With the new year upon us (hiii 2024) diet culture is working harder than ever to increase its 70 billion dollar industry. Yup, you just read billion. With that type of power and influence, it can be hard to block out the diet culture noise. While some things have diet culture written all over them, there are others that are more nuanced and subtle.
Pause: Wondering what diet culture even is? More on that here.
Here at NourishRX we want to ensure that you are entering into the new year with eyes wide open to all the ways that diet culture can show up. That way, it might make it just a tad bit easier to say “no thank you”.
Let’s dive into the top eight ways we see diet culture showing up in the new year.
8 ways to spot diet culture in the new year
diet programs marketed for weight loss
We figured we would start with the obvious one. But, it goes without saying that any program whose desired outcome is solely body changes (and markets it as such) is definitely diet culture.
These programs normally offer extremes when it comes to food and nutrition and are historically unsustainable. We know from research that 90-97% of those who lose weight through dieting will regain the weight back within two to five years. This can lead participants on a chaotic roller coaster of weight cycling, disordered eating and a poor relationship with food and body.
detoxes or cleanses
If you ever see a targeted ad or promotion for any detox or cleanse, you can kindly (or, honestly, aggressively) say “No thank you diet culture!” Our bodies do not need outside detox or cleanses to help ensure appropriate bodily function.
Insert: Your kidney, liver and other organs.
So, as long as we stay hydrated our kidneys will filter out toxins (ammonia, urea and uric acid) while our lives filter toxins through sinusoid channels. Additionally, your digestive tract is processing foods and helping to remove waste through bowel movements. Your organs will do all of this without you even knowing. And, it’s free!
This is where diet culture starts to become a little more nuanced. While some dieting programs are pretty obvious with their marketing about desired weight loss outcomes, some have gotten a little sneakier.
We now see programs marketing, “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!” as many corporations are now beginning to understand that the clientele has caught on and are figuring out diets don’t work. So, what do they do? They change the tag-line of course!
If you see programs that are promising that they care about your health - we encourage you to get very curious with what they’re offering. Does this program create restrictions in any form (calorie restriction, removing food groups, limiting times of the day you can eat)? Are they promoting Health at Every Size principles? Do they state that they are weight inclusive? Depending on the answers to these questions - this may be a program or service that is steeped in diet culture.
Additionally, we encourage you to dig deeper as well. What is your purpose for seeking this program? Is there a desired outcome you are looking to achieve that relates to your body shape or size? Again, depending on your answers you may be approaching this service with diet based intentions.
"everything in moderation"
Ah, yes. We hear this all the time with our well-intentioned clients. And it’s one of our favorite things to start to question.
Let’s challenge diet culture together. The idea of “everything in moderation” is one that is based on restriction. Read that again.
Even though you may be allowing yourself to have certain foods, limiting the quantities to arbitrary amounts that do not align with what your body is needing at that moment, is still a restriction. And it can foster a negative relationship with food. Remember, we always come back to intention. If you are adjusting your intake of certain foods because of how it makes you feel and in a way of self-care that may feel completely different than adjusting foods because you think you "should".
To start digging a little deeper into this one we ask our clients: How do you define moderation? And what would happen if you ate more or less than this threshold? Are there feelings of guilt for “going over”? Pride for “not eating ‘x’ food items?
When potentially presented with this rhetoric in the new year we encourage you to get curious about what moderation means for you. And how it may be impacting your relationship with food and your body.
the "Hunger Fullness" diet
Diet culture has, of course, even infiltrated itself into the framework of Intuitive Eating.
The Hunger Fullness diet is the belief that you can only eat when you are hungry and stop when you are the “perfect amount” of full. And, while understanding and exploring hunger and fullness are two principles of Intuitive Eating, they are not the exclusive idea that it is based off of.
There are so many reasons that we eat as human beings. Responding to our biological needs of hunger and fullness is one of those but it is not the only one. We can eat for connection, in preparation for a long event (potentially in the absence of hunger), nostalgia and so much more.
If you are hearing others say they are practicing Intuitive Eating this new year by eating when they’re hungry and stopping when they’re full, try to call this out as a subtle form of diet culture.
We also understand that navigating the nuances of Intuitive Eating is challenging to do on your own. Remember, our team of dietitians is here to support you in this journey!
using bodies as a business card
This, unfortunately, is a trend all too common on social media that is significantly rooted in fat phobia and the every-changing beauty standards working to cultivate the "perfect body". However, we can say for certain that if you see someone marketing their service or product by comparing their body to the desired end result - that is diet culture in the works.
comments on changing body shape/size
Commenting on others body shape or size, even when well-intentioned, is a harmful act and certainly rooted in diet culture ideals.
Remember - when we comment on others' body changes, we have no idea what we are celebrating. Could it be grief from a loss of a loved one, an eating disorder, or chronic illness? It also can validate the intrusive, disordered bully in your brain that tells you you need to achieve a specific body shape or size.
Instead of commenting on body shape and size this new year, practice commenting on things that truly make a person them.
Red flag alert!
Photoshopping photos on social media has become so harmful because… we don’t always know when it is happening. Because of this, we encourage you to get mindful of what you are taking in on social media.
If you are noticing that there are pages that are impacting how you feel about yourself - know that you are within your right to unfollow.
While we are all for understanding parts of ourselves that we would like to continue to work on and improve. We are here to tell you that your body does not have to be one of those things.
As we move into the new year, it is perfectly acceptable to work on starting to accept your body. Instead of always having to change it. Remember, even with diet culture breathing down your neck, you are so much more than your body shape and size.
working with a nutritionist in massachusetts
Here at NourishRX, we understand that how inundated we are by diet culture during the new year (and always). It can also feel like a daunting task to make sure you're getting accurate nutrition information amidst a sea of diet culture-infused nonsense. Working with a virtual nutritionist can help make this task a little easier. To help you feel supported and informed, virtual nutritionists can provide one-on-one guidance to ensure you reach your health goals.
If you're interested in working with us: