Diet VS. Diet Culture

The “E” in my DREAM Method for my parenting programs is “Eat”.  The “D” in my DREAM Method for family health, stands for “diet”.  And with diet culture being exposed for the harm that it causes, I’d like to take time to define that D-word. The context for which I use it, is NOT meant to be a verb.  Rather, rooted from the Greek word “diata”, describing what and how we eat as a lifestyle.

Diet culture is insidious for a myriad of reasons—

– it stigmatizes marginalized bodies 

– it can trigger feelings of shame (extremely problematic for mental well-being) 

– it can exasperate or glamourize disordered eating 

– it can create disordered eating patterns in children as they learn from our examples 

– it can promote social isolation 

– it can decrease our self-confidence and even our self-worth, equating our perception of value to external, unrealistic appearances that seem always out of reach 

– it can take take the joy away from an activity that must be done in order to survive 

… to name just a few.

You might be engaging in diet culture if you:

– promote or purchase “skinny” products, such as teas, wraps or products that promise weight loss

– compliment/praise others on weight loss

– feel that food must be earned, contingent on behaviours (e.g. exercise)

– allow the number on the scale determine your self-worth and mood 

– feel increased or decreased self-worth depending on your body shape or weight

– track your calories and macros (except when required for medical reasons, such as in diabetes and hypoglycaemia) 

– vent guilty feelings to others for “eating badly”

What is the difference between a healthy diet and “diet culture”?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and the fact that we cannot deny that nutrition and behaviour ARE linked. So it’s been a dance for me to strike that balance where I can support families and educate them, while also nurturing a healthy attitude about food. 

Because I’ve experienced first hand how can support so many supposed “disorders” through diet.  In my case, I was able to help my kids be ok in a noisy carnival environment, where previously would have had hands over their ears the whole time, and tantrums-a-plenty.  I could not visit relatives without my kids jumping on and off furniture.  I was often the recipient of hits, biting and hurtful words from my disregulated kids, who as it turned out, were struggling with undiagnosed celiac among other things. 

Because of our struggles, we lost friends and family and lived a chapter of our lives in self-imposed isolation.  To then see such a heavy burden be lifted off my children after a period of super focused intention, is an experience that changed me forever.  

The way I look at it is, for as much that needs to be reassessed with diet-culture, so do we need to look at all of the ways commercialism and consumerism glorify taking what was once food, and turning it into something that can sit on store shelves for years with billions spent on packaging and marketing and it’s own slew of psychological baggage. 

We can’t condemn diet culture and also support Nestlé and Coke.  

We need to acknowledge that while demonizing food groups can lead to serious issues, so too can blindly consuming what’s been fed to us for decades.  Both can lead to a shortened and unhappy life!  

So what’s the middle ground?!

That is what I’m trying to explore myself.  Even as a Master-certified Health Coach, I cannot deny that diet culture hasn’t had its fun with me at the expense of my own psyche.  Body dysmorphia has plagued me most of my life.
AND, going to far down the opposite end of the spectrum by sticking my head in the sand caused me to develop a multi-headed beast of problems. My own clusterf#* looked like anxiety and depression linked to leaky gut syndrome, adrenal fatigue and a histamine intolerance.  My husband with a family history of heart attack had high blood pressure, and my kids, well my last paragraph explains that one. 

After developing an obsession with what I ate in order to reclaim my own health, I had to overcome a newfound fear of certain foods. While my body and brain is wired in such a way that I am sensitive to what I eat, my quirky brain also requires a mindfulness practice to ensure I don’t go too far in any direction. I appreciate the many ebbs and flows of health and healing because they have occurred in my own physical and mental health as well.

So where do we go from here?

It means a lot to me to support others in moving towards improved nutrition so that they to, can take their lives back.  In my free DREAM support group I’ve made “Guides”, each one an evidence-based, scientifically-backed habit I recommend to have the greatest impact on your health. It’s your choice what you do or don’t do, and there is no condemnation if you can’t or won’t do any of them.  You can choose to simply look towards adding (abundance mindset), rather than taking (which can trigger a scarcity mindset) from your habit-list.  Some people hit a rock-bottom point like I had, when I got seriously scared about my kids becoming mother-less.  For them, the option to go all-in is available too. 

On top of Guides, there is also tons of recipes I’ve vetted to ensure they don’t contain any inflammatory ingredients, but are most importantly, extremely delicious. My goal is that eating is JOYFUL, colourful and feels abundant.  I work with a team of people with a variety of educational backgrounds also available to you in my Facebook group to answer your questions and meet you where you are at, with gratitude and respect.

I still think what I’ve created needs some work, and possibly diet-culture may rear its ugly head in my posts from time to time.  I’m still in process of unlearning.  So if and when it does, I’d love to discuss that, so that my feed may always be a safe, accessible and inspiring place for you to land. If you decide to work with me for individual or group coaching, you can be 100% sure I will NEVER encourage you to deprive yourself or use self-deprecating language. I am thankful to you for entrusting me with your health and your family’s health, and my goal is that you life a very long life filled with love.

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