Coping with diet culture & the pressure to have a “bikini body”

T/W This article includes references to eating disorders.

Hiya! I’m Louisa (she/her) and I’m 19 years old. I’m currently an undergraduate psychology student, and I’m hoping to become a clinical psychologist in the future.

Coping with diet culture

Diet culture has been around as early as Ancient Greek society, with the first book on dieting being released in 1558, during the Renaissance! However, modern diet culture as we know it first came into play in the 1800s.

Despite it being around for such a long time, the pressure to lose weight and look a certain way has literally done absolutely nothing beneficial for anyone. Time and time again, it’s created unattainable standards of body image, and incredibly unhealthy relationships with food. Diet culture has created so many issues for thousands of people across the globe, and it’s vital that we stop promoting it.  

The pressure to diet 

Every single year, during the countdown to the beginning of the summer months, all anyone seems to talk about is their new diet so that they can become ‘bikini-body ready.” There’s actually a *really* simple way to get a bikini body, and all you need to do is put a bikini on!

The pressure to conform to these expectations of restriction can be really overwhelming at this time of year, as we’re constantly reminded of it. It’s on the radio, social media, and there always seems to be some new miracle dieting product that everyone’s talking about. In this article, I’m going to share with you some tips on why you should avoid diet talk, how to avoid diet talk, and how to tell others that their comments on dieting are unhelpful. 

Why should I avoid diet talk?

  • It can trigger people with eating disorders, which could cause relapses. 
  • Diet talk can increase the likelihood of someone developing an eating disorder, which is a life threatening illness. 
  • It can heavily affect young children, especially if these comments are coming from a role model. This can affect their perception of food for life. 
  • It can make people feel like they need to cover up or shrink their body, and no one deserves to feel that way about themselves. 
  • It could negatively affect absolutely anyone who’s around you, even if you are only directing the comments at yourself. 
  • It teaches people that there are “good” and “bad” foods, which isn’t true at all. 
  • When complimenting someone on their weight loss, you could actually be complimenting someone on their eating disorder, depression, grief, illness, etc.  

How do I avoid diet talk?

  • Try to remove yourself from the situation when diets are bought up. 
  • Explain to others why diet talk is harmful. 
  • Attempt to change the subject to something more positive. 
  • Never comment on your own food choices or other people’s food choices negatively. 
  • Similarly, don’t comment on your body shape, or anyone else’s body shape.  
  • Remove terms like “cheat day” from your vocabulary.
  • Don’t label foods as bad or good, and don’t call yourself “naughty” when eating something that isn’t conventionally healthy.

How to tell someone that their comments on dieting are unhelpful: 

  • “I’m trying to heal my relationship with food and my body, and I’m finding your comments unhelpful”. 
  • “I’d prefer it if you didn’t talk about your diet when around me, as it makes me think negatively about myself”.
  • “I don’t want to change my body, so I don’t want to participate in this diet/exercise”.
  • “We don’t need to change our bodies for the summer. If dieting makes you feel good and happy, then I don’t mind if you do it, but it’s not something I want to participate in”. 
  • “I have a bad relationship with my body, and I’m trying to love it the way that it is. I need to change my mindset to do this, and not my body”. 
  • “I’m trying not to engage in diet talk as I find it unhelpful, so I’d rather we change the subject”. 

I spent so much time trying to shrink myself, and because of it, I missed out on so much. It’s not worth it. You were not put on this earth to spend your life trying to conform to society’s idea of the perfect body. You will never be able to live a full life when you’re restricting and spending all your time thinking about food.

Life isn’t about being small or fitting into a one-size-fits-all mould. Food restriction is not praise-worthy, and attaining a smaller body will not make you happier at all. You are worth so much more than your body, the food you eat, and the way you look. Your body size doesn’t equate to your worth as an individual. The best thing you can do is to give yourself unconditional permission to fuel your body. 

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By Holly Turner

Updated on 05-Sep-2022

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