Nutrition culture is all around us. It affects the way we talk and practice, what we eat and wear, and even how we feel and talk about ourselves. We live and breathe the food culture every day, but most people don't even know it exists. This is because it is so deeply embedded in our lives that it seems completely normal (until you start digging a little, that is).
What is diet?
Eating culture is a system of beliefs and values that prioritize body weight, the shape and size of health and well-being.
Nutritional culture places ethical value on behaviors, products and goals designed to achieve a particular body type.
In the world of eating culture, thin bodies are the most valuable, foods can be classified as "good" and "bad", and only certain types of exercise are worthwhile. The focus is on external goals, not internal goals, and decisions come from a point of self-control instead of self-service.
You may be thinking, "But I'm not on a diet, so what does a culture diet have to do with me?"
The thing is, you don't have to be on a diet like Keto or Old to participate in civilization of diet. Most of us have been living in a food culture for so long that we have an inner eating culture that influences the way we think about food, movement and organisms.
How to identify eating culture and eating culture in action
If diet culture is all you've ever known, initially some forms of it may be difficult to identify. With time and practice, it becomes easier to identify the diet culture around you and within your mind.
The most obvious forms of diet mainly deal with black and white thinking. Food is described in terms such as clean and dirty or healthy and unhealthy, leaving no room for shades. Some foods appear to have magical properties and are characterized as "detox", "super" or "miracle" foods, while others are demonized as "fake" and "rubbish".
Under the diet culture, the simple act of eating can easily turn into a guilt trip or a spiral shame. Food decisions may be based on what you think must eating instead of what you want to eat and restricting foods or food groups is common.
A man like that "Every bite you take is either to fight the disease or to eat it" to throw around, implying that choosing the right foods to avoid getting sick is a personal responsibility and a moral imperative.
Eating culture teaches that there is exercise to atone for the sins of those we have eaten and that exercise can be used to "win" food. The language of exercise is the toughest, fastest, most powerful variety with an emphasis on a "no excuses" attitude.
Worst of all, nutrition cultivation equates weight and size with health. This not only ignores additional aspects of health beyond physical (such as mental, mental, emotional and social health), it also leads to weight stigma and normalizes the constant search for weight loss, often at the expense of real health indicators.
Eating culture also appears in more derogatory ways.
It's there when you and your colleagues are celebrating a birthday at the offices and there is a 5 minute discussion about who is gluten free that month, if the cake is keto-friendly and how "forgiving" it is a slice. It's there when you judge someone else for what you ordered at a restaurant or put on their plate at a party.
The eating culture is also there when I congratulate someone for losing weight and whispering behind someone for weight gain. It's there every time you believe your body is unreliable and that your natural hunger and cravings are betrayal.
The culture of nutrition pushes us in more ways than one
Damages to the eating culture are widespread. With responsible nutrition, we are expected to spend our precious time, money, and energy searching for a certain way and being "healthy" and "fit". We are socialized to believe that we can gain our value through weight and well-being. This distracts us from other important aspects of our lives, such as work, education, relationships and rest.
Dietary culture also contributes to the prevalence of eating disorders, which have the highest mortality rate than any mental illness. It is estimated that up to 30 million people have an eating disorder in the United States alone.1 Many known risk factors for eating disorders, such as body image dissatisfaction, weight gain and diet history, are the same for the course of the diet.2
While eating culture hurts everyone, its effects are particularly detrimental to marginalized groups. This is because nutrition reinforces existing oppression systems.
For example, diet culture promotes a single body type (slim and visible "fit") as healthy and desirable. This ignores the reality of body diversity and perpetuates widespread obesity.
In addition, the forms of body weight supported by diet are more often encouraged white organs that conform to the ideals of western beauty. This is inherently racist and contributes to the long history of white bodies being regarded as the status quo, while all other bodies are considered less desirable and worthy.
Diet culture also has roots in the class. It promotes a compulsory "wellness culture" at prohibitive costs, while ignoring issues such as poverty and food availability. In addition, the nutrition culture is capable of insisting that we can all be "healthy" and prevent disease if we simply buy the right foods, take the right supplements, and commit to the right exercise routine.
This is not an exhaustive list of the damages caused by the eating culture or the types of oppression it supports, but it does provide a basis to help you understand that when nutrition is the norm, we all lose.
5 tools for dismantling the eating culture
If you are involved in a food culture and are experiencing a food culture, you are not responsible for that. The system is a mistake, not a person, and this discussion of food culture and the damage it causes is not to shame you.
