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What Is Diet Culture?

I use the term diet culture often when I write or speak lately. I'm new at the non-diet HAES approach (in the past year) and still defining my own voice for advocacy and activism.



I didn't create the term Diet Culture and I cannot be 100% certain of the original creator however I believe it was Christy Harrison MPH, RD, CDN who is a non diet and Health at Every Size (HAES) expert.


Her definition of ‘diet culture’ has been widely quoted and referenced. She says:


“Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

  • Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”

  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.

  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.

  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.”




The single most important take away from my education and learning around diet culture, HAES and non diet is this:

"In a world that condemns bodies who do not fit the ideal, it is not the individuals responsibility to feel good in this world. It is our responsibility as a collective to change the culture." - Renee Little, RD

In saying this it doesn't mean that you should not or cannot work on feeling better in your body every single day. You can! But I believe it's not enough for someone to simply "work on how they feel" when society doesn't fully support their bodies. It's essential to shift the culture and make our world safe and supportive of all bodies.