5 Tips for Spring Cleaning Diet Culture
By: Emily Gogel, RDN, LD
Diet culture is pervasive. It is like a weed winding it's way through the flower bed of food and body liberation. It can limit the sunlight needed to grow, to thrive. It steals nutrients from the budding plants, leading to weakened structures and muted colors. In a time when windows are opening and sunshine is flowing, make ditching the tools of diet culture part of your spring cleaning routine. Below are a few ideas our clinicians had to help support you in this journey. Have any others? We'd love to hear it.
1. Review your social media.
Social media can serve as a connection to others, an easy way to communicate life updates, and entertain us. It can also be a source of self comparison, targeted ads to our most vulnerable selves, and fear mongering. When going through your feed, turn on your social media literacy lens and think critically about the messages your are consciously or unconsciously absorbing. Consider this check list from More Than a Body by Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite:
- Do I feel better or worse about myself when I see this?
- Does it spark body anxiety or feeling of shame?
- Does it cause me to engage in self-comparison?
- Who profits from me believing this message? Look for ads, commercials, and product placement, and you'll see who is paying the bills for your favorite media message.
- What kind of audience is targeted here? Is the message trying to profit off of insecurities about my "flaws"?
- How are bodies portrayed or represented here? (Are they objectified, seen as a tool or thing to be used rather than a person to be celebrated and appreciated?)
- Does it promote or reinforce distorted ideals of what bodies and faces should look like - either through digital manipulation or featuring only one body type or "look"?
2. Donate or throw away any clothes that don’t fit. They aren’t serving you anymore. Whether your clothes are too big and hid your body, or too small and restrict you in any way, they are not supporting your current body size. In this way, they can be constant triggers of negative self talk or body image shame.
Your body is not the wrong size. Your clothes are.
This spring cleaning task does not have to be a complete makeover. It could look like donating one clothing item, and purchasing another that you feel comfortable and confident in. Imagine going to a birthday party with too-tight or too-loose jeans. The entire night you are adjusting your shirt, pulling up your pants, and worried about your body appearance rather than celebrating your friend and friendship. By having clothes in your closet that support you, you reduce the frustration with yourself and your wardrobe.
3. Evaluate your physical activity. Is it for pleasure? Or punishment to get your “summer body”? It can feel good to move our body. Sometimes, it can also feel really bad such as if you're sick or exhausted. In a conversation I had with Sarah Regan, an outdoor enthusiast and certified guide, she says she challenges her participants to take time and listen to your body. When is a good time to challenge it, and when is a good time to nurture it?
What would it feel like to move your body for fun, like when you were a kid on the playground? What would it look like to feel good during your activity of choice, or get a rush of endorphins afterwards because the activity was enjoyable? I challenge you to think of the intention behind your physical activity. Is it because you want to move for your mental or physical health, or because you feel like to have to sculpt and tone for a "beach ready" body? Update: your body, and any body, is beach ready. Without changing it at all.
4. Is that scale still hanging around in an omnipresent location? Ditch it. OR email [email protected] to get it donated for a great cause. Weight is not a good indicator of health. Weight does not indicate your value. Weight does not indicate your worthiness of food, affection, needs and desires. Despite what diet culture may say, your weight is not the most important thing in your life. Learn more about the harms of weight-centric beliefs here.
5. Assess your food rules. Diet culture wouldn’t be diet culture without the substantial pressure to change or restrict the food you put in your body. Instead of listening to the dieting rules, what would it look like to intuitively eat? Honoring cravings, eating to satisfy and for pleasure, listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Although this is just the surface of intuitive eating, I challenge you to look through your closet of food rules and toss any that do not support you.
Social media checklist source: Kite, Lindsay; Kite, Lexie. More Than A Body. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021.