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Breaking up with Diet Culture

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Diet culture is pervasive in our society. It’s something that has been instilled in us since childhood and often ingrained into everyday messages about how you should be eating, moving and just living. It is exhausting and very difficult to break away from. Here are some lies that diet culture has taught you and ways you can officially break up with diet culture for a more holistic, well-balanced view on health.

Lies Diet Culture Has Told You

  • You have to be a certain weight to be healthy

    • There is no one perfect weight that you are supposed to be. The perfect weight for you is one where you feel good and are able to do all the things you want in life.

  • Exercise to just burn calories

    • There are so many physical and mental health benefits to exercise, burning calories shouldn’t be a concern. The amount of calories you burn is also dependent on a number of things, so if you ever see a workout that says “You’ll burn 500 calories in an hour” is no guarantee that you will actually burn that amount of calories.

  • You’re one diet away from a happier life

    • The most insidious thing about diet culture is that it packages weight loss as a way to achieve happiness. So many diet programs promise that you’ll have more energy, feel better and be able to live your best life. But only if you follow these rules, take this pill, or cut out these foods. These restrictions never lead to happiness.

  • Exercise should be difficult or painful

    • So many people see exercise as a punishment or a method to beat themselves into a body they want. This only leads to hating exercise, burnout and potentially an injury. Finding movement you enjoy and can do regularly is the goal.

  • You have to track your food intake

    • Calorie counting and other types of food tracking have always been popular in the diet industry. This can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. While food tracking can be helpful in figuring out how it makes you feel (or potential allergies), it is not something that should be done on a long term basis.

  • There are good foods and bad foods

    • Labeling foods as good or bad can lead to a lot of stress and potentially an eating disorder. Focus on foods that make you feel good. For foods that make you feel sluggish or aren’t filling, don’t eat them as often or in smaller quantities.

How to Break Up With Diet Culture

  • Honor your hunger

    • Diet culture tries to tell us that we aren’t actually hungry or that being hungry is wrong. If you are hungry - go and get something to eat! Some days you will be more hungry than others and that’s okay!

  • Get more comfortable in the body you have

    • This one is tricky but important. Feeling comfortable in your own skin will keep you from trying those fad diets or detoxes. Begin by noticing the negative things you say about your self or body and begin replacing them with neutral or positive thoughts.

  • Find movement you enjoy

    • Again - exercise should be enjoyable! Maybe calling it exercise isn’t for you - so just think about adding more movement into your daily life.

  • Say no to fad diet, short term fixes and detoxes

    • If diets and detoxes worked, everyone would have lost weight and the diet industry wouldn’t need to be as large as it is. So if you ever get the pull to go on a new diet or do a detox with your friends, don’t do it. It won’t work.

  • Recognize that managing your health and body image is a lifelong process

    • A lot of people see weight loss as a specific goal, and once you achieve it - the struggle is over and you can live your best life. This is just not true. Besides most diets not being sustainable - life has different phases where your body will change.

Like a bad ex, diet culture will try and weasel its way back into your life with the promise to be new and better, but you’re always left feeling terrible in the end. Officially breaking up with diet culture can be a process and everyone’s journey is different. The best route is to remind yourself that the diets and fads never work and that taking care of yourself holistically is the best approach.

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