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What is Diet Culture?

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Todays #mondaymotivation is to 1) talk about exactly what diet culture is and 2) help you break free from it.

Diet culture is the movement behind the 'fat' stigma---that only healthy bodies are skinny. In healthcare, we know that one health indicator is BMI.

BMI can be very helpful in gauging some idea of an individual's body type-- however, it can be incredibly misleading.

For example, many athletes with a high muscle mass will naturally fall into an overweight category. Does this mean they are unhealthy? Absolutely not!

There are also heavier individuals that show perfect laboratory blood tests and eat truly balanced diets. There are also thinner people that do not have balanced diets or have labs values that are not in normal ranges. The shape and size of an individual can be a surface level trait --- while overall health reaches significantly deeper.

Diet culture likes to tell people (specifically women), that they are not beautiful or worthy of love until they meet certain size standards. We also know this not to be true because women come in all shapes and sizes. Each and every body is different, however every body is beautiful and deserves love.

Unfortunately---we are fed these ideas from a young age and it often causes pain for many people in the modern world.

PSA: Recently #weightwatchers released its new marketing scheme: children. They have targeted teens before and we are sure they have seen some success in the age group. They are now using an app called Kurbo to market weight loss to children. You may be thinking two things from this, either 'why would kids need to lose weight?' or 'this should be helpful in combating the pediatric obesity crisis'. Both thoughts are valid. However, weight loss in the form of calorie restriction is not actually the way to go while regarding pediatric obesity. In fact-- that question can be answered with another question, 'why would kids need to lose weight'.

Children are constantly growing--females until the age of 18 and males until around the age of 25. If we want to promote this growth--- why would we restrict calories in a growing child?

Growth occurs through the intake of additional calories, whereas weight loss occurs with a calorie deficit. Simple math.

If we take away food, we promote weight loss, rather than positive growth for a child. Early childhood weight loss can cause detrimental effects later on in life such as poor bone mineralization, nutrient deficiencies, stunting, etc.

Registered Dietitian perspective: While aiding pediatric obesity, one should add fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains---creating a balanced diet to help the child grow. If you have ever seen a child go through a growth spurt, you know that while in a state of growth, the child uses their 'energy stores' available in the body and will therefore move towards a better balanced weight for height.

So what diet culture message is your child receiving?

They are the same messages you have most likely heard for the majority of your life. Feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and overall sadness in the presence of the 'perfect body type'.

One thing to be aware of with your child and/or teen is the development of an eating disorder/other disordered eating pattern.

Because these age groups will have worse physical and emotional symptoms--- more often than not, these diagnoses can become life threatening.

So as moms, how do you deal with this diet culture?

You first have to recognize how diet culture effects YOU! Yes, no matter how much you've tried to steer clear, you have most likely been a victim of diet culture at some point in time. It is truly inevitable. Whether it was through dieting, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or feelings of being rejected by society --- most individuals have some level of experience.

For you to teach your little one about body positivity and health at every size --you must check with yourself. What are your own biases and how do you reflect them into your daily life? How have you been effected and how do you portray yourself to others because of it?

Once you have truly found your own self worth, you can then pass the trait down to your children who are developing each and every moment.

Developing a good relationship with food is a great step---not labeling foods as good or bad but making sure you are getting some of everything (including foods that you once forbid yourself from having). As a mother and child, you can learn to enjoy foods in a body positive environment that relies on intuitive eating rather than restrictive action.

At Mamas Maternal Health, we want to motivate you to break free of diet culture and body stigmas to help you and your little ones (now or in the future) have a healthy relationship with food. We want to see you view yourself for your own worth outside of body image and live life to the fullest! Check out our website to learn more about what we can do for you!

Until next time!

Mikayla and Cassie

Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

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