Columns, Opinion

Let Your Hair Down: Diet culture is misguiding our relationship with food

Our society prides itself on finding alternative ways to live “healthier” lifestyles while pushing for perfectionist ideals and near-unreachable goals. The dialogue around body image and our relationship with food is inflated by modern trends and eating expectations. 

American diet culture offers infinite diet and fitness plans rooted in alleged self-love and health-consciousness. However, through its allure amplified by mass media and endorsements by public figures, dieting has slowly become a twisted version of what it was supposed to be. 

Today, it places emphasis on the ways we interact with food and influences the relationship we create with our plate, thus entertaining health myths, stereotypes and counterintuitive solutions to a positive body image. 

The focus on restrictive diets and rule-making with the food we eat has conditioned our minds to approach food in misleading — and sometimes unhealthy — ways. 

We conceptualize distinctions between “bad” and “good” food, and cast shallow judgments on our nutrition based on how the media associates diet with appearance. This societal trend entertains the idea that one way of eating works for everyone, and all bodies function the same, which is, of course, entirely misguided. 

The obvious reality is: if one diet worked across the board for all individuals, then everyone would adopt that diet, achieve the same results and feel content. But every human inhabits a unique body with its own needs. So, we cannot squeeze ourselves into the mold of one way to eat that may work for some but does not necessarily adhere to other bodies’ demands. 

Eating healthy does not look the same on everyone.

The diet phenomenon often feeds the belief that restriction is the key to self-control when we eat, which fuels the idea that in order to maintain a healthy diet and avoid gaining weight, we cannot eat the food we want. 

When we entertain the diet myth of living under stringent discipline with food so we can control ourselves, we promote a lack of trust in our eating habits and subject ourselves to confining pressure. 

Restriction means control, control means weight loss and weight loss means looking “good” by the standards much of the world promotes and glamorizes. These ideologies are entirely backward — believing we must reshape our bodies through food restriction to then feel good about ourselves is a misunderstood way of viewing health and happiness. 

This process is inefficient and undesirable. Developing a healthy relationship with our body must first begin in our head, where we decide what we eat and how we look.

We often subconsciously entertain the idea that to stay fit and achieve the “ideal” body, we must avoid the foods we actually want and enjoy, so we end up indulging solely in foods that do not necessarily leave us feeling satisfied. We subdue our desires while subscribing to diet culture, forgetting to prioritize fulfillment in our relationship with our plate.

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

The emphasis should be on mind and body consciousness rather than food consciousness, and we should remain aware of what we put into our bodies while understanding what we need and what makes us content, both physically and mentally. This idea pulls the focus toward how we feel rather than how we look. 

The world of diet culture limits perspectives on 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 through a holistic approach that encompasses its instrumental role in all parts of our lives. 

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 by loving what makes us unique. 

One Comment

  1. I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on this blog. You have made my day! I think this is an engaging and eye-opening material. Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers.