5 Common Diet Culture Trends That Have To Stop NOW!

Zeynep Demirelli

11/17/20210 min read

1. Weight loss success stories

Reading about other people’s weight loss journeys, looking at their before & after pictures might be motivating. Some people are just driven by comparison, which can be a quite powerful motivator. However, we should not underestimate how harmful weight loss journeys and before & after pictures may be for others.

By nature, comparison implies some kind of ranking or grouping: there is a person that is more favorable or better at something compared to the other.

In the case of weight loss, the ones who have lost weight are seen as ‘‘success’’ stories which only leaves the word ‘‘failure’’ for the ones who have not lost weight or did not lose the weight they had aimed for in the beginning. This directly creates a really unhealthy association: weight loss is equated with success and steady weight or weight gain with failure. If you have lost weight, you are a success story; if not, you are a failure. This further feeds the idea that being skinny is good and anything other than that is simply bad.

So what if individuals who lost weight are portrayed as success stories?

Anytime you are exposed to a “success” story on social media or take place in a conversation where someone is praised on how much weight they have lost, this crippling guilt takes you over. Whether you actually have to lose weight or not, you suddenly find yourself feeling extremely guilt if you are not dieting or losing weight.

2. Before & After transformation pictures

I understand and respect people who want to share something that they feel proud of.

The problem is that before pictures are usually deliberately chosen as one of the “worst” pictures: bad lighting, slouching, unflattering clothing, all kinds of things that you can think of, that make a picture uncomplimentary.

Contrasting with the before pictures, the after pictures are always taken in flattering lighting, nicely fitting clothes and the individual is smiling. This gives the illusion that they have transformed their whole life just by losing weight, that being skinny made that person suddenly extremely happy.

In addition to being unflattering, in before pictures individuals look sad. Before they look depressed and suddenly in the after picture they have their biggest smile on. The problem is that these pictures are not representative of what actually happens in between those pictures. They may be feeling better for any reason, they may have gone to therapy, left a job that was stressing them out, cleansed their lives from toxic individuals, and maybe decided to take better care of themselves.

The result of ‘‘transformation’’ pictures:

As people portray their thinner version as an overall “better” self, without giving context or any other information, they give you the idea that being skinny will solve all of your problems. Because you only see two differences between those pictures. You look at the before picture, they are sad and they are at a higher weight. Then you see the after picture, they are skinnier and extremely happy. Your brain goes ‘‘Oh there has to be a link between those two’’ and quickly makes the association. It also puts too much emphasis on the number on the scale.3. “Moral” food posts

Assigning moral value to food results in black and white thinking, resulting in shame and guilt if the ‘‘wrong food’’ is eaten. You know the headlines: ''15 Guilt-free desserts to indulge in'' or ''Best thing to eat on your cheat day''. Guilt-free desserts imply the existence of desserts that we should feel guilty about after eating.

No such thing exists.

We feel guilty when we do something morally incorrect. There is nothing morally wrong with eating. Cheating means that you have done something wrong and calling days where you do not follow your strict diet ‘‘cheat days’’ only contribute to the black and white thinking, which eventually results in disordered eating habits.

When food has moral value…

Encourages rigidity and rules around food, makes you feel guilty if you are not following them. Also feeds negative emotions like shame, for example, if you are the only one eating at the table, eating dessert while no one else is, or simply eating a dessert made with its original recipe.

4. Constantly coming up with new and inconsistent diets

There is always a new and a better (!) diet plan coming out every week. Right now, there are all kinds of diets: the Dukan Diet, Atkins diet, ketogenic diet, raw food diet, …

You need to have a diet low in carbs — carbs make you fat. You need to have a diet low in fat because fat makes you fat. You need to eat one meal a day because that's what our ancestors did. You need to eat every 3 hours otherwise your body goes into starvation mode and you can never lose weight. And so on.

They all claim to be the right diet, the natural one, the one that makes you the healthiest, and the one that makes you lose weight fast. Yet somehow they all contradict each other. It is simply confusing and just spreading misinformation.

What happens when there are many inconsistent diets out there?

Avoidance of certain types of food, cutting out food groups, contributes to the formation of fear foods and stresses you to the point that you don't even know what to eat because you find a problem or flaw with every food possible.

5. Interpersonal and intrapersonal fatphobia

Interpersonal fatphobia is the negative effect being at a higher weight has on interpersonal relationships, a.k.a what other people think of you and how they treat you. You can find examples of interpersonal fatphobia in comments like ‘‘Ah she is actually pretty in the face, if only she lost the weight’’ or ‘‘He gained so much weight, he isn't taking care of himself’’

Intrapersonal fatphobia, on the other hand, is thinking badly of yourself as a result of being at a higher weight. Examples for this can be attributing bad things that are happening to you to being at a certain weight, never feeling good, or skinny enough.

The consequences of fatphobia:

Changes your perception of yourself and others, supports the idea that individuals with higher weight are not worthy, not deserving. Also implies that beauty and higher weight cannot co-exist.