The dangerous power of diet culture
Nowadays, almost everyone is familiar with the topic of diets and according to some researches, an average woman spends 17 years of her living being on different kinds of diets. The majority of our society believes that dieting is a normal, healthy way of living and it helps us to stay fit and happy.
Sadly, this statement is not right as it has been scientifically proved that diets do not work in the long run and 95% of people who tried to lose weight had actually gained it all back within 5 years. You may ask “But why is that? There are plenty of new diets that are recommended to be effective and healthy!”. Well, it is all due to the the fact that everyone has their own so-called “set point” weight in which their body works properly. You cannot just change it as you want and persuade all your organs to function correctly if your body mass is lower than it is supposed to be.
Sadly, no matter how strong the arguments against diets are, the “lose weight and you’ll feel good” industry still plays the huge part in modern culture, being present in almost every place we go.
The question is how long are we going to let diet culture manipulate and fool us before we understand that this is one of the main cause of eating disorders among people of all gender and age. There is still a widely known stereotype that problems with food derive from a desire to “look like a supermodel” and are common for teenage girls who are simply bored and who live in affluent communities, where people take the presence of food for granted. Having this image, we are often unable to see the other factors that can cause eating disorders, such as desire for control, happiness, lack of self acceptance, difficult childhood experience and perfectionism.
This is exactly where diets set in, promising us joy, satisfaction, health and happiness that will be achieved once we stop eating certain products. It is a huge trap for the ones who possess the above mentioned traits. No matter how smart, educated and wise, humans have a natural tendency to believe something that they are constantly told and presented as beneficial. It is then very easy to be tempted into losing weight as it is shown as a way to become happier, more confident, healthier and almost perfect. What it leads to are food obsessions, which I personally reckon as an early stage of eating disorders.
The more perfect and “in control” we want to be, the more we plunge ourselves into new diets, exercises, saying “no” to food we used to enjoy, overthinking, stressing about meals and counting calories.
As a result, we become more irritated and annoyed, but at the same time we have this feeling that what we do is perfectly good, healthy and that we are better than all those non-dieters who eat whatever they want without any guilt. We feel happier when we see the results, yet we are stressed about maintaining them so we keep dieting and if we gain weight (because we ignored what is called an already mentioned “set point” and tried to fool our body signals), we feel guilty, worthless thus we start it all again in order to gain happiness back.
Without even realizing, we enter the endless circle of losing and gaining while feeling happy and disappointed. So many of the dieters develop eating habits which are not socially disordered, because an eating disorder seems to mean (solely) fasting, avoiding all kinds of food and/or purging. Eventually, some of them will get into these things anyways.
This is why raising the knowledge and awareness of the dangerous effects of diets is so crucial to modern communities, especially when we are surrounded by diets, which are presented as beneficial for our physical and mental health. In reality, becoming thinner is only a substitute of real happiness, which has nothing to do with our weight and life satisfaction does NOT derive from restricting food. Period.