Think of food culture as a current that travels in one direction – not only are people deliberately swimming with the current that follows the water path, they are also passively floating in the stream.
But there is another option, and that is to actively swim upstream against the current, trying to disrupt your diet culture and your own eating culture. It will take time and practice to release years of dieting behavior and it will not be easy (upstream swimming is never), but there are some steps you can take to get started:
1. Reject eating habits
Get rid of things that keep you stuck in a diet mentality, such as your low calorie cookbooks and your scale. Leave behind the diet and restrict for good, and do not distance yourself from the newest fury. Stop putting weight loss and resilience on a pedestal and turn your life around achieving them at the expense of your health and well-being.
Commit to catching yourself when you return to the discussion about nutrition in social situations and start recognizing your own internal food rules so you can practice letting them go.
2. Be critical about the language you use
Once you know what the language of the food culture sounds like, you will start to notice it everywhere. Avoid the language that:
- Moralizates food, such as Good, bad, clean, naughty, sinful, fraud, cheat day, etc.
- It links food and exercise, such as "I've won this piece of pizza," "I deserve this donut" "I have to burn that holiday party."
- It shakes or destroys people for their choices, such as "Soda will kill you, you know," "Cardio is a waste of your time", "I think you probably have enough food", "should you really eat it?"
- It focuses on the bodies, such as "You have to think about losing some weight. I'm just worried about your health", "Looks great, have you lost weight?"
If you feel comfortable with it, you can also gently treat others who use this language, explaining who is problematic.
3. Learn to eat intuitively
If you are going to leave your diet behind, you should find a new way of eating that is not based on external food rules. Practicing intuitive eating will help you become more aware of what's happening inside your body so you can start to trust your body again. By learning to eat intuitively, you will be able to reconnect with your hunger and plurality, focus on satisfaction and stop limiting yourself.
4. Promote your relationship with nutrition and exercise as a form of self-care
Loosen your grip on any of your past practices that were rooted in persistence and perfectionism instead of genuine self-care. If the thought of taking less than 10,000 steps a day is filled with fear, it's time for the activity tracker to take off. If you are used to all your food choices guided by calories and macros, get comfortable listening to your cravings instead.
Prioritize your food and the movement it makes touch good instead of food and movement that we hope will make you look some way.
A good laconia test wonders, "Would I still do X if I knew about an event my body wouldn't change as a result?"
5. Build the Community
Rejecting your diet culture when it seems like everyone else is still stuck in it can feel awfully lonely. It helps you stay in touch with your peers.
On social media, turn off accounts that no longer match your values and look for new ones that include content about intuitive eating, joyful movement, and a cautious approach to health.
Look for groups online or locally in your area that are anti-diet and embrace the variety of the body. Educate yourself on these topics through books, podcasts, and candid conversations.
What if you are hungry to return to the culture of nutrition?
Nutrition is a form of social currency that most of us strive to earn throughout our lives. Inevitably there will be times when you want to run back into his familiar embrace.
When this happens, feel your emotions and remember that you have a normal reaction. Getting the siren song about nutrition out of your head won't be easy, especially at first. But if you stay focused on all the reasons that it is important to disassemble the food culture, you will be able to swim upwards, one blow at a time.
Want help getting the best results out of your life – without extreme dieting or exercise?
Finally, with GGS Coaching there's a way of eating and exercising that is effective, enjoyable and easier than ever (even if you've tried everything).
If you are ready to:
- Stop restricting, dieting and sticking to food
- Eat the food you love – that satisfies you – and still get the results you want
- Spend less time in the gym, don't exhaust yourself and still achieve your goals
- Trust your body and trust yourself about food
- Feel good on your skin and radiate confidence from the inside out
We can help.
That's why we created it GGS Coaching.
Women need coaches who understand their unique needs and challenges, and GGS Coaching is a coaching program designed by women, for women run by women.
Helping women is what we do here at GGS. Tell us what your goals are and we will help you achieve them in a lasting way.
GGS Coaching designed as the antidote to all the usual compulsive, restrictive, exhaustive diets and exercise programs out there, which are very difficult to maintain for any real time.
We understand. That is why we use one a viable and skills-based approach to help you practice the exact skills you need to get the results you want – without changing your life.
GGS Coaching it's not just about getting the best physical results you've ever got in your life – it's about getting the best version of yourself one step at a time.
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