Juice cleanses, fad diets, fasting and strict meal plans: easy and efficient ways to lose weight and become the healthiest version of yourself, right? Think again. These are rules that the toxic world of diet culture has set for us and that we have been programmed to follow.
More often than not, diets lead us to believe that to be healthy we need to have a certain body type and follow a specific diet. Many individuals have started a diet at some point in their lives. According to the Boston Medical Center, it is estimated that each year about 45 million people begin a diet. It is also estimated that Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight loss products.
Ashley Munro is a nutrition counselor for Campus Health at the University of Arizona. She focuses on weight inclusivity and health through every size lens.
“Diet culture is idolization of smaller bodies,” Munro said. “It's frustrating because we assume health looks this one way.”
Diet culture and our society assumes that to have good health we need to all eat and look a certain way, when in reality this is not the case. Health is not a body size or diet.
“Being thin isn’t what is most important,” Munro said.
When it comes to our health, it's important to keep in mind that your diet is just a small piece of the puzzle. We need to also put our focus on the other pieces such as physical movement, moving for enjoyment, stress levels, social and emotional support and sleep.
“We forget to zoom out and think outside the box," Munro said. "Health at every size takes the focus of shrinking our bodies out of the picture."
Diet culture and the stress that it brings all come from an industry that profits off our insecurities.
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Munro explained that fad diets, like keto, are fads for a reason. They change over time.
Everyone has control over their bodies, and what they want to try and do to make themselves feel their best. That’s what’s important.
“It's your body, you have control of your own body,” Munro said.
Munro explained that it's important to stop and ask ourselves, “Is what I'm trying to do just stressing my body even more? Is this something that makes me feel good? Is this reasonable for my budget and lifestyle?”
At the end of the day we are all different individuals who have different needs that diet culture doesn’t understand.
Munro suggested that we ask ourselves, “What are all the ways that diet culture impacts our health, how can we be more weight inclusive?”
On campus at the University of Arizona there are resources for students who are interested in promoting a more weight inclusive mindset or for students seeking support. Campus Health has a variety of programs. For example, there is Campus Eating Disorder Awareness and Recovery Group — known as CEDAR, Body Positive Arizona, as well as Nutrition Navigators.
Campus Health is also active on Instagram and has created a safe and welcoming atmosphere for everyone on their social media account.
When an individual is against diet culture, it means that they are against the toxic mindset, strict rules, pressure, food labels and stress that comes with it. Those who are against diet culture and focus on health as a whole understand that health goes beyond what you eat.
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Julianna is a senior majoring in journalism and sociology. She enjoys writing and reporting on topics related to mental and physical health and wellness.