What is Diet Culture?

Ever been on a diet? Ever done a cleanse/detox/”lifestyle change”? Ever wanted to lose weight? If so, you're not alone, the vast majority of women have tried some method of weight loss. What's driving our cultural obsession with thinness?

The verb dieting is defined as "restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight". You probably knew that. Diets don't work. You probably also knew that, have probably experienced it, except maybe you're refusing to believe it’s true, because even though the weight loss efforts you’ve made in the past haven’t worked, you’re hoping the next one will. "If I could just find the 'right' one for me", "if I just cut this food/type of food out", "if I just had more self-control". Why do we cling to this hope despite the evidence. Why are we so desperate to be thin? The answer: we live in a “diet culture”, Western culture is predominantly diet culture.

What is Diet culture?

It’s is a system of beliefs that tell us, as women (and men) that:

  • Thin is better and is what we should all be striving for

  • Thinness equates to health

  • Thinness equates to moral virtue, and even intellectual superiority

  • Some foods/types of food are good and you are good if you eat them whilst others are demonised and you should feel ashamed/guilty if you eat them

  • What we choose to eat or not eat affects our worth and value as people

  • We couldn't possibly know what, how much or when our bodies need to eat - that must be outsourced to wellness gurus/thin people selling their prescriptive diets

  • We can't trust our bodies and need to "control" them

  • Weight-loss should be celebrated and is a means of gaining higher social status

Diet culture steals your joy, passion, your time, emotionally and physical energy, money and your mental real-estate! It promises power and freedom but in reality is dis-empowering and traps you, it reduces the beautiful person you are to a number on the scale/a jean size. It makes you feel that you’re not okay as you are, there is something wrong with you and if you just - bought this diet product or programme/ did these exercises/ ate this many calories/ cut out this food - that you would then measure up, only then would you be worthy of love, affection, happiness, connection and feeling beautiful.

This is ridiculous. Changing the size or shape of your body has absolutely no effect on your worth or value as a person. You are worthy of all those good things right now, exactly as you are! Just think of the things that we, as women, could have achieved if we weren't preoccupied with concerns about our food, weight, exercise and body shape.

Changing the size or shape of your body has absolutely no effect on your worth or value as a person.

What you can do about it:

Get angry! It's OK, anger is warranted, what I don't want you to do is to feel guilty. It's not your fault if you've believed these things and bought into the lies. You haven't failed. Diet culture has failed you. It's not an individual problem, it's not necessarily even a lack of knowledge, it's a systemic problem. Our culture is saturated in it.

I encourage you to push back. Question why you believe what you do about weight, size and health and if it’s actually true, or if it's someone making you feel like cr*p because they’re trying to sell you something. Are the people you follow on social media actually inspiring you or making you feel like you’re not enough because of your body size or food choices, if so, #unfollow. Just being more aware of diet cultures sneaky messages can make a huge difference in the sway they have over you and how you feel about yourself. Remember, your worth is not dependant on your appearance!

If you need some help making peace with food and are ready to jump off the diet crazy-train, or just desire more freedom in the area of food and health, get in touch about one-to one coaching.

Mikayla xx


Andersson, M. A., & Christakis, N. A. (2016, 05). Desire for weight loss, weight-related social contact, and body mass outcomes. Obesity, 24(7), 1434-1437. doi:10.1002/oby.21512

Kashubeck-West, S., Mintz, L. B., & Weigold, I. (2005, 10). Separating the Effects of Gender and Weight-Loss Desire on Body Satisfaction and Disordered Eating Behavior. Sex Roles, 53(7-8), 505-518. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-7138-4

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 © 2019 Mikayla Norton