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Glitch  •  18 May 2021  •  Non-Fiction

Dismantling Toxic Diet Culture

By Eva Harrington
Content Warning: Eating Disorders
Dismantling Toxic Diet Culture

I’ve wasted many long hours‭, ‬weeks‭, ‬and months wishing‭ ‬that my body was not mine‭. ‬I’ve seen the seasons shift and the weather become warmer‭, ‬yet I remained stuck‭ ‬inside a body that refused to change‭. ‬I have fallen victim‭ ‬to the endless scroll‭ ‬—‭ ‬the internet’s great big black hole‭ ‬of weight-loss tips and low-carb diets‭. ‬I have swapped out foods‭, ‬drank lemon water‭, ‬and ran 10‭ ‬kilometres‭, ‬only to‭ ‬find myself more exhausted than refreshed‭. ‬I have read up on my type of metabolism‭, ‬swallowed more vitamins‭ ‬and counted more calories than I have spent time asking‭:‬‭ ‬why am I trying so hard to make myself smaller‭?‬

Toxic diet culture runs rife in our society‭. ‬It’s so ingrained‭ ‬in our lives‭, ‬that it becomes an unavoidable and unfair consequence of sitting through‭ ‬The Bachelor‭ ‬ad breaks‭, ‬scrolling through your Instagram on a Monday‭ ‬night‭, ‬or reading the news articles‭. ‬While diet culture was alive and thriving before the age of the internet‭, ‬it has only been amplified‭ ‬by the speed at which deceptive‭, ‬and often false‭, ‬information can now travel the globe‭. ‬From TikTok’s infamous‭ ‬‘What I eat in a day’‭ ‬trend‭, ‬to Insta‭‬gram influencers being sponsored by weight-loss‭ (‬i.e‭. ‬laxative‭) ‬teas‭, ‬and Youtube’s handy tips on‭ ‬‘How to lose 5‭ ‬kg in just 5‭ ‬days’‭, ‬

"..extreme dieting have been romanticised into an image of wellness and self-care‭."

Seek‭, ‬and you shall find‭. ‬But fall too far in‭, ‬and you‭ ‬will get caught in a sticky web of celery juice and calorie‭ ‬deficits‭, ‬making it hard to decipher fact from fiction‭. ‬The most malicious part about toxic diet programs is that‭ ‬they don’t work‭.‬‭ ‬You are always left feeling as empty as when you first started‭. ‬And it’s in this moment of‭ ‬vulnerability and failure that they tell you to try again‭, ‬with a new program or product‭. ‬Some are pyramid‭ ‬schemes‭, ‬filled with before and after photos‭, ‬and falsified success stories‭. ‬The cycle of low-carb diets is so addictive‭, ‬it’s almost hard to break‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬it’s of no surprise‭ ‬that many of us experience moments of profound anxiety and insecurity about our bodies‭. ‬In fact‭, ‬15%‭ ‬of Australian men and 35%‭ ‬of women list body image as their number one concern‭.‬1

It is important to note here what I mean when I refer to toxic diet culture‭: ‬any programs‭, ‬regimes or advertisements which promote extreme weight loss and restriction‭, ‬as well as any magic pills or meal replacement‭ ‬products‭. ‬Simply put‭, ‬if a qualified health professional wouldn’t advise it‭, ‬it’s probably not the go‭.‬ Unfortunately‭, ‬toxic diet culture has become the internet’s‭ ‬most manipulative friend‭, ‬creating a cyber club of‭ ‬self‭-‬comparison and inadequacy‭.

‬One that‭, ‬without great‭ ‬regulation and constant vigilance‭, ‬can become a danger to the mental health of countless individuals‭. ‬So‭, ‬the question stands‭: ‬how can we repair this glitch in the‭ ‬system‭? ‬Can we filter out what‭ ‬we do not wish to hear‭? ‬If we ignore it‭ ‬for long enough‭, ‬will it just fade away‭?‬

The problem that lies within solving toxic diet culture‭ ‬is that‭ ‬we created it‭.‬‭ ‬In turn‭, ‬many people and businesses profit from the insecurity‭, ‬guilt and‭ ‬unfair comparisons‭, ‬which live rent-free in our consciousness‭. ‬It‭ ‬is a byproduct of the unrealistic and unattainable body standards‭ ‬society‭ ‬has placed upon us‭. ‬We cannot repair‭ ‬this glitch‭, ‬because that would insinuate that this was an error‭, ‬but toxic diet culture is not a mistake‭. ‬It is a carefully curated‭ ‬masterpiece of manipulation‭. ‬

"..Perhaps the best‭, ‬and only way to overcome toxic diet culture is to dismantle it from the inside‭. ‬We can’t go‭ ‬over it‭. ‬We can’t go under it‭. ‬So‭, ‬we’ve got to go through it‭."

‬By this‭, ‬I do not mean become complacent at the feet‭ ‬of diet culture‭, ‬or give in to another poorly made ad‭. ‬We must call out the businesses and influencers who prey on‭ ‬the insecurities of others‭, ‬we must ask more questions‭ ‬and think twice before buying a diet product online‭. ‬And we‭ ‬must‭ ‬ask for qualified advice‭. ‬We should follow people‭ ‬who adore their natural bodies‭, ‬and give ourselves the‭ ‬space to do the same‭.‬

I am still trying to stop myself from wanting to be smaller‭, ‬but with each step I take away from toxic diet‭ ‬culture‭, ‬I feel more and more fulfilled‭. ‬Dismantling diet culture means putting yourself first‭. ‬It means unplugging‭ ‬and rewiring all the parts of the internet that said you were too much of this‭, ‬or too little of that‭. ‬It will take time and it‭ ‬may be slow‭, ‬but the earlier you start‭, ‬the‭ ‬quicker you will grow into yourself‭.‬


#References:

1. The National Eating Disorders

Collaboration. (2010). "Eating Disorders Prevention, Treatment & Management: An Evidence Review." 1library.net/document/y90r1xry-disorders-prevention-treatment-management-evidence-national-disorders-collaboration.html

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