Rejecting Diet Culture

Adele, Jonah Hill & Rebel Wilson; what do the three have in common? The three of them are all talented in music or comedy yet we are still in 2020 defining them by their weight loss. I’ve got on my high horse, higher than 5ft because I feel that we’ve become a society and culture to fixate on diet, weight loss and transformation without realising the implication diet culture has had on our mental wellbeing; perhaps this comes from understanding disordered eating or just being aware and conscious of our attitudes towards diet and exercise.

Over the Spring lockdown this year; Adele and yes when she said Hello it was her. Adele posted on Instagram showing off a new look. A happier, curlier and toned Adele. One could predict her new album having a bit more of a beat to it and I don’t mean the turned table from the album 19. Tabloids, trashy magazines and social media fixated on her weight; as they did with Hill and Wilson all of whom had also shed a considerable amount of weight behind the scenes. The narrative within these stories fixated on their weight loss and apparent transformations- failing to realise that the three had awards, recognition and acclaimed work without needing their weight or their body image to be part of the commentary. We as humans all have fed a narrative which supports the toxicity of diet culture. A culture which is built upon a set of beliefs revolving around the idea that ‘thin’ bodies are desirable, valuable and healthy. Our mindset fixates on that eating a way is either good or bad; our worth increases depending on whether we’re eating healthy or living in this small body. I believe that social media has fed this; and it’s no wonder why we all knowingly or admittedly have some form of self-esteem issue behind the innocent scroll on Instagram.

I feel that we all have gone through periods where we’ve gone to the gym more frequently, we’ve eaten healthier and we’ve been complimented for looking a different way. Diet culture feeds off that losing weight is a good thing; no matter the how or why- perhaps it was caused through disordered eating, anxiety or depression. We as on lookers do not know the way in which Adele has lost the weight. We feel the need to comment on weight because for somehow; if a person has lost weight this is a positive despite never knowing how the weight has dropped. It feeds into this toxicity. In the same way, that food is put into good and bad categories despite all foods being there to fuel our bodies. The term ‘cheat day’ has bred toxicity and disordered eating amongst us. My therapist and I discussed early on in our discussions the brands like Weightwatcher’s and Slimming World whose strategies are built on sins and points. Foods are not sins. Eating a munchie is not committing adultery. We therefore see exercise as punishment not enjoyment or for pleasure.

Our obsession with weight loss being cemented into us since the late 90s early noughties with chick flick Bright Jones. A film which sees the protagonist punishing herself consistently throughout for her weight; a character fixating on her weight that is deemed overweight and ugly- perhaps being highlighted with Renee Zellweger admitting to needing to gain weight to portray the ‘9st’ protagonist despite being an average weight of most women. The film breeds toxicity and feeds this diet culture; I recall growing up with female magazines commenting on who had the best bikini body- comparing women against each other and commenting on their cellulite and thighs. We have a come along a way which understands cellulite is natural not a result of being overweight, unhealthy or ugly. Perhaps British media have a lot to answer for as well as the social media outlets and why women are so concerned with the perfected bikini body when they go on holiday.

I begun to reject diet and gym culture when my body was unable to go to the gym due to a chronic life long illness. It was something I had to accept. I had to accept that weight gain could be inevitable but it wouldn’t define me or shape me as a person; wouldn’t change me. I’m thankful for finding ways i can exercise and keep healthy. I saw over the course of lockdown this pressure to be exercising every single minute of the day. We felt guilty and shameful for not exercising when the reality is, it’s OK if you learnt a language and it was OK if you did or didn’t exercise. You do you boo boo. However, we’ve been bred to post our workouts, our pride and shame on those who aren’t exercising to the standards of our exercising peers. The phrase ‘if you didn’t post on social your workout did you even do it?’ has become innate in us.

Now, I’m not going to deny posting images on social of my workouts in the past and I will never not post a post in fitness wear on social. This is the truth. I believe that, every time I do a workout I am proud of the achievement when a few years ago this looked impossible and long gone. I believe that we as consumers of social content and users of social need to be sensible with our output and intake of social. We need to be mindful of how we share; are we airbrushing our photos? If so, why? Why do you feel the need to airbrush and highly edit your photos? Your followers are surely people you want following you? If not, remove mute and block. We should also realise that weight loss should never be something we deem as a positive; weight loss can be triggered from illness whether mental or physical. Would we praise if we knew this was triggered from depression? We wouldn’t, yet we still say, have you lost weight you look great? We instead, should say you look great. Why should the persons weight come into the equation? Why can’t we comment on their outfit? Why can’t we comment on their natural glow?

Do you understand diet culture?

Podcasts I listened to:

Hashtag Authentic: Diet Culture

Emma Guns Show: Alex Light

The Light Show

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