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You're not failing your diet, #dietculture is failing you

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

By Amber Charles, MSPH, RDN

September 6, 2020

"If I could just lose these last 10...20...or 30 lbs, I'd be so much happier". Sounds familiar? We've probably all experienced a version of this and the world of #dietculture has had us hooked looking for solutions...or maybe hoodwinked!

A diet, in its basic sense, is a pattern of eating. This pattern can be influenced by our cultures, religious practices, medical diagnoses, personal preferences, among many other factors. Nonetheless, within the past few decades, this definition has become quite restricted - much like the guidelines of many #faddiets.

The scoop on diet culture

Diet culture is a system of beliefs that has irresponsibly made a direct connection between foods and your morality - ever felt guilty after eating a #badfood? - Yeah, that's what this is. Not only is it a billion dollar industry (in the US alone), but it perpetuates a negative relationship with food, which in turn may lead to poor eating behaviors (think: food aversions or binge eating), or even eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa).

How to spot if #dietculture is failing you:

* You cannot enjoy your local, cultural foods because those may be underrepresented in the diets, completely left out or even portrayed as a "bad food"

* You believe that 'healthy eating' means eating a limited selection of very specific foods/supplements

* You are left dissatisfied and wind up binge eating #forbiddenfoods later on

* You have developed a negative relationship with food and feel guilty for eating foods “you should never have” - which in contrast, often leads to a vicious psychological cycle of overeating to suppress those negative emotions...and then eating some more to suppress the guilt of overeating (you know what I mean)

* You cannot wait to “stop dieting” to enjoy food again!

There are many more that can be added to this list...feel free to chip in some of your own.

Okay, it's failed me, what's next?

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a #magicdiet that worked for us all, didn't make us feel guilty and helped us to lose and/or maintain our desired weight? (A girl can dream).

There is no one-size-fits-all in the world of nutrition and health, but here are some general words of wisdom:

Lifestyle changes that balance your nutrition, physical activity, sleep and mental, emotional and spiritual health are key to seeing sustainable and long-term positive health outcomes. Mindful eating/intuitive eating reclaims our relationship with our body and help to guide our journey.

To conclude, is a diet by itself bad? Nope. Is a diet that makes you feel inferior, dissatisfied and longing for more, bad? - Oh yeah. Is this blog an attack on a specific diet out there? Nope - some people thrive on diets - but this is about you, not everyone else.

Having weight loss goals are fine, but having health goals that are not focused on weight loss are also fine (maybe you just want to feel more energetic, or run a 5K). Either way, having a dietary pattern that enables you to both meet your health goals and enjoy eating is golden - foods are meant to be enjoyed and savored, neither a form of punishment nor gluttony.

PS: This is not a permission slip to go buck wild - more posts to come.


This information is intended for nutrition education purposes only. Always consult with your medical team and Registered Dietitian on a one-on-one basis to determine what is best for you and your health goals.

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