Diet Culture and Your Health
Diet Culture refers to unrealistic, and systemically racist, ideals of the human body which show up in a fear or hatred of fatness. Fatness then becomes an indicator of what a body is capable or incapable of doing. Fatness is seen as a symbol of someone’s morality, social status, and ability. This way of thinking about “fatness” can promote weight bias and cause the individual to follow harmful practices to achieve a certain weight or shape. This can lead to dysmorphia, restrictive eating, disordered eating or eating disorders.
Weight bias refers to the beliefs, assumptions and judgments towards individuals based on their weight, shape, or size. Weight bias is a result of our conscious and unconscious thoughts, feelings and attitudes. It can affect people at all weights and can lead to treating people differently because of their size. People in larger bodies are often more negatively affected and experience stigma and discrimination. Weight-based stigmatization is the most common cause of bullying in schools. Weight bias exists in the classroom, in the community, and in the workplace. It can result in poor self- esteem, increased depression and anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.
Reducing weight bias in society can help to promote health equity, mental health and improved well-being for all.
How do we achieve that?
- Reflect on our own attitudes, beliefs and biases about body size and eating patterns.
- Reframe messages about food, activity, bodies and health.
- Create weight inclusive and weight neutral school and work environments.
See the following resources for more information:
Mental Health and Weight Bias in Schools
Debunking Diet Culture Myths
Tips for Creating a Weight-Inclusive and Eating Disorder Sensitive Practice for Social Workers and Psychotherapists.
OASW - Weight Neutral Practice Handout
OASW - Diet Culture Myths Handout
For a deeper dive into this topic read Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings.