Facts to Combat Diet Culture in 2021

As diet culture is preparing to launch their new rounds and tired programs in January 2021, consider how misguided and shameful their messaging is. Diet ads and fitness influencers will not only rely on their old “you’re fat and lazy” standbys. But this year will add in the shame of quarantine weight gain as well.

Preying on your insecurities. Creating fear around all the illnesses you’re setting yourself up to get if you don’t start starving yourself. And making you believe your body is something that needs to be fixed.

If I can ask anything of you in 2021, it’s to remember that diet culture sucks.

They only have their profit margins in mind; not your actual good health. So here are 6 facts to combat diet culture in 2021, as well as tips for how you can start putting these truths into practice today:

1. Thin does NOT equal healthy.

This might be diet culture’s favorite lie. And certainly the reason weight stigma exists in our weight-centric healthcare system.

I talk with women everyday who practiced really unhealthy behaviors when they were at their lowest weight (myself included.) We praise weight loss, but conveniently ignore the severe impact it can have on our overall wellness (mental, emotional, environmental, social, spiritual and physical health.)

Put This Into Practice: Think about the level of effort required when you forced your body into its smallest size. Think of the planning, manipulating, measuring and exhaustion you put in to losing weight. How did it effect the rest of your health? Were you actually healthy? Or did you just feel accomplished that you could fit in a smaller size?

(See chart under Fact # 3 for definition of good health.)

2. Your mental health matters most.

You can complete a hardcore workout followed up by a 100%-organic Whole30-approved meal, but if you’re not well in your mental health, you are NOT well. Our health is determined by our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. If we’re just doing the “healthy things” diet culture promotes but ignoring our mental health, we’re doing a lot more harm than good.

Put This Into Practice: Be honest with yourself; are you irritable? Angry? Feeling deprived? Feeling like dieting gives you a sense of control while the world around you crumbles? These are red flags that your mental health is crying for help. Therapy combined with intuitive eating counseling is a powerhouse for healing your relationship with food, fitness and body image. To find a therapist near you, go to psychologytoday.com. There is NO SHAME in seeking help.

3. You are more than a body.

You are a HUMAN with a unique personality, purpose, and a God-given intuition. Your body is just the vehicle for you to sprinkle your magic around earth. Diet culture wants us to believe that health is defined by how your body looks to others. But it’s not. How you feel is what actually matters. Here’s a chart of how health is actually defined.

Put This Into Practice: What is something in the chart below that you could work on to improve your actual health?

Mental HealthKnows how to manage their anxiety;
Positive inner dialogue;
Comfortable with getting help from a therapist if needed
Emotional HealthHas a healthy outlet for anger/intense emotions
Environmental HealthSets boundaries; 
Understands junk in/junk out approach to the media/entertainment and people they are surrounded by
Social HealthGood support system;
Friends and family;
Someone who they can be 110% themselves around
Spiritual HealthHas something to believe in that’s larger than them (God)
Physical healthHas organs that function optimally for their body;
Sleeps well;
Good digestion;
Eats intuitively;
Consistent/predictable menstrual cycle;
Balanced hormones;
Long-term bloodwork;
EKG results;
Consistent energy levels;
Free movement (stamina, balance, strength & flexibility);
Minimal joint discomfort/pain

4. Diets set you up for failure.

Why are you so tempted to restart a diet in the new year? Why do you think you keep cycling between on-plan and off-plan? It’s certainly NOT YOUR FAULT. The messaging is so loud and so tempting. But it’s just a bunch of lies strung together to make you feel like a failure so that you see their program as the only solution. These diet/lifestyles prey on your insecurities & set you up to fail to keep the $72B+ industry profitable.

Your body is constantly trying to protect you. We have a God-given intuition that only improves the more we listen to it. When we allow the voices of diet culture to speak over our intuition, our bodies will often do something loud to get override that decision. Such as cause us to binge/overeat after restricting because it needs more calories. Or sleep through an alarm set for an early morning workout because it needs more rest.

Put This Into Practice: Purchase a digital copy of the Gain Wellness 35-Day Self-Guided Workbook to ditch diet culture, (re)define what good health means to you and prepare for intuitive eating

5. Movement is fun. Not punishment.

Diet culture invented the lie that you need to earn your food through exercise, and punish yourself for eating by working off the calories. This is not what God intended for our bodies though! Movement should be enjoyable. You should engage in exercise because it feels good in your body, improves your strength/stamina/balance/flexibility, helps you sleep, etc. It should always come from a place that makes your quality of life better; not feel like a chore.

Put This Into Practice: Make a list of movement you truly enjoy doing. If you’re struggling with what you enjoy, I always recommend starting with the movement you loved to do most in childhood (for me it was dance, maybe for you it’s basketball.) And if the latest fitness fad (like HIIT or Peloton) is not on the list—that’s okay! It doesn’t need to be. Learn to neutralize movement by believing that ALL movement is good movement. A sweaty weight-lifting session is no better than a walk around the neighborhood with your dog.

6. You are loved. You are capable.

You do NOT need to restrict your food, track your food, or follow anyone else’s diet/lifestyle program to be healthy. In fact, good health comes by tapping into your God-given intuition, listening to your OWN body’s needs and trusting yourself.

Put This Into Practice: Unlearning diet culture, finding joy in movement, and developing coping skills to deal with bad body image days is life-changing. If you want support in your intuitive eating journey, set up your free 15-minute consult with me to see if we would be a good fit. I have 1:1 spots opening in January and I would love to help you!

Meridith Oram
Meridith Oram is an anti-diet nutritionist at Love Yourself Towards Healthy where she helps chronic dieters heal their relationship with food, fitness and body image by ditching diet culture and finding freedom in their God-given intuition. Focusing on behavioral change and Intuitive Eating, Meridith helps her clients unlearn diet culture, stop negative self-talk and set wellness goals---not appearance goals. Follow Meridith at @loveyourself2healthy on all social channels.

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