How Diet Culture is Sabotaging You and Keeping You Stuck

How Diet Culture is
Sabotaging You &
Keeping You Stuck

What is Diet Culture?
I guarantee you have internalized diet culture messages and don't even realize it.  
Have you ever thought: 
 - I'm not losing weight on this diet, what's wrong with me?
 - That food is bad, I can't eat that, it'll make me fat
 - I wish my (insert body part) looked like that/hers
 - I don't have enough willpower to stay skinny
 - I can't wear that, I'm too fat
 - the only way to lose weight is to cut calories and exercise harder
 - hmmmm one "weird secret" to lose weight fast? I'm in!
 - I worked out, I deserve that piece of cake
 - I totally ate "bad" yesterday so I did an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill today
Oh you have? Ya me too.  These are ALL diet culture messages that we have internalized as truth.  Diet culture is the pervasive belief system that values looks above health.  It attaches worthiness to your ability to ability to look, eat, exercise etc. in the ways diet culture says are acceptable.  
Today my objective is to bring your awareness to what diet culture is, how it has already shaped your thoughts about yourself and others, and how you can start overcoming that. I want to be super clear that even though I'm DEFINITELY going to be challenging you today, and you might feel really triggered at times, my intention is never to blame or shame. I'm challenging with love, because sometimes change requires some difficult self reflection.    
If anything in this episode resonated with you, I'd LOVE to hear about it! Send me a DM on Instagram or post a screenshot of this episode in your stories and tag me @tarafaulmann!

 Need more help with some of these concepts and want to actually KNOW how to put them in place in your life? Then make sure you're on the mailing list for the next launch of the Health Mind, Healthy Body Program!   


Full transcription available at the bottom of this post

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Show Notes: 

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Coaching Program!
Ditch the Diets and Finally Make Peace with Food
If you struggle with yo-yo dieting then you know how hard it is to make any real lasting change.  Unfortunately most women get stuck in the belief that being on a diet is the only way to lose weight and get healthy, and when they inevitably fail they’ve destroyed their self esteem, destroyed their relationship with food, and get stuck in a guilt/shame spiral that starts the whole process over again.  
If you don’t understand how reprogram your mind that is sabotaging you, and reprogram your body for health, you’ll never make lasting progress.  
That’s why I created the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Program; to teach you how to make a real, lasting transformation in your Mind AND Body.   

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Full Transcript: 
Welcome back to the podcast, my friends! I'm so glad you're here with me today, I want to take some time today and raise your awareness about the idea of DIET CULTURE. It's something that you are consuming every day, and it's probably shaping the way you see yourself, and you're not even realizing it. There's also a really good chance that the messages from diet culture that you are unconsciously internalizing, are really keeping you stuck. So I want to make sure that we understand what diet culture is, how it sort of permeates our own thoughts and ideas about ourselves and others, and then what we can do about it. Let's go! 

Before we jump in today, I want to just send you to the website really fast. I want to make sure that you are signed up on the newsletter, because a really soon in July, I am releasing a brand new program the Healthy Mind Healthy Body Program. And it comes with a membership! That's so important to me because not only do I want to teach you the skills and the tools that you need to overcome emotional eating and to have a better body image, and to really start managing your emotions, managing your thoughts so that you can get the success you want. I want to teach you how food works in your body and how your body works, how to balance your hormones and balance your blood sugar and get healthy. But I wanted to make sure there's a membership attached to it because I want to continue to work with you. I want to offer you coaching and I want to offer you expert advice from bringing on different experts in so I'm super excited about what this is looking like. And I want to make sure you are on that founding members list. So make sure you get to the website get signed up for the newsletter so that you can get all the information as it comes out.  

Social media, and diet culture. I consume media just like you do. I listen to podcasts, I look at magazines, I read books, I scroll through social media, I don't really watch the news so much anymore, but I do consume a lot of media just like you. And just like you, I follow a lot of health and diet people, fitness people, foodie people, coach people. Over time, especially being in the coaching space, I am always trying to be really aware of the messages that I'm sending out to you, and how those are being received. But I also need to be really aware of the messages that I'm receiving from the world, the messages I'm receiving and internalizing from the media that I consume. And that's what I want to teach you to be aware of, because I need to understand how those messages are shaping my thinking, and especially my thinking about myself and my thinking about others. So I want to spend this episode helping you be more aware of those messages as well, to really bring awareness to how much you may have internalized these diet culture messages, without even realizing it, and how to be more conscious consumer of media and how to really manage how this is affecting you. 

