‘Diet Culture’ Isn’t Just About Smoothies and Food-Tracking Apps


Today, you’ll be able to’t get right into a dialog about vitamin and wellness with out somebody mentioning diet culture. It’s throughout social media, in each anti-diet areas and extra common wellness ones. Celebrities are calling it out. It’s talked about in academic research. Even the younger youngsters I work with in my vitamin apply use the time period. They speak about how their dad and mom don’t preserve sure meals in the home, their pal is making an attempt to drop some weight, or their coach advised them to keep away from sugar, “as a result of, , weight-reduction plan tradition.”

However simply because a time period is ubiquitous doesn’t imply that it’s universally understood. Whereas many individuals suppose weight-reduction plan tradition is nearly, effectively, diets, it’s truly much more advanced and far-reaching. Food regimen tradition is a complete perception system that associates meals with morality and thinness with goodness, and it’s rooted within the (very colonial) perception that each particular person has full management and duty over their well being.

What’s worse, weight-reduction plan tradition is so ingrained, particularly in Western society, that we regularly don’t even acknowledge it. That’s why SELF requested specialists to deal with a few of the most typical questions and misconceptions concerning the time period to offer you a greater understanding of what weight-reduction plan tradition actually means and why it’s so problematic.

What’s the definition of weight-reduction plan tradition?

Though there’s no official definition of weight-reduction plan tradition, Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, writer of Anti-Diet, revealed a great one on her weblog in 2018. Harrison defines weight-reduction plan tradition as a perception system that “worships thinness and equates it to well being and ethical advantage,” promotes weight reduction and sustaining a low weight as a solution to elevate social standing, and demonizes sure meals and consuming types whereas elevating others. Food regimen tradition additionally “oppresses individuals who don’t match up with its supposed image of ‘well being,’ which disproportionately harms ladies, femmes, trans of us, individuals in bigger our bodies, individuals of coloration, and other people with disabilities,” Harrison writes.

We’re all surrounded—and influenced—by weight-reduction plan tradition, on a regular basis. “There’s this concept that weight-reduction plan tradition solely impacts individuals who select to weight-reduction plan, however that’s not true,” Sabrina Strings, PhD, a sociology professor on the University of California, Irvine, who research weight-reduction plan tradition and fatphobia, tells SELF. “Food regimen tradition is the tradition we’re all steeped in; it’s the idea that we are able to management our our bodies based mostly on what and the way a lot we eat, and it locations an ethical judgment on meals and our bodies.” In different phrases, it makes us imagine, consciously or not, that sure meals and (skinny, normally white) our bodies are good, whereas different meals and (fats, typically Black or non-white) bodies are bad.

What are a few of the roots of weight-reduction plan tradition?

Within the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries, American protestants began to publicly equate deprivation with well being, and well being with morality. Probably the most well-known instance might be clergyman Sylvester Graham (namesake of the graham cracker, which was initially a lot much less scrumptious than it’s now), who promoted a bland vegetarian weight-reduction plan of bread, entire grains, fruits, and greens as a solution to quell sexual urges, enhance well being, and guarantee ethical advantage.

There’s additionally loads of racism and anti-Blackness baked into this colonial concept that thinness and meals restriction equal goodness. In her e book Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, Dr. Strings talks about how white colonial thought used physique dimension as a solution to argue that Black individuals have been inferior. “In the course of the top of slavery within the 18th century, there have been distinguished Europeans who believed that being skinny and controlling what they ate made them morally superior,” Dr. Strings says. “And thus, African individuals have been inherently considered as inferior, as a result of they tended to have bigger our bodies, which was equated to being lazy.”

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