How to say “No” to diet culture
By Sutton Archambault, Reporter
Content warning: This article covers potentially difficult topics such as eating disorders, body image, and mental health. If these make you uncomfortable, we suggest you stop reading. If you are struggling with these issues yourself, please reach out to any of these resources below or make a trusted friend or family member aware.
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) 1-800-931-2237
Neighborcare Health at VHS (206)-548-7550
Whether you realize it or not, diet culture is everywhere in our society, and the normalization of it causes tremendous amounts of damage to people everywhere. Diet culture is the culture of normalizing disordered eating habits and romanticizing eating disorders which often presents as people making comments that put others down because of their body or eating habits. Diet culture does horrible things to us and our lives. It can cause guilt and shame before, during, and after meals; it hurts our overall health—mental and sometimes physical—and completely destroys our relationship with food.
Many people struggle around the holidays with diet culture and eating. Around the holidays, there is a lot of food generally and many “jokes” and comments about eating that give into diet culture. An example of this—which I witnessed—that is especially harmful is “Oh my gosh! I’ve eaten so much! I need to diet this next month!” These words are especially harmful to those who have or do struggle with their relationship with food.
Diet culture also presents the idea that being qualified as “thin” is good and healthy. If people, society, and diet culture at large tell us that we aren’t in the “thin” category, it is easy to have poor body image. However, there is no right or wrong way to look. Every single body is completely different, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Around the dinner table, it is important to remember this. Sometimes, comments that are intended as a compliment can come across negatively. With this in mind, it’s better to simply not make comments on people’s bodies at all. If you want to compliment someone, find something other than their appearance to point out.
While there are many difficult situations, especially around the holidays, when able, it can be empowering to set healthy boundaries with friends and family. Your boundaries could include asking your loved ones to not not criticize how much someone is eating; judge what a person is eating; talk about restricting, binging, or purging and weight; or comment on someone’s physical appearance.
Holidays and eating habits can be hard. However, there are many resources, and there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it.