So according to a social media survey in 2019 90% of Americans 18 to 29 years old, use some form of social media every single day. Because social media is so universal, in today's society, the posts are impactful, right? What you consume is having an impact on you. And what you put out into the world is having an impact on others. Part of that study also reported that 50% of the 2000 adults that are surveyed, edit their social images in some way before they put them out. And 70% of women reported editing their images regularly. So every time they post something, they edit it. Now you already know this is true, because I know that you, like me, take probably 10 selfies before you either find the one that you can edit some way to make yourself look cuter, or just not post any because "oh my gosh, I look terrible", right? We've all done that. So what this is telling me though, is that there's this undercurrent that we all have of this dissatisfaction of how we look. But if you really start to think about why, why do we have that? Where's that coming from? Well, I think a big place that that's coming from is this idea of diet culture. So let's talk about what that is. 

Diet culture is pervasive. It's permeated all facets of media and culture, so much so that you probably don't even recognize it anymore. Because it's literally everywhere. It's like air, everywhere but largely unnoticed. To put it in general terms. Diet culture is a belief system that values body shape, and values looks and values weight over actual health and well being. Now, it doesn't take you more than about 10 seconds on social media to see that this is true. This is the culture that we live in, looks are valued over everything. Body culture really ignores body diversity, and that a healthy body can look all kinds of ways and a happy person can look all kinds of ways. So it really it's valuing how you look versus anything but especially versus your health. It really promotes weight loss. It promotes the idea that everyone's always on a diet, and usually unhealthy weight loss or unsustainable types of weight loss. So think about when a celebrity is promoting their "clean" this or they're "detoxing" that think about skinny tea, right? That's diet culture. Diet culture is when you've just had a baby, and you literally just created a human life inside you and the first thing you're looking at is how to lose baby weight. All the messages you're receiving are about "bouncing back after baby", right? It's this idea that, okay, your body got wrecked, and now you do whatever it takes to get back to this ideal, this diet culture ideal of how you're supposed to look. That's all diet culture. It's that a certain body type equals health. And it's that a certain way of eating equals health and a certain idea about food, good food, bad food equals health. None of that is true. But that's what diet culture tells us. 
Diet culture is when you're "skinny", you have that "ideal body type" and people praise you for it. But they don't understand that what you're doing to maintain that body type is completely unhealthy mentally and physically. Diet culture normalizes what, from a therapy point of view and a coaching point of view, I would consider some borderline or definitely disordered eating. Things like skipping meals, restricting calories, excessively exercising, eliminating entire food groups, those are things that I consider down the path of disordered eating. But those are the things that diet culture tells you are good and normal, and you SHOULD be doing. That's why diet culture belief systems often lead to eating disorders, because we're told that we're good if we eat in this way. And we're bad if we eat in that way. And that's another huge pervasive thing about diet culture is that it creates all this food morality for us. There's good food and there's bad food. You're a good person, if you eat this way, you're a bad person, if you eat that way. It has to do with your relationship to food, and how do you see food? Do you have a lot of food rules? That's all from diet culture, that is messages you have internalized from diet culture. Food is food, right? Food is just food. But when we start deciding that this food is good, and this food is bad, and I am bad, because I ate it or didn't eat it. That's diet, culture. Those are belief systems that we have ingrained in ourselves. They're not true. And they're not real. 

For example, if you go out with your girlfriends, and you have pizza and Margarita is and you have a great time and you totally enjoy yourself, and then you go home and you have to run extra mileage that night or the next day to make up for what you ate. That's diet culture. And that's not healthy mental or physical behavior. Exercising as punishment for things that you ate diet culture taught you that that's okay. And that's even good. And Coach Tara is telling you, it's not okay. Diet culture messages, have you conditioned to believe that not only does thinness equate to health, dieting equates to health, but that the pursuit of health somehow could make you superior to someone else. Now, I know, I want you to step back and just see all of this at like the 20,000 foot view, right? I don't want you to see this, like I'm in it, and oh, my god, you're really challenging me on things that I believe and I'm feeling very triggered right now, I want you to step away from that. Just look at this entire picture, from a 20,000 foot vantage point, okay? We have been conditioned to believe that these certain things are good. And these certain things are bad. And we've also been conditioned to believe I'm bad if I'm not on a diet, I'm bad if I am "overweight", I'm bad if I'm not exercising.  All these things make me bad. That's what diet culture has taught us. And so conversely, we decided, well, if I diet, and if I stick to this diet, and if I'm keto all the time, or I Weight Watchers, or I'm Nutrisystem, whatever it is, we start to wrap our identity around this diet and the things that we have been told are good. All of that is what I'm telling you, all of that is diet culture messages that we have ingrained into ourselves, we've taken it to another level, where because I diet because I count macros, because I stick to this diet, because I stick to that diet, I am somehow morally superior to you, because you're overweight, clearly, you don't know how to diet, the way I know how to diet right? Now, you might not think those direct thoughts in your head. But what I'm saying is, there is a message that is being sent culturally, through social media through all forms of media, that that is true, that that message is true. But somehow you are better if you are a dieter, and you lose weight and you exercise to punish yourself and you do all these things, right? That somehow you're better than someone who doesn't. Not saying you think you're better. I'm saying that's the cultural message, the diet culture message that we are receiving and internalizing. 

Now, some people, if you start looking up diet culture, and you start researching this, and you start like searching that hashtag, and doing all these things, you'll see that the idea of diet culture, for some people has been taken to another level. And it's a level that I don't go to, because they take diet culture to a level in terms of privilege. "Thin privilege" is what they call it, right? fat shaming, thin privilege. Here's the thing, from my perspective, I'm more concerned about the effect this is having on you personally, because that's the only thing you can control. You can't control what other people are doing or saying or thinking, you can only control yourself. And so I am concerned about how this is affecting you, personally, not the effects that you think socially and is having on you or other people. Here's the truth. People do judge based on appearances. That's real. People do make assumptions and judgments based on our looks. That's never going away. Diet culture, or no diet culture, that's always been true, and it always will be true. We all make those judgments whether we want to acknowledge that or not, we do. And we all have those judgments made against us. That's just real. I'm not interested in trying to change that. I think it's a losing battle. I don't see that as my job. You get judged for being skinny, you get judged for being fat, you get judged for being fit, you get judged for being unfit, like you are gonna get judged no matter how you look. So my job, I think, is to create a situation where you can deal with that it's not my job to create a situation where you will never face judgment or criticism because you will, that's life. It's not real to expect that. I do think it's my job to help you deal more effectively. When that happens. I'm more interested in giving you the tools and the skills to be okay with yourself No matter how you look, no matter what you hear or see on social no matter what anyone else says or thinks about you. Does that make sense? I really want to be clear about that. Because I do not see diet culture as a social justice movement. I see diet culture as a way that you can better understand yourself. If I better understand diet culture, I can better understand me my thoughts, my emotions, my actions and how they're affecting me and my success or lack of. 

So in response to diet culture, there's no a movement that is anti-diet culture, right? It's also known as the body positivity movement. And I'm going to spend an entire podcast in the next episode Episode 24, talking about body positivity and where I think it goes right and where I think it goes wrong. But I just want to mention it here. Because the diet culture that we live in creates a lot of shame, it creates a lot of shame, because I somehow don't meet a standard of how I'm supposed to look or behave, honestly. But the anti diet culture can do the same thing. Because if I then am not conforming to that message, I also am going to feel shame. So the anti diet culture says, You should love yourself at every size, no matter what health doesn't matter, it's still about looks. Diet, culture is about looks, anti diet, culture is about looks. And that's where I think the anti diet culture party body positivity movement, really kind of goes off the rails because it's still missing the point. The point is, I need to be concerned about health, I need to be concerned about my body functioning, I need to be concerned about my physical health, and my mental health. And so I need to be aware of the diet culture messages, and the anti diet culture messages, how I'm incorporating those into my own thoughts and my own emotions about me. 

So how do we start fixing this? Step one is to just to really start becoming aware of the messages. And I want you as you go through and kind of scroll through social media the next time, I want you to start to be aware of the very subtle ways that you are receiving messages that say, this look as good, this look is not as good. If you look like this, it's better. If you look like this, nope. If you diet this way better, if you don't diet this way, why not? Right? It's very subtle, and a lot of really well intentioned to people right there. Most of these people on social, their goal is to not like shame you, their goal is to help you. But the way they're going about it is shaming and I will be honest, I have succumb to this myself. I even listen to back to my old podcast episodes of this own podcast that I just started and think, I wish I would have said that a different way that came out in a kind of a diet culture way and not in the way that I really meant it. So I just want you to understand, I'm not blaming or shaming people who are ingrained in the diet culture, or for the language that we sometimes use. I have to be aware of myself of the words I'm putting out into the world and the words I'm sending to myself. So step one is just raising your awareness level. Step two, then is just really understanding and recognizing the BS of diet culture.  So being aware of it, and then also recognizing how bullshit it is. So this is not about attacking. This is not about blaming, this is not about creating shame for those who are still really in it. They don't know what they don't know, maybe share this episode with them. But you have to call bs on the culture, not on the person. Right? I say something that you're like, Ooh, that was kind of diet culture Tara it's not, it's not about blaming Tara or shaming Tara. It's saying, Oh, she received these messages and internalizes them too. She needs to catch that too, just like I do, right? Don't blame the person, blame the culture. 

