We function in a society that prides itself on finding alternative ways to live “healthier” lifestyles while pushing for perfectionist ideals and almost unreachable goals. The dialogue around body image and our relationship with food has inflated with trends from modern diet culture and its eating expectations.
The world of infinite diet and fitness plans rooted from an embodiment of self-love and health conscious efforts; however, through its alluring presence in mass media and public figure endorsement, dieting has mildly become a twisted version of itself. Today’s diet culture places biases on the ways we interact with food and influences the relationship we create with our plate, entertaining health myths, stereotypes, and counterintuitive solutions to negative body image.
The emphasis on restrictive diets and rule-making with the food we eat has conditioned our minds to approach food in misleading— and sometimes unhealthy— ways. We conceptualize the distinctions between “bad” and “good” food, pasting shallow judgments on nutrition based on how the media associates diet with appearance. This entertains the idea that one way of eating works for everyone and that all bodies function the same, which is of course entirely misguided.
The obvious reality is, if one diet universally worked across the board for all individuals, then each person would adopt that diet, get the same results, and feel content. Every human inhabits a unique body with its own system, needs, and balance. Thus, we cannot squeeze ourselves into the mold of limited and singular ways of eating that may work for some but do not necessarily adhere to others’ needs.
Eating healthy does not look the same on everyone.
The diet phenomenon often institutes the belief that restriction is the key to self-control when it comes to what we eat, fueling the idea that in order to maintain a healthy diet and avoid gaining weight, we cannot eat food we want. When we entertain the diet myth that one must live through a series of rules and restrictions with food in order to control themselves, we promote a lack of trust in ourselves and establish this element of confining pressure.
Restriction means control, control means weight loss, and weight loss means looking “good” in the form the world promotes and glamorizes. These ideologies are entirely backwards; believing that we must reshape our bodies first through food restriction in order to then feel good about ourselves is a misunderstood way of viewing health and happiness.
Relying on restriction in order to change the way we look to then achieve a healthy body image is inefficient and undesirable. Developing a healthy relationship with our body starts in our head and ends with what we eat and how we look.
We often subconsciously entertain this idea that in order to stay fit and achieve the “ideal” body, we must avoid the foods we actually want and enjoy, indulging solely in foods that do not necessarily leave us feeling satisfied. We mute our desires while subscribing to diet culture, forgetting to prioritize gratification and fulfillment in our relationship with our plate.
No health and fitness strategy that deprives satisfaction remains sustainable. Food should function for both nutritional and pleasurable value— an unhealthy relationship with food forms when we eliminate either of those functions. The emphasis should be on both mind and body consciousness rather than simply food consciousness, maintaining awareness of what we put into our bodies while understanding what we need and what brings contentment to us, both physically and mentally. This idea pulls the focus toward how we feel rather than how we look.
The world of diet culture limits perspectives of food and warps the concepts of health, fitness, and happiness when it comes to what we eat and how we view our bodies. Rather than shaping our relationship with food around misinformed ideologies, we must view eating with a wholistic approach that encompasses its instrumental role in all parts of our life.
We should pour love and forgiveness into our bodies through maintaining personal awareness of our individual health. How and what we eat is a choice we should make based on how we want to feel and what works for our own body— not through judgment, but through self-love and acceptance.