Diet Culture Art

Over this summer, a lot of things have changed for me. I moved out of my mom’s house, got a car and I even got my bellybutton pierced — something I swore to myself I would never do. In retrospect, it really seems like the sweltering summer of 2019 had one thing in mind for me —  change. This related to all areas of my life, even in my relationship with food and dieting. 

Throughout last year’s fetal beginnings of my Daily Nebraskan wellness column, I struggled to produce what I felt was genuine content. I knew I wanted to focus on body positivity, but because I hadn’t conquered my own mountain of self-love, I still wrote from a place heavily influenced by what I now know as diet culture. 

For those who are not familiar with the concept, registered dietician and anti-diet blogger Christy Harrison describes diet culture as a group of societal standards that elevate thinness as the optimal indicator of health, morality and status. Subsequently, diet culture also shames those who may not fit into the distant and nuanced ideal of thinness.

Everything from clothing sizes to fashion trends and popular diets endorsed by celebrities can fuel the idea of diet culture. If one does not fit into a culturally accepted body type, they either need to intentionally lose weight or risk being alienated by peers. 

After following a bunch of anti-diet accounts on Instagram and educating myself on the diet culture, I’ve done what I once would have considered to be the unthinkable. I’ve given up dieting. I eat what my body needs, which unrestricted, remains healthy and sustainable. I don’t binge, I don’t panic at the dinner table if something more than 300 calories is served, and I definitely don’t deny myself foods and experiences I know I enjoy.

Since I have made this decision, everything seems lighter. My workouts at the gym are better than they have been in years because I am actually fueling my body with the nutrients it needs. I get to experience food, and I practice forgiveness and self-love when it comes to sustenance and food intake. 

Because of this newfound epiphany, I’m going to change how I write this column as well. I’m not going to hungrily preach about how to lose weight in a “good and healthy way” while I starve for one macronutrient or another. I’m not going to write about ignoring food cravings and the dangers of sugar, and I am certainly not going to encourage any form of intentional weight loss in the form of a dietary restriction.

Instead, I’m going to write about feeding the body with what it craves physically, mentally and emotionally. I want to talk about concepts like what societal “thinness” really means and how to actually fall in love with your body in a way that sticks. I think a lot of people have been functioning on a level of minor self-loathing because nobody truly fits into what pop culture says is perfect. However, cheesy as it may sound, I want this meek, nameless little column to at least be a small slice of support. And above all else, I want it to be a place that encourages all forms of self-love, self-fulfillment and self-forgiveness.