And now that you recognize it, and you're seeing it for what it is, and you're recognizing the BS of it, and you're seeing how to decipher those messages and how they're reaching you. I want you to stop giving it your time, stop spending money with people who are perpetuating it, stop putting your energy into following people who are perpetuating diet culture messages. One particular family comes to mind I'm sure you won't be shocked. The Kardashians are the biggest perpetrators of diet culture right now, probably bar none. They clearly hate the way they look. Right? If you look at how they used to look compared to how they look, now, they obviously are subscribing to diet culture views. Because it's not about their health. It's about how they look, everything is about how they look. Now, what I want to make clear is not blaming the Kardashians, they're clearly victims of diet culture as well. But this is a case of the victim becomes the perpetrator. And I think that's true for so many people who ascribe to these diet culture messages, they are victims of diet culture themselves, they have internalized it, they have believed it and now they're pushing it out to you. And so I want you to see it for what it is. And I want you to stop giving your time, money and energy to the people who are doing it. Or maybe just call them out like girl, like everything you put out is about look at my butt, look at my waist. You know how to get smaller, how to diet harder, how to count this, how to track that, like it's not just about that. Can you send some more messages start examining your own thoughts and your own judgments of yourself and your own thoughts and your own judgments of others. Those people who are perpetuating diet culture are often the biggest victims of diet culture, right? They're the ones who have internalized it the most, I feel bad, I feel bad for that. And I've been that right. I've been there, you might be there right now. And you might be like, shit Tara, we're calling me out on some stuff, and I do not like it. I'm calling you out with love. Kardashians, I'm calling you out with love, not with blame. 

And the last thing I want you to think about is learning how to change your focus to pursuing health and wellness, body function and mental function. The goal, instead of just the side effect of trying to get to a look, we got to stop focusing so much on how we look, and also learning how to pursue health and wellness without allowing it to become your entire life or to become your measure of worthiness, right? The reason diet culture is so pervasive is because it's a measure of our own worthiness, how do I stack up? Am I worthy? I'm only worthy, if I look like this, I'm only worthy, if I diet like that, I'm only worthy, if I'm counting calories, I'm only worthy, if I am trying hard in these ways, right? We associate our worthiness to our ability to quote unquote, be good on our diets or with our food or with our exercise that has become our whole world, focusing on diet culture mentality, and we don't even know what's happening, right? We're not even aware that this is what's going on. So I want you to start to learn to to separate yourself from these programmed messages that you're receiving. Start recognizing them for what they are, start recognizing how you've internalized them, how they're affecting you, how these messages have been guiding your eating, guiding your choices, guiding your thoughts about yourself. You have to start bringing awareness to the idea that your worthiness has nothing to do with your diet, it has nothing to do with how you look, it has nothing to do with what you ate. It has nothing to do with how good you did at hitting your macro levels. None of that has to do with worthiness. We need to start changing the focus from looks to health. 

So in closing, I just really want to reiterate the idea that this is not about blame. This is not about going to extremes. This is not about calling names. This is not about picking sides. This is about loving loving yourself and loving other people. This is about moving your body and eating nutritious foods because of how they make you feel because you enjoy it because of how they taste. Not because it's what you're supposed to do, not because that's what diet diet culture tells you is right, we can pursue health and wellness without it becoming our whole life without it becoming something that we need to do to feel worthy. The truth is, we've all been victims in some way of diet culture. And most of us haven't even realized that that's the truth. So we're cutting the shame. We're not name calling, we are coming together, we are coming together with a mission of living our best life, being our best self, being mentally healthy, being physically healthy, and making that the point. And those things have nothing to do with your weight. They have nothing to do with your size, they have nothing to do with how you look, they have nothing to do with sticking to a diet or not. They have nothing to do with your workout program. Living your best life has to do with loving yourself loving others, where they're at, not ascribing shame to you or to anyone else, and to being physically healthy, mentally healthy, and finding a way to appreciate right where you're at. Diet culture is tricky. And I think this is something that we'll talk about a lot more in the future. I would love to know if anything that we talked about today really struck you what resonated with you send me a DM on Instagram and just tell me like Whoa, I didn't even realize this is going on in my head. And it totally is. Or I didn't even realize these people that I was following. These are the messages I was getting. And I'm and I totally been living by it. And I didn't even recognize. I'm not telling you that there's anything that you need to change right at this second. I'm just telling you, I want you to really be aware. Until we talk again my friends, be well.

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