Columns, Opinion

Let Your Hair Down: Diet Culture and Forming a Healthy Relationship With Your Plate

We live in a society that prides itself on finding alternative ways to live “healthier” lifestyles while pushing for perfectionist ideals. The dialogue around body image and our relationship with food has taken a turn for the worse because of modern diet culture. 

The infinite world of diet and fitness plans began with the intentions of self-love and health conscious efforts. However, through its alluring presence in media and public figure endorsements, dieting has become a twisted version of itself.

Today’s diet culture has changed the ways we interact with food, entertaining health myths and counterintuitive solutions to poor body image.

The emphasis on restrictive diets and rule-making with food has conditioned us to approach food in misleading— and sometimes unhealthy— ways. We conceptualize the distinctions between “bad” and “good” food, judging nutritional value based on how the media associates diet with appearance. 

This suggests that one way of eating works for everyone and that all bodies function in the same way, which is misguided. 

The obvious reality is, if one diet worked for all individuals, then each person would adopt that diet, get the same results and feel content. Every human inhabits a unique body with its own system, needs and balance. So, we cannot squeeze ourselves into limited ways of eating that do not work for everyone.

Eating healthy does not work the same for everyone.

The diet phenomenon exacerbates the belief that restriction is the key to self-control when it comes to what we eat. This belief strengthens the idea that in order to maintain a healthy diet and avoid gaining weight, we cannot indulge in the types of food we want. When we entertain that restriction myth, we promote a lack of trust in ourselves. 

Restriction means control, control means weight loss, and weight loss means looking “good” in the form society glamorizes. These ideologies are entirely backwards; believing that we must reshape our bodies first through food restriction in order to then feel good about ourselves is a misunderstood way of viewing health and happiness. 

Relying on restriction to achieve a certain body image is inefficient and undesirable. Developing a healthy relationship with our bodies must begin with changing our mindsets. 

No health and fitness strategy that deprives satisfaction is sustainable. Food should function for both nutritional and pleasurable value — an unhealthy relationship with food forms when we eliminate either of those functions. 

Our emphasis should be on both mind and body consciousness rather than being hyperconscious about the food we eat. We should maintain awareness of what we put into our bodies while understanding what we need and what makes us happy. This idea puts the focus toward how we feel rather than how we look. 

Diet culture limits perspectives of food and warps the concepts of health, fitness and happiness when it comes to what we eat and how we view our bodies. Rather than shaping our relationship with food around misinformed ideologies, we must view eating with a holistic approach that considers its instrumental role in all parts of our life. 

How and what we eat is a choice we should make based on how we want to feel and what works for our own body — not through judgment, but through love for what makes us a unique individual.

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