Diet culture is a way of thinking that assigns moral virtue to some types of bodies but not others. As a society we have been taught to feel a certain way about food, language, and body size surrounding fat. Certain foods have been labeled as “good” or “bad,” while different body shapes have been labeled as more or less desirable. If you are looking to change your food and fitness routine to a more health-conscious approach, that is great! There is nothing wrong with wanting to change your lifestyle in order to feel better. However, keep in mind that diet culture has instilled these negative messages about how you should feel about your shape, diet, weight, and overall wellness.
Here are six tips to help you remove diet culture talk from your life and move towards a more body positive approach:
- Fat is not a feeling.
It is a description, and one that some people even use to describe themselves in an empowering way. Recognize when you are using the word “fat” in place of an emotion, such as when you feel bad or upset. Instead of “I feel fat” try a phrase such as “I don’t feel good about my body today.”
- Do not use weight loss as a compliment.
Although some people may have worked very diligently to lose weight, you may never know how or why someone has lost weight. It may have been an unintentional weight loss, or weight loss that occurred in an unhealthy way. Try to focus your compliments on mood or demeanor. Instead of “You’ve lost weight, you look great.” Say “you seem so happy lately.”
- Food is just food.
There is no such thing as foods that are “good” or “bad.” Certain foods should not make you feel shamed when they are eaten. While some foods should be eaten in larger quantities than others, there is room for all foods in a balanced and nutritious diet. Instead of putting food into categories, view it as a necessary source of nutrition for your body.
- You can be fat and beautiful.
According to diet culture, to be fat means that you cannot also be beautiful, happy, or successful. Recognize that “fat” and “beautiful” can occur at the same time, period. Some people view fat itself as a beautiful and empowering state of being.
- Allow others to choose how they describe themselves.
Fat does not have to be treated as an insult; some people can use this word without any issue. Instead of telling somebody “Don’t call yourself fat” say nothing! Allow others to describe themselves however they want to.
- Stop taking “Cheat Days.”
As is mentioned in #3, there are no “good” and “bad” foods. You do not have to justify what you are eating to yourself or others by labeling the day as a “cheat day.” It is perfectly fine to deviate from your nutrition goals. But when you call it a “cheat day,” this is a way of labeling your actions as “bad.” Instead, enjoy the foods you are craving and then return to your eating regimen without the addition of guilt.