America’s Diet Culture Needs A New Recipe

By Jillian LaFeir

sophomore sociology major

Food is at the center of all of our lives — it’s something no one could live without. However, we are no longer the ones consuming the food:it is consuming us. For a society obsessed with food, with normal portion sizes being able to feed two, we are extremely judgemental and critical of people’s weight. Something about that math just doesn’t quite add up to me. 

The way we perceive weight and talk about it on every media platform possible is extremely harmful. The worst part is, no matter how hard you try to escape it, toxic diet culture is inevitable.

Growing up, my mother made it her mission that if there was one thing she would do when raising her kids, especially with me as her daughter, she would never talk ill of our weight.  She made sure we knew that our self-worth was not reliant on the shape of our bodies. Healthy eating habits were encouraged only as a way to feel better, not look better.

 Unfortunately, her efforts could not wear off when the insecurities were seeping in elsewhere. I remember being only ten years old when I first felt ashamed of my weight upon learning that one of my friends weighed slightly less than me. 

The difference between us was minuscule, but from watching people surrounding me constantly going up and down in weight, I learned that people were celebrated and praised when they were smaller. Those people were also told they needed to be smaller when they were not. 

  When you watch TV, almost every commercial promotes the next miracle fad diet that promises you will lose half of your body weight in five minutes. Social media influencers promote the newest weight loss tea that makes your stomach look completely flat, but only after you retake the picture multiple times, at the perfect angle and with the use of three different editing apps for good measure. 

Even when touring colleges, you could always count on the tour guide warning you about the dreaded freshman fifteen as soon as you get to the dining hall. Now with the holiday season arriving, the discourse surrounding weight and diets will only get worse. 

As we all gear up to unbuckle our belts and fill our stomachs to the brim these next few weeks, daytime television segments will be preparing their helpful tips to melt off the holiday weight and gyms will be sending out smoke signals because, although we build our holidays around eating, you are made to feel guilty about it. 

Sophomore behavioral neuroscience major Evelyn McNelis said, “Diet culture leads to a harmful idealization of toxic eating habits that are detrimental to the health of our population as a whole.” 

All we are doing is promoting unhealthy eating habits to adhere to an impossible standard of beauty and we are making ourselves miserable while doing it. Something needs to change. We cannot continue in this way. 

Now more than ever, we need to focus on making ourselves as healthy as possible. Everyone is deserving of loving the body they are in. Our bodies were not built to look the same. The majority of us cannot obtain the perfect body we are all after and it is about time we stop chasing it. We need to learn to embrace every shape and every size, and we need to learn that our health, happiness and safety will always outweigh any reflection in the mirror.

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