Our Weight-Centric, Food-Obsessed, Diet-Culture Society
Diet culture promotes weight-loss, thinness, youthful appearance, and other external biometrics as indicators and necessities for healthy living. Its messages have led to the emotional and physical deterioration of many people. Concerningly, it has etched its way into healthcare, nutrition, and the fitness industry. Furthermore, it continues to inch its way into all aspects of society through its deceptive memes and not-so-subtle marketing ploys.
In a preceding article, I described in detail the characteristics and detrimental impacts of diet culture. In order to reinstate equal and accessible healthcare for all sizes, we must have awareness of the monster we are up against.
- Advocates that body size determines health outcomes.
- Perpetuates society’s obsession with weight.
- Elevates thin bodies to more privileges and desirability.
- Encourages body stigma and poor healthcare delivery.
- Disproportionately and negatively impacts minority populations.
- Promotes and deems socially acceptable certain dysfunctional and restrictive eating patterns which contributes to maladjusted eating behaviors and eating disorders.
- Normalizes extreme food eliminations and limitations.
- Harms everyone, of all sizes.
Rather than focusing on healthy lifestyle behaviors to optimize wellness, these harmful beliefs encourage:
- dietary obsession
- external and confining food rules
- nutritional and body size shaming and moralization
- a weight-centric versus health-focused medical care system
In this post, I will continue to discuss why diet culture has no place in healthcare and naturopathic medicine. Topics I cover include:
- the dangers of shaming bigger bodies
- the problems related to narrowly mistaking associations found with “obesity” as the causes of most chronic diseases, and how it results in poor health outcomes and substandard healthcare
- an introduction to concepts that help one pursue truly holistic health without focusing on body shrinkage
In the conclusion of this series, I will provide resources on how to achieve body resiliency and whole-person health and wellness, without focusing on the scale.
The Dishonoring of Body Diversity, Food Shaming, & Using Body Diminution as Medical Manipulation
The belief that body size is a strong indicator of health is quite popular and prevalent in the healthcare profession. It has led to a socially acceptable form of stigmatization of many body physiques. (source, source, source, source, source, source, source) Rather than giving proper standard of care to all people, many in bigger bodies are shamed, viewed as “lazy,” and told to lose weight in order to “treat” everything from arthritis to cancer. (source, source) There are many reasons for body shape diversity, with few having to do with food intake. Prescribing excessively restrictive diets and heavy workouts in order to “fix” someone’s major health concerns based strictly on appearance has very dangerous consequences.
A specific body weight range is neither necessary, nor sufficient, to create a disease. All bodies can become ill at any time. An individual’s health risks are based on a variety of interrelated genetic, environmental, emotional, societal, and lifestyle factors. All of these should be considered in standard of care treatments. Yet, those who do not fall within the deemed “normal weight range” often do not have these aspects addressed, and, as a result are receiving suboptimal care. (source, source, source)
Concerningly, the impacts of this form of prejudice are associated with many of the same elevated inflammatory markers that are blamed on “obesity” itself. (source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source) Furthermore, this dishonored population is also at heightened risk for social and psychological harm and eating disordered behavior as a result of it. (source, source, source)
Health at Every Size- Freedom from Food Obsession and Reigniting Passion for Life, Beyond Calorie Counting
I can understand why many of my esteemed colleagues get caught up in diet culture’s damaging, powerful, and pervasive theories and beliefs. I did too in my early career. Regrettably, I know I have caused harm.
Since learning of these dangers, I have refused to join in the lucrative practice of using my education to sell diets or weight loss. Although I could make a lot more money, it is not ethical to me, because diets only provide temporary results and fail 97-99% of the time in the long-term. If a diet does work, one has to literally dedicate their life to it. It becomes a main focus, rather than something that enhances one’s life. Furthermore, diets also strain relationships, make people “hangry,” lead one to be obsessed with food, and deprive many of living their true values. For example, I’ve seen dieters boast about missing out on family outings because they honor “discipline.” This may be necessary for fitness competitors and athletes who make a living on their physique or prowess, but not for moms and dads who previously upheld family values.
The bottom line here is that it creates more harm than good.
A few years ago, I learned about Health at Every Size (HAES). I became a HAES practitioner because I believe that all body sizes deserve respect and that all forms of shame are bad for both mental and physical health.
Rather than focus on weight-loss, I adhere to teaching nutrition, lifestyle practices, and wellness solutions to promote well-being. What happens to my client’s weight as a result occurs naturally and peacefully. I cannot guarantee or control outcomes with regard to what one’s body will do. This is not only a lesson for me and my clients in providing nurturing and holistic care, but also a spiritual lesson to learn what to hold onto, what to let go, and how to tune into one’s own inner truth and intuition.
How to Be Healthy Without Focusing on Weight- Embodying True Holistic Healthcare
You do not have to succumb to calorie counting, drinking water to drown out hunger cues, and engage in meaningless busy work because you have lost your “zest” for life as a result of a lack of brain-nourishing nutrients. You also do not have to wait for your doctor to “see the light.” It is my dream that all practitioners will one day embrace body diversity, but it may take a while.
The good news is that under your current physician’s care, you can empower yourself to re-learn what your view of health truly is and communicate that to them. You deserve to have a fulfilling life that focuses on your passions and making a difference in the world. You can also consult with a HAES provider, like myself, if you need additional support.
I believe everyone deserves to feel the freedom of making peace with food and have their body respected, by themselves and others. I realize this is not an easy task in today’s entrenched diet culture. Still, it is possible.
In the next post, I will provide you with some great starter resources to body acceptance, body resiliency, and breaking free from diet-culture, food obsession, and weight shaming.
Mental Health Resources
*If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and/or are suicidal, please seek professional mental health support:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Helpful Resources
Below are some of the highlights of the many free resources on this website:
- Four Essential Oils Blends for Supporting the Mind-Body and Easing Tension
- VIDEO: How Your Brain and Body Suffer with Too Much Stress & Naturopathic Medicine Tips for Calming the Mind and Relieving Overwhelm
- Video Recap: Essential Oils to Ease the Stress & Anxiety of Back to School
- The Importance of Fun, Music, & Play for Mental Health
- Video Recap: Essential Oils for Brain and Mental Health & Soothing Stress
- 10 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind-Body During Trying Times
- Video: A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Thyroid Health Using Essential Oils: Video Recap & Additional Resources
Additional Supportive Techniques & Tools
- The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.
- Stress management tips and resources
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.