Diet Culture 

A system of beliefs that: Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.

‘New year, new you!’

‘Summer bodies are made in Winter’

‘Lose weight before the New Year’

‘Look good for Christmas’

‘Lose fat for summer’

‘Gain muscle for summer’ 

‘ Look like Channing this Summer’  

 

Portrait of Emily Little on boxing ropesSound familiar?

It’s hard to admit but the reason I know them….is because I’ve used them!

I’ve run campaign after campaign with these headers and I’ve done some myself.

‘Heck yes! Now I can have that brownie’ she says after a workout

‘Hmmm. I wonder how many calories eggs have compared to pancakes’

‘Oh my gosh, I wish I had (insert body part here) like him/ her. He/ She’s hot. After scrolling through Instagram. Diet Culture!

There are a few factors I think that have made their way into our thinking and my thoughts on these below;

Lack of knowledge given to us about nutrition education, lack of intuitive eating, Body Mass Index (BMI) still being used, the increase in ‘Fitness Competitions’, the acceptance of steroids in the industry, language around nutrition and physical appearance and social pressure.

 

I suppose we were lucky growing up.

My sister and I never really knew how lucky we were to be accepted and told how beautiful we were every day. To the point where we believed it to be the only truth. If anybody told us otherwise we would think they were crazy. Like legitimately crazy.

Feeling beautiful and loving the skin we were in was our normal and I now realise the enormity of that because we were the exception, not the rule.

The thing about life is, your norm is your normal and after being involved in the fitness industry for over 5 years now I have seen how truly lucky we were.

That though, isn’t the story for most people.

The story for most people is:

– Mum commenting on how ‘fat’ she looks in her clothes.

– How ‘that food’ or ‘this food’ will make her gain weight.

– Don’t eat that or you’ll get fat.

– A stranger telling you not to go back for seconds.

– A sister or a friend grabbing her skin and pulling at it and saying she/he has to lose weight.

– A coach saying ‘you are too fat to win’

If I had more time to have those conversations with them or anybody else, here are a few things I would love to talk about……

Social Pressure

Since the turn of recent times. Let’s say 150 years for now.  (Disclaimer! This one is for you Jill. I have not found out yet when diet culture started, so send me an email if you do find out. Thanks, Jill) We have been succumbing to social pressure on the ‘ideal weight’ the ‘ideal body size’ and the ‘ideal physic’

Being asked or even assumed to be ‘unhealthy’ because you look different, bigger or thicker than someone else is the norm.

This goes hand in hand with being complimented for being skinny or told you look good, even if you may be suffering from sickness, illness body dysmorphia.

Additionally, the assumption that someone with anorexia or bulimia is skin and bone instead of the possibility of someone with weight on the suffering this disorder. 

We would have a lot less people with eating disorders, mental illness, gastric sleeves, plastic surgery, General practitioners if we weren’t constantly told or felt like there was a weight we needed to be. What are your thoughts?

On a study carried out Australia as a nation is getting bigger. Guess what that was based on?? You guessed it! BM friggin I! (keep reading as we debunk that one!)

I’ve been feeling more lately that diets in-still failure into an already failing system and its hard to know how to come back from this.

It is a compliment to be told you have put on weight in countries like Gambia or Samoa. Do you think we could learn a few things here?

I know what you’re thinking.

‘If we all get ‘fat’ we will have health issues’. After knowing that your perception of ‘fat’ has been shaped on incorrect equations and a misconception that you aren’t already the right size.

Regardless of the size of someone, they may have the very same health issues as someone you class as ‘optimal’ size.

In a country where there is a minimum of 8-9000 lap band operations done each year with an increase from 500 – 17,000 in the last 10 years,  do we not think its time to reassess the way we perceive ourselves instead of try and bandaid the issue?

This is the most common form of surgery offered for ‘obesity’ and I wanted to know how those numbers are decided?

Enter BMI… If your BMI is greater than 35 then you are a candidate for the operation.

BMI

So what if I told you that the numbers they are based on were invented for insurance purposes? (you likely already knew there were some questions around BMI)

The Body Mass Index measurement was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He was a mathematician, not a physician.

He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources…….AND why not then add it to every medical curriculum, General practitioners guide and health professionals learning? It doesn’t take into account muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences.

Photograph: Justin Griffiths

Something even more intriguing to me was; in 1998, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (who’s main goal is to ;protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability) in the US and internationally brought U.S. definitions in line with World Health Organization guidelines, lowering the normal/overweight cut-off from BMI 27.8 to BMI 25.

So this equation, doesn’t work accurately; and we know this, it was produced by an insurance company; and we know this, it was then made a part of international learnings and implementation in medicine and health. It was all of a sudden changed from 27.8 – 25 making close to 30 million Americans (and obviously world-wide) were shifted from a government-approved weight to the overweight and obese category, without gaining an ounce and we still use the dang thing.

