Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, and wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.
Diet culture is the pervasive belief that appearance and body shape are more important than physical, psychological, and general well-being. Diet culture perpetuates the idea that controlling your body, specifically your diet—by limiting what and how much you eat—is normal. It promotes thinness and aligns lower weights with higher moral virtue. It naturally oppresses people who don't fit into this small picture of "health."
Diet culture also normalizes labeling foods and habits as good or bad. Instead of a source of nutrition, food is thought of as transactional—something that you either earn or don't deserve depending on what you've eaten throughout the day and how hard you've worked out.
Diet culture is a system of beliefs that creates a very narrow-minded way of looking at health. It equates thinness with health and suggests that anything outside of these parameters is unhealthy. The results of this pervasive, social construct are potentially toxic to mind and body: it may result in poor self-image, disordered eating, and depression.
Education is the key to being more inclusive. Commit to educating yourself about potential bias, respective language, and other people's experiences.
According to the Obesity Action Coalition, weight bias is "negative attitudes, beliefs, judgments, stereotypes, and discriminatory acts aimed at individuals simply because of their weight." Weight bias can occur in many settings (workplace, home, healthcare, media, etc.) and in many forms (social media, written word, verbal, etc.).
Body positivity refers to having positive body image and being accepting of all bodies, regardless of shape, size, gender, or any other appearance-related quality. Body positivity is also a social movement that challenges unrealistic beauty standards and aims to disrupt social constructs.
Body neutrality is a practice similar to body positivity, but focuses more on acceptance rather than self-love. Body neutrality focuses more on the body's ability to perform certain actions and other non-physical characteristics.
Weight neutrality, or the "weight-neutral" movement, is an approach that aims to depart from the typical weight-centric focus on body weight and BMI and shift to lifestyle behaviors. Weight neutrality aims to shift the emphasis from being weight-normative (using weight and weight loss when defining health) to being more weight-inclusive (viewing health and wellness as multi-faceted).
Wolfram, T. Food & Nutrition. Understanding Weight Neutrality.
Tylka TL, Annunziato RA, Burgard D, et al. The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of Obesity. 2014;2014:1-18. doi:10.1155/2014/983495
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