You might be asking - what IS diet culture? Diet culture doesn’t just mean “being on a diet” - you don’t have to follow any sort of official diet to be caught up in the culture of dieting.
So WHAT IS DIET CULTURE?
- Diet culture is a society that places value on being a certain body size, weight, and shape.
- Diet culture promotes the false notion that health and fitness equates to thinness or a certain “aesthetic” (e.g. #strongnotskinny).
- Diet culture oppresses those who don't fit within its “ideal” - whether that’s in relation to body size, weight, health, exercise or eating habits.
Diet culture has worked its way into the fitness world by veiling weight loss, leanness and body aesthetics under the guise of fitness and strength. The way that fitness is currently marketed equates only an “ideal” thin body with fitness, health, strength, and confidence. If we don’t look like the aspirational thin ideal, fitness culture encourages us to exercise to lose weight or achieve an aesthetic.
work it with mg's non-diet approach
At Work It with MG, we are a part of a wide ranging community of nutritionists, dietitians, personal trainers, strength coaches, doctors, nurses, scientists and researchers who have considered the evidence surrounding the billion dollar diet industry: that diets don’t work, and that the so-called “war on obesity” has resulted in food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders and discrimination.
Work It with MG is working to fight diet culture in fitness in three key ways:
1. Decoupling fitness from thinness and exercise from weight loss and aesthetics
Being fit and strong shouldn't be equated only with weight loss or aesthetics. Our Work It with MG fitness app doesn't focus on changing your body. In fact, it’s one of the few workout apps that doesn’t focus on weight loss, or “progress” photos, or restrictive ways of eating. It doesn’t imply (like the way most fitness programs are marketed) that you need to go on a diet or try to change your body to be fit, to be strong, or to be confident.
Instead, we focus on how working out makes you feel, the health benefits that come from working out, that sense of autonomy and accomplishment, and the mastery that comes from working out consistently.
It means that you have the freedom to make your own rules as to what your fitness goals are and what fitness means to you! It’s about moving your body, your way. And most importantly, it’s about knowing that you’re enough, just as you are.
2. Refusing to equate health with body weight or size
In diet culture, a premium is placed on being "healthy" and the pursuit of health. Diet culture equates health with thinness, and equates unhealthiness with fatness. Let's unpack the ideas about health and fat bodies inherent in this belief:
- The belief that being fat equates to being unhealthy: being fat is not a prerequisite for being unhealthy, and if you are unhealthy it doesn’t automatically make you fat.
- A moral value is assigned to fatness and and to health (there’s the implication that being fat or being unhealthy equates to a moral failing, or is "bad"): this belief elevates some kinds of bodies over others - only the "good", "compliant", "healthy" ones are considered worthy.
- - Health is seen as a personal obligation: there is the belief under diet culture that a person’s health is under their control, and that health can be achieved primarily through modification of life styles. This completely ignores what we know about the social determinants of health (which includes social circumstances, genetics, medical care and the physical environment) and that health behaviours, like diet and exercise, account for less than a quarter of differences in health outcomes between groups.
Equating health with body weight or size and viewing health as a moral obligation that is the responsibility of the individual (i.e. healthism) makes many people's lives intolerable or untenable - from bias in health care, to body shaming and harassment, to discrimination in employment.
All bodies deserve to be treated with respect and care. All bodies are valuable and have worth.
- 3. Making fitness and movement accessible for everybody
We are passionate in the belief that movement is for everybody. Participating in fitness and movement isn’t only for those who fit an aesthetic “ideal” or who want to lose weight.
Fitness is for EVERY body - no matter what your goals are, or what you look like, you should be able to participate in fitness if you want to (and are able to).
We encourage you to think about how fitness fits for you - what fits for your life, what it looks like for your body and your health.
We promote diversity and inclusiveness within our community, and we have a “Pay What You Can” option for the Work It with MG app to help make fitness more affordable and accessible for all.
I would love to have you join us on the Work It with MG app - where you can learn how to break up with diet culture, connect with your body through movement and eating food that delights all whilst cultivating body acceptance and self-love.
Love, Maddy xx