Nutrition Education

We are all human. We all need food, all over the world. So why is there not more of an emphasis on this at school instead of how to figure out the sum of z / y?

  • lack of discussion around Intuitive eating
  • lack of further education after the basics in school
  • the lack of prevention education instead of quick fixes.
  • the lack of nutrition training at a higher level.
  • you assume your general practitioner knows more than you would? While some do ( who have voluntarily taken on further studies in the area of nutrition) some have only had the required 23 hours of training.
  • An increase in subsidies to see a dietician to help you understand how your nutrition is impacting your health.

 

The Medical Requirement of Nutrition Information

When it comes to nutrition education, depending on which country you study, doctors are given approximately 23- 27 hours of nutrition training. (this may have changed recently, but how old is your doctor, or your parent’s doctors)

It’s no wonder that when a majority of patients come to GPs, asking them dietary advice rather than seeking out nutritional advice from a nutrition doctor (Dietician). It’s no wonder they are unsure of how to help and left to feel overwhelmed themselves. I feel for these doctors who have 15 minutes to see a patient and have to assess them based on insufficient or incorrect knowledge around the area. 

As we talked about previously. To have lap band surgery you obviously will go to a doctor to get this done. You then get assessed, told your obese (based on a bogus BMI measurement) then given information on how to start the process.

This then involves information on how the surgery will go, by a doctor that gets funding from the company that produces and provides the gastric band. (ALAGAN being one of them) 

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?

Fitness Model Competition.

Fitness;  the condition of being physically fit and healthy.

Being fit not only means physical health but emotional and mental health, too.

Health; a person’s mental or physical condition or the state of being free from illness or injury.

Now let’s say you made it through being told you were obese as a child based on BMI.

Let’s say you made it through hormone changes that may have made you gain any weight (which society has told you is a hard ‘NO NO’. Let’s say you made it through high school, with some kind of desire for fitness regardless of weight.

Let’s say you decide to see what your body is capable of so you look up ‘fitness competition’ and instead of fitness and health capabilities, you come across this….

Wbff’s mission statement:

The WBFF,   the worldwide leader in Beauty and Modelling, Fitness and Fashion which strives for international recognition as an industry leader by providing the best opportunities for contestants and models to compete, supporting our partners and effectively promoting health and fitness. We seek to raise the standards within all aspects of our business through innovation and professionalism. The World Beauty Fitness & Fashion Inc. is a mainstream worldwide brand that continues to merge fitness, fashion, and beauty.

Do you think the name in itself is equivocal and the concept problematic?

Is it a competition promoting health and fitness or something else?

What are your experiences?

Steroids

Roids, gear or juice.

If we talk about physique we will obviously have to talk about steroids as this is a nationally accepted standard. To the point where there has to be a Natural bodybuilding category or separate competition. 

Even on The Alcohol and Drug Foundation its an advertisement for steroids and alludes to police officers using the illegal drug.

Regardless of the Side effects;

mood swings, violent behaviour, especially when combined with alcohol, baldness in men, acne – leading to permanent scarring, sleeping difficulties, liver damage, kidney or prostate cancer, high blood pressure, depression, cardiovascular complication, tendon/ ligament damage, reduced sperm count and fertility ,shrunken testicles ,baldness, gynecomastia (developing breasts), involuntarily and long-lasting erection, irregular periods, deepened voice, smaller breasts, enlarged clitoris, stunted growth.

It has become not only accepted but encouraged and I’m not sure how or when?

Any enlightenment is encouraged. What are your thoughts?

How do we make the change?

Intuitive Eating 

Ever heard of it? What is this? Intuitive eating is an approach to health and in particular food that has nothing to do with diets, meal plans, discipline or willpower. It teaches you to listen to your body cues like hunger, fullness, and satisfaction while learning to trust your body around food again.

We also a change of language around food so instead of using ‘good’ food or ‘bad’ all food is the same. Looking at nourishing and fuelling your body instead of treating or punishing yourself based around your food choices.

Do you think the reason we all try and diets is because we lack knowledge around nutrition, lack time to make it a priority or are we just frustrated and end up taking what we can get?

It’s hard to know what will work because we are all sooooo different but essentially we need to eat enough to fuel our bodies, limit restrictions an understand food is fuel?

Our body tells us when we are hungry, it tells us when we need more vitamins it’s all about listening.

Think about language and understanding around how we look at each other and ourselves.

Let me leave you with this……

When you look back at pictures of a slimmer you, do you recall feeling slimmer?

Do you recall feeling any different about your body or your appearance at all?

A brutal truth. The issue never was, nor is your body or size.