What is Diet Culture & How to Spot It
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Diet Culture: What it is, how to spot it, and what to do about it 

The Truth about Diet Culture

Weight watchers, South Beach, Keto, Paleo, Cabbage soup, Juicing…and many more are examples of diets, or eating rules that millions of people try to follow in an attempt to lose weight, or get “healthy”.  If you’ve never been on a diet yourself, I would guess that someone you know has; or at the least, has followed a variation of one. 

In an article written for Global News, author Jane Gerster stated that “weight loss is a multibillion-dollar industry, per 2017 figures from market research company IBISWorld. That same year, a nationwide poll from Insights West found that nearly half of Canadians had tried a diet sometime the year prior in a specific bid to lose weight”. The poll also showed that women and young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 were most likely to have tried multiple diets.

Seeing as dieting is so common, one might wonder why? Why is it that so many people feel the desire, or pressure to change how they eat and behave in order to change how they look? 

My guess is Diet Culture. 

What is diet culture?

Christy Harrison, registered dietitian, intuitive eating counselor, author, and podcast host personally defines diet culture as a system of beliefs that: 

  • Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.” 
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years. 
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power. 
  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health. “ 

To read more from Christy on this topic, click here:

As academic definitions are hard to come across, in 2020, two University of Melbourne researchers set out to understand the meaning of diet culture by surveying individuals living in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.  The survey asked respondents about their experiences of diet culture, what they believe it meant, and what sources of power underlie it. 

Results noted that diet culture refers to a set of ever-changing myths about food and bodies, promoting the idea that one’s body weight automatically equals health and that foods can be simplistically categorized as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. It also comprises a moral hierarchy of bodies that preferences the thin ideal while masking a fear of fat.

How to Spot Diet Culture 

Now that we’ve looked at some definitions of diet culture, here are some of the many ways it can show up: 

  • Limiting or avoiding entire categories of foods because they are “bad” 
  • Exercising to either “burn off” something you ate, or to earn a “treat” 
  • Feeling unworthy or unattractive based on your body size alone 
  • Assuming that everything bad that happens to you is because of your size 
  • Suppressing your appetite and not honouring your body’s hunger cues 
  • Participating in fat shaming or body shaming talk 
  • Believing that weight loss is as simple as “eat less and move more” 
  • Treating others differently based on their body size 
  • Only ever seeing one body type portrayed in most media as “fit” “perfect” or “beautiful” 
  • Feeling like a good or bad person based on your food choices alone 
  • Praising weight loss on others with no background on what may have been going on behind the scenes. 
  • Believing that one can’t be suffering from an eating disorder if they live in a larger body. 

What you can you do about diet culture?

Being aware and noticing both the obvious and more sneaky ways that diet culture is popping up around you can be a helpful first step.  You have the choice and ability to challenge diet culture pressures and lead a life that feels good and is sustainable long term. 

Other ideas: 

  • Clean up your feed: review all the media you’re consuming- magazines, websites, social media pages etc.. and remove anything that perpetuates diet culture views or makes you feel negatively about yourself. 
Diet Culture

If you’ve followed many diets in your lifetime, it can definitely feel daunting to turn away from them and go against the grain of social norms. Working with an intuitive eating dietitian who specializes in the relationship between food and body image can help you discover effective ways to live your best life in a way that doesn’t feel restrictive. 

Learn more about dieting myths here.

Are you ready to find food freedom and ditch diet prison? We can help!  

Our dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselors do everything we can to help you move towards your personal best weight and a sustainable lifestyle through a non-dieting, weight neutral approach. 

You won’t find any weird fad diets, unnecessary food restrictions and anyone trying to sell you shakes, supplements, or so-called miracle cures here.  

As trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you.  

Looking for some recipe ideas to help support your overall wellness? Check out these ideas! 

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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