6 Ways to Combat Diet Culture

By Cara Spagnola

If diets worked, the global weight loss industry would put itself out of business. The harmful physical and psychological effects of dieting are well documented and often result in feelings of guilt, shame, and regret.

With spring melting into summer, the ramping up of diet culture is strong. “Get a summer body” and “Shed those winter/COVID pounds” are disguised as motivational sayings but the underlying message is that you’re not good enough as you are. Summer is around the corner -- and the perfect time to remind everyone that diets don’t work.

If diets worked, the global weight loss industry would put itself out of business, but the opposite is happening; it is growing and expected to reach $295.3 billion by the year 2027. While the industry saw a dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. weight loss market was booming back in 2019, reaching a record $78 billion that year. Yes, you read both of those numbers correctly -- billions, with a “b.”

The harmful physical and psychological effects of dieting are well documented. When food and bodies are categorized as good or bad, and morals and judgments are brought into what we consume, how we look, or how we move, emotions like guilt, shame, and regret can occur when we don’t or can’t live up to the ideals. Dieting can also make us think about food and weight more, distort our self-image, and lead to a cycle of restricting and bingeing. The diet industry wants to sell a product by unapologetically marketing it in an ideal image -- one that convinces many of us that we are not enough and we need to change our appearance to be accepted. However, I’ve never witnessed anyone finding self-love when motivated by shame that they are not enough.

Instead of buying into diet culture, here are six things you can do that are helpful for your mind, body, and spirit.

1. Listen to a podcast.

Here are a few podcasts that we think are worthy of your time because they are full of educational and inspirational content.

2. Shake up your social media account.

Social media algorithms are designed to show you more of what you watch, follow, and like. If what you see is causing you to doubt your worth, it’s time for a change. Unfollow celebrities who endorse weight loss products or who have photoshopped and carefully edited photos that make you feel inferior. Instead, open yourself up to accounts that display diversity of all kinds, including body diversity. Our Say It Brave Collective is a good place to start!

3. Read a book.

Here are three books to help guide your journey toward rejecting diet culture, finding radical self-love, and understanding how to nourish your body.

4. Get creative.

Gather some art supplies (just a pencil and paper will do), download our Love Your Tree program pack, and let your creativity guide you on this arts-based program to cultivate mental well-being and positive body image. When you’re done, you can submit your artwork, and it may wind up in our Love Your Tree calendar next year.

5. Develop a personal mantra or affirmation.

Personal sayings can give us strength while reminding us of our purpose and worth. Our Say It Brave Collective can be a guide if you’re not sure where to start or what a mantra might look like for you.

  • Lindsey Hall writes down times in her life where she was thankful for her body and pulls from this on hard days, like “My body is always changing, which is great because I’m always changing.”
  • Eric Dorsa developed an affirmation to combat feelings of unworthiness: “I am enough, I have enough, there is enough.”
  • Robyn Cruz shared strategies for preparing for holiday gatherings with Refinery29, including using phrases to combat feeling overwhelmed, such as "I am worth recovery. I am deserving of experiencing a full life. I am exactly where I am meant to be. I will ask for help when I need it. I will not be ashamed of my story. I will show up for my life. I am recovery.”

6. Practice self-compassion.

If you have insecurities that are driving you to be critical of yourself, a daily dose of self-compassion could help. While our event with self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff is over, her website has free guided meditations and practices to give you peace.

Written by

Cara Spagnola

Cara has over 10 years of experience working with children and families in a variety of settings. She learned along the way that connection, education, and support help alleviate the stigma and…

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