Had Enough With Diet Talk?: 5 Ways To Combat Diet Culture

diet culture - image of two hands extended forward, blocking the figure's face, palms forward

It’s officially spring. That means that New Year’s resolution diet chatter has finally faded away. But that doesn’t mean diet culture has.

Now, the springtime ads have rolled in.

They continue to prey on body insecurities and claim that it’s absolutely necessary to get our “beach body for summer”.

My faculty lunch room at work is flooded with diet talk. It seems as though everyone has quick tips and tricks to offer (although I never asked) to help me shed pounds fast.

While I try to enjoy the meal I’ve brought to school, my mood is crushed by diet culture. It’s times like these that make me realize that it’s a daunting, uphill climb to combat our society’s unrealistic expectations and deceiving stereotypes of what it means to be healthy.

I have gained weight in my recovery, and I can tell you that during my slimmest times, I was the most miserable.

While I appreciate the thought of others who are genuinely trying to be helpful, they don’t always understand how important it is for me to resist diet culture and embrace my journey of healing. Mainly, because they don’t know I’m on my journey of healing.

What are you to do as a non-dieter in a diet culture filled world?

I don’t have it all figured out yet, but here are 5 things that have helped me combat diet culture.

5 tips for combatting diet culture

1. Compliment the right thing

If someone brags about how much weight they’ve lost, I compliment their lifestyle change and not their appearance. When we praise others for eating and exercising in a healthy way because they love their body, not because they hate it, it changes the conversation.

We as a society need to break the association between compliments and weight loss.

Complimenting someone’s change in energy level or admiring their goal to make their health a priority are drastically different from praising someone’s jean size.

2. Just say no

If someone asks you to join (or even worse, tries to pressure you into joining) their new diet program, be honest. If they know about my eating disorder, I explain that the conversation is triggering for me and their plan wouldn’t be beneficial for my health.

There’s no need to discourage them in what they are doing. But saying no for yourself is crucial. If they don’t know about my eating disorder, I simply state that I’m glad they are finding fulfillment, but that just doesn’t seem like a good fit for me and my lifestyle.

People can be persistent with their promotions when they try a new program. Be direct and respectfully reject their offer. There is no reason to feel guilty for saying no to something that will not be beneficial for you.

3. Practice gratitude

When I’m in line at the grocery store and the bright yellow print of a magazine is staring me down to try their 5 minute ab work out, when a spokesperson for a weight loss program comes on the television, or when my relative decides it’s time to give me a crash course on his diet plan, I can get overwhelmed.

But, amid the pressure, I tune out what is around me and start listing a few examples of what I’m grateful to have gained in my recovery that diet culture could never give me.

4. Set boundaries with exercise

If you’re heading to the gym, resisting the “beach body” pressure can be challenging.

I usually set a time limit and/or set up a phone call with a friend. Let’s say I want to work out for 30 minutes and get to the gym at 4:30. Before staring I may text a friend asking them to call me at 5:05 so that when my gym time is up, I’ve made the commitment to catch up with someone I care about.

Instead of falling into the pit of self-criticism and pushing myself beyond my predetermined limits, I am able to hold myself accountable and limit to myself to what is best for my body.

5…and when all else fails

When all else fails, remove yourself from the situation. When the opinions and suggestions of others pile on stress, know that you are allowed to remove yourself from the room, switch lines in the grocery store, turn off the television, or leave the gym early.

Like you, your journey to recovery is powerful and beautiful. And no diet-culture promise is worth compromising your health and well-being.

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