The Diet Culture Litmus Test

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Need help deciphering through those “lifestyle programs”, “wellness plans” (or whatever it’s being called on the day you’re reading this) to know if they’re just a diet in disguise? Here are 8(+) questions to ask...consider this a litmus test...in helping you determine the true impact of these plans/programs. 

Any answers of ‘yes’ would indicate that the plan or program is, in fact, something that will not be sustainable and will likely further complicate your relationship with food and your body. 

  • Is it body shaming? Is it telling you/folks their body is wrong or a problem? Examples of this include any talks of shrinking your body size or changing your body composition [ultimately to try to conform to oppressive societal standards]

  • Is it bashing foods? Does it put foods into any type of “good”/“bad” categories. This includes (but is not limited to) labeling food as “healthy”/“unhealthy”, “clean”/“dirty”, categorizing foods (and the allowance of each) by a point system, etc.?

  • Is it perpetuating the harmful idea that a person has to “earn” their food or “burn” it off?

  • Is it marketing exercise/physical activity/movement as a way to manage one’s weight/body size [which may be disguised as getting “fit”]? 

  • Is it ignorant of the fact that food is more than fuel (ie. that it’s also for pleasure and for connection with others, for example)? Does it demonize emotional eating?

  • Does it perpetuate the idea that you are a better person for pursuing “good” health, losing weight, etc? Does it perpetuate the belief that pursuing health is an obligation?

  • Is it ignorant of the fact that access (which includes socioeconomic status) is a significant factor in health status? Is it ignorant of the privilege one must have in order to be able to follow said diet plan, lifestyle change, etc? 

  • Does it perpetrate the message that pursuit of “good” health is mainly a matter of self-control and willpower, and that those who don’t pursue good health are lazy or less than?

 *Note: sometimes we have to look past the marketing and at the actual details of what is involved with the plan or program (because marketing has become pretty sneaky in packaging diets in ways that make it seem like they’re promoting intuitive eating, body positivity and food freedom).

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If after putting each plan or program up against these questions you are feeling confused, frustrated or annoyed because you aren’t sure what’s left to “do” about your health, I would like to offer some guidance on where to go next. If you (or at least a part of you) is ready to ditch diet culture, here are some things that may be worth checking out:

Be Nourished: How to Get Free From Body Shame

Melissa Toler: Why I Stopped Selling Weight Loss

Made on a Generous Plan: Body Acceptance Begins with Grieving the Thin Ideal

Help! I Don’t Know What to Eat by Vinnci Tsui

Food Psych Podcast

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Looking for someone to provide support and guidance in your journey in finding food and body peace? I would be honored to work with you! Virtual and in-person (*Georgia only) sessions available! Currently licensed in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Click here for more information.