They could be struggling with depression or a chronic illness, they could be recovering from a massive surgery, or they could have an overworked metabolism and genetic predisposition that makes it difficult for them to gain muscle mass or weight. To compliment someone on how they look (or congratulate their weight-loss journey), acknowledge a stylish new outfit, or how happy they seem with their lifestyle change. If you want to go eat a burger with them, just ask.
So, when you quote the iconic Regina George from the movie Mean Girls, “Sweatpants are all that fit me right now,” rethink your thinking. You’re going to be comfy and styling in that velour track suit. The way your body looks or how you feel today does not limit what you can accomplish, lower your self-worth, or detract from what an awesome person you are. Slay the day by crushing harmful diet culture language from your vocabulary, starting now.