Ahhhhh, the grocery store. Every dietitians lab (and my favorite place) but also the enemy of many general consumers. Why? Because diet culture.
Diet culture entails the view point of what a “perfect” healthy body should look like and factors of influence. But let me ask you this, what does healthy mean? It means something different to everyone AND it looks different on everyone. So why do we have this stigma that we must be slim, toned and fit to be considered healthy? Hate to break it to you but even if you fit all those characteristics your blood lipid panel or blood pressure could be beyond normal ranges therefore not optimal for your health. Diet culture also isn’t solely about dieting for weight loss to achieve that certain look but also the factors that lead to decisions made when it comes to food.
So why has diet culture has grown over the past decade?
- People praise individuals for loosing weight by making statements such as “Have you being loosing weight? You look great!” What was wrong with the way they looked before? They are still the same person on the inside that they were before loosing the weight.
- When we eat in large groups or in front of anyone in general we have this notion that we have to justify what we are eating by explaining how we already worked out for the day or this is my cheat day or I had a tough week I deserve this pizza.
- Asking yourself why you don’t have the willpower to go on the diet your friend is going on rather than asking them why the heck they want to do a juice cleanse for 7 days (your kidneys and liver already do that for you)!
- We spend countless hours chasing a certain number of the scale. Wasting our time on something so small compared to other aspects of life that need our focus.
- The ever constant weight loss advertisements that almost make us feel guilty if we aren’t currently dieting.
- Grabbing the “skinny cow” ice cream versus the Ben and Jerry’s because it says “Skinny” so it must be better for me right?
The last point is where my thought process began for this biog post. I never really related the grocery store or specific food products to diet culture before until I came across a similar blog post earlier this week. Normally I would relate all the other variables mentioned above to the growth of diet culture but never food. But food lies at the forefront of what a diet revolves around so how could it not influence the thoughts about dieting?! This where the grocery store comes into play.
Have you ever just walked around the store and looked at all the products? I did a little experiment last time I went to the store and picked up any item that screamed “diet food.” I found more products than I thought I would! From words like skinny, thin, lean, light n fit, guilt free, and weight control I was astonished at how many products (whether the company meant to or not) contribute to the rise of diet culture. There are certainly a lot more than what I found depending on what store you shop at! Each day we are consistently reminded of the fact that being skinny, thin or lean is the preferred body image today and those words printed on a product can very well trigger in our head that this specific product will benefit my health more than the real thing.
BUT health encompasses physical and mental aspects not just the physical. So let me ask you this, do you pick up these items at the store just because the product name displays attributes of what the “perfect” healthy body should look like and maybe if you get that product rather than the real product you may be able to achieve that body image? If the answer is yes, were you satisfied with the “cleaner” version or did you find yourself still craving the real product? I am going to guess you still wanted the real thing after finishing off the “diet” version.
I’ll leave you with quote: “you wouldn’t need to eat skinny cow or halo top if you were afraid of real ice cream.”
*not to put halo top down at all because some of their flavors are bomb (the new cinnamon roll is fire!) but it’s the intention behind buying their brand that is the issue. If its for flavor and taste, GREAT! but if its because its consider a less guilty version of real ice cream those influences help contribute to diet culture.
It is time we stop contributing to the influence diet culture has on our society. It starts with us to put a stop to the craze over diet foods and emphasis on the perfect body image. It is so important to not only take care of yourself physically but also mentally. If you are consistently picking up “diet foods” when you are really craving the real product you are not really doing yourself a favor when it comes to your mental health or your relationship with food.
We need more people who are striving to be their best self rather than trying to fit an image that a media outlet told them they should be like. Make food choices based on what YOU want to eat not what you think you should eat because some advertisement told you to. Food is meant to nourish our bodies and be enjoyed not something you cringe over. Realizing that all foods fit will help you develop a more optimal physical AND mental health. And how nice would it be to enjoy an ice cream or brunch date with a friend without thinking twice about it?