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The Dangers of Diet Culture

the harm of diet culture
No diet is safe, no matter what disguise or new name it is wearing. Keto, Weight Watchers, “WW,” clean eating-- they’re all the same.

“The Dangers of Diet Culture” originally published on kindfulbody.com; republished here with permission. Get your blog featured!

We are sold diets from a young age, and despite much research about the dangers of them, they are still marketed to us as pathways to health and happiness. Diet culture thrives under the guise of “wellness.” It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Picture the diet industry as the antagonist Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket’s children’s book series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

For those who are unfamiliar, Count Olaf is the evil relative that three children are sent to live with after their parents perish in a tragic house fire. Throughout the story, Count Olaf follows the Baudelaire orphans wherever they go, dressing up in disguises to try to blend into each of their new surroundings.

To the three precocious children, it’s clear that it’s always the same man dressed up in elaborate costumes. Count Olaf shouldn’t really be fooling anyone, but the ignorant adults cannot see past his disguises, even when they are presented with proof that reveals his true identity. So Olaf continues hurting the vulnerable children because they are surrounded by adults who can’t see the danger right in front of them.

And like the diet industry, Count Olaf is after one thing: money.

He doesn’t care about the welfare of the children (as he claims to). He only wants the enormous fortune their parents left behind. The diet industry claims to care about your health but is not actually offering solutions that promote healthy living.


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In fact, 1 in 4 dieters go on to develop eating disorders. There isn’t a way to tell for sure who is predisposed to developing an eating disorder, as there are a number of factors that lead to some of the most deadly mental illnesses. So it is best to avoid them altogether.

the harm of diet culture

No diet is safe, no matter what disguise or new name it is wearing. Keto, Weight Watchers, “WW,” clean eating– they’re all the same.

Diet culture promotes harmful ideas that destroy our relationships with food and our bodies.

It brainwashes us into thinking that food should be counted and measured, and that eating is devoid of pleasure. Under the laws of diet culture, our meals and our self-worth are reduced to numbers.

We are made to believe that food must be earned through exercise and that a cookie is something that can prompt feelings of guilt.

Engaging in diet culture causes you to use weight as a measure of health, even though it has been proven that weight isn’t the whole picture. Diet culture doesn’t care if you have enough vitamins, or whether your digestive system is running smoothly. When the only goal is weight loss by any means necessary, true health is not a top priority.

The diet industry is, unfortunately, one of the main sources of information about how we “should” eat.

So where else should we look for guidance?

Start by consulting a Health at Every Size (HAES) dietitian.

They can help you with a meal plan that will help you meet your health goals, without focusing on weight loss.

You can also educate yourself on intuitive/mindful eating.

Learning to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues is difficult if you are recovering from an eating disorder, but full recovery will bring you to a place where you are in tune with your body again. (Related: Feeling Hunger and Fullness in Eating Disorder Recovery?)

Resource: Kindful Body’s team of HAES-informed clinicians is here for you for every step of your recovery journey, with virtual therapy options and support groups, and a mindful eating course.

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Marcella Cox is an eating disorder therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Founder and Clinician Director of Kindful Body. She is also a certified Mindful Self-Compassion teacher and Daring Way Facilitator.

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