juice detox dieting trend
  • December 12, 2022

Episode 20: Break up with diet culture

Today we will be taking a deep dive into diet culture and how to break up with it which in […]

Today we will be taking a deep dive into diet culture and how to break up with it which in fact, is part of our mission at Imbodi. By the end of this episode, you will be able to spot some of the red flags of diet culture in society and know how to handle it when it does come up.



What is diet culture?

  • Refers to a system of beliefs that places thinness and specific body image ideals at the height of success health and beauty.
  • It also places a lot of moral connotations on how you look – diet culture implies that there is something wrong with a person if they are living in a larger body.
  • Companies and the wellness and weightless industry pray on these body image insecurities which perpetuates diet culture more.
  • Diet culture also demonises specific foods and ways of eating which often makes people hyperaware of what they are eating and can leave you feeling ashamed for making certain food choices.
  • It is also a system of oppression which serves to oppress people who don’t meet the depiction of ‘health’ by diet culture. – this disproportionately harms people in larger bodies, people of colour, trans folk and people with a disability as, at least in the Western world, the beauty standards are usually a thin white woman
    • We won’t be touching on this too much as we personally don’t have lived experience.
    • However, we are aiming to get some guests on in the future to discuss further.




How does diet culture show up in society?

1: Social media

  • There is a lot of idealised body types portrayed in the sharing of photos and videos as well as unrealistic expectations.
  • Plus, photo and video editing software and apps perpetuate this even more.
  • This is something that is hard to avoid as social media such a big part of everyone’s life.
  • Even though statistically, only around 5% of the population actually fit these body ideals, because social media is so filled with it, it makes us feel like we are the only ones who don’t look this way.

2: The wellness industry

  • Clean eating trends, juice cleanses, detoxes, elimination diets, gluten/carb/dairy phobia
  • Companies need us to believe there is something wrong with us in order to get us to buy their products.
  • Often these products have no evidence behind them and rarely even work.
  • They are often also very expensive.


3: Media – film, TV, magazines

  • The glamorised body types are a thin white woman or muscular lean white man.
  • We are bombarded by this from a very young age, especially in our formative years as a child.
  • Think of the thin beautiful Disney princesses compared to the villains in the movies (e.g. Ursula in The Little Mermaid who is in a larger body).


It is important to acknowledge that whilst things haven’t changed heaps, they are slowly changing – there are more movies and TV shows out now depicting different body types, skin colours, sexualities etc. BUT there is still a long way to go.



Body comments while growing up

  • This includes other people commenting on your body specifically as well as listening to your parents comment on their own bodies.
  • We know through research that how parents comment on their bodies and the value they place on their weight, shape and appearance, can transfer to young people. This imbeds in our kids an idea that to be loved and seen as beautiful, I need to look a certain way.
  • A recent statistic sadly found that 25% of adolescent girls had been teased about their eight/shape by their family.
  • This is why it is so important to be conscious of the comment you make on body image about others as well as yourself.
  • Being put on diets as a child, as well as watching parents go through their own dieting cycles, can also be a trigger for disordered eating later in life.
  • As we go through life it is also very normal for our bodies to change. However, this is also often seen as bad on social media which portrays an idea that it is not ok to age or change.
    • Despite what the media wants us to think, our bodies are not a slab of marble and changing and aging is a normal, natural process.



Body changes during and post pregnancy

During pregnancy:

  • During pregnancy your body changes quite a lot and people comment on and touch your body quite a lot.
  • During the later stages of pregnancy especially (35 weeks onwards), most people (or at least Kiah) feel very fatigued and heavy and don’t tend to go out of the house as much. So, when you do go out people comment on your body even more e.g. “wow, you are so big!”
  • A lot of this is to do with that fact that women who are in these later stages of pregnancy aren’t really seen as much in society or in the media. As a result, many people will think you are larger than pregnant people usually are even though this is normal.
  • These comments can cause a lot of added anxiety and stress about what you look like and if you’ve gained too much weight.



  • Once you have given birth, there is a lot of pressure to return to your ‘pre-pregnancy body’. However, as hard as you try, you most likely won’t.
  • On social media, a lot of the post-pregnancy bodies we see, are fitness influencers and select celebrities who have gone right back to their pre-pregnancy bodies. However, this is a very rare minority. It is these people that fit the ideals and are more confident that are posting their post-partum bodies making it seem like they are the norm when they are in fact not.



What about once you start to become aware of diet culture? And perhaps even the aspects that you have unintentionally perpetuated yourself.

  • Firstly, it is important not to feel guilty for not knowing or being aware.
  • You need to be compassionate with yourself as this is a process of learning, understanding and reflecting.
  • We are all on a journey and this may be the start of your journey.



How does exposure to diet culture affect us?

Fuelling anxious thoughts or preoccupation with food and/or your body. This is especially one that come us in those who tend to be more perfectionistic. This may look like:

  • Obsessing about what you should or shouldn’t eat.
  • Planning your meals across the day.
  • Rumination over body changes or ‘mistakes’ you made about what you eat


Increase feelings of guilt and shame. For example:

  • Trying really hard at the gym but never seeing the changes you want.
  • Feeling like you fail every diet you try.
  • Never feeling like you can meet the body goals you set for yourself.



  • If you are more pre-occupied with food and/or your body, you may put this high on your priority list of how you spend your time and energy.
  • As a result you may then put less effort into your relationships.
  • On the other side, it can create relationships – e.g. gym challenges
  • It can also make us feel unlovable or unattractive which can impact sex life and romantic relationships.


Can discourage you from trying new activities as you don’t feel like you have the right body for it e.g. trying a certain sport or gym


Distracting us from school, work or other responsibilities – similarly to how it may cause us to put less effort into relationships


Avoiding social engagements/situations because of the food involved.

  • This is particularly strong if you are following a certain diet – eating out might not fit with the certain macros or ‘diet’ you are on
  • This can further impact relationships




5 steps to help you reduce the effect of diet culture on your life:

1: Start becoming more aware of diet culture around you in your everyday life.

  • This includes TV, social media, brands, gyms, magazines, people’s comments/actions around you etc.
  • Or even just start to question things more – for instance if someone tells you to try a certain diet or diet food, ask them why or how it works.
  • This will help pick up if there is actually any evidence behind it.
  • It is also important to make sure that if they do provide evidence, that it is from a reputable source e.g. a dietitian, and not just pseudo-science.
  • Also notice if you already engaging in any dieting or diet culture behaviours.
    • For example – labelling foods as good or bad, body checking


2: Avoid labelling food and behaviours and expand your definition of health

  • We want to avoid using phrases such as clean, treat, rubbish, healthy or indulge.
  • This is because they are very emotionally charged words which creates messages around glorifying or demonising certain foods.
  • In particular the concept of ‘cheat days’ creates an idea that we need to earn our food.
  • Health also includes things related to mental health like socialisation, movement, rest and sleep.
  • Food is also their for enjoyment and celebration, not just getting in nutrients.



3: Find healthy role models

  • Start by unfollowing accounts on social media which do not serve you – e.g. those which promote diet culture (including body ideals or certain diet) and/or make you feel guilty in any way.
  • We will do a blog post on our website including our favourite social media accounts to follow.


4: Avoid body bashing

  • Unfortunately, in society, saying positive things about how you look is seen as arrogant whereas putting yourself down is seen to be humbler.
  • We want to change this by pointing out things you do love about yourself. The words we speak about ourselves are so important.
  • Start by avoiding critiquing your body as well as other people’s bodies.
  • Instead, come up with some positive self talk – for example, instead of saying “my stomach is too big”, instead say “it is normal for my stomach not to be flat, having rolls when I bend over is completely normal and doesn’t alter my value as a person”.
  • Reducing things in your environment that perpetuate a preoccupation with your body can help with this. For example, getting rid of your scales (or moving them out of sight) or keeping old clothes that are now too small.


5: Start having the difficult conversations

  • This will look very different for everyone depending where they are (and the person they are talking to is) with diet culture.
  • If you have family/friends who are regularly talking about their bodies, or your own, let them know that you are trying to start working on your body image and loving/being grateful for your body. And ask if it is ok if they maybe talk about bodies a bit less.
  • Approach this with compassion, they are own their own journey and may not even realise they are doing it as it is so engrained in society.
  • You may need to have a similar conversation multiple times for comments to stop.
  • Use “I” statements to make it feel less like an attack on what they are doing.


Related Post

Browse more from the same category

Is It Safe To Exercise During ED Recovery With Alanah Reiley

pink yoga matt and pink dumbells on a pink background

Navigating exercise during eating disorder recovery can feel incredibly overwhel

Making Peace With Your Body With Amber Dwinell

Photo of psychologist Amber Dwinell

Join us as we chat with Amber Dwinell to take a deep dive into making peace with

Getting Started with Intuitive Eating And The Non-Diet Approach

getting started with intuitive eating and the non-diet approach

Understanding Intuitive Eating and the Non-Diet Approach Getting started with in