Psychology of Diet Culture: How Not to Fall for It?

Psychology of Diet Culture: How Not to Fall for It?

It's difficult not to get caught in the emerging trends in a society where we're constantly bombarded with information, especially when it comes to eating habits. Celebrity diets, social media before and after, fitness trends, weight reduction smoothies, diet pills, and the list goes on; all these things can ingrain in us a particular perspective on eating, leading to unhealthy habits. Nancy Sokarno, a psychologist at Lysn, explores the psychology of food culture and how it influences our eating patterns. Lysn is a digital mental health enterprise with world-class well-being technology that helps people locate the best professional psychologist for them while also providing access to online resources to assist them better their mental health. Diet culture is the idea that our physical appearance is more important than our mental or physical health. It's a culture that prioritises thinness, beauty, and shape over health and wellbeing while dieting towards weight loss. A person who is a part of a diet culture may place a greater focus on how they look or their body shape than on how healthy they are (on the inside and out). They may place a lot of pressure on themselves to restrict when and how much they eat, and this can often take precedence over nutrition. Eating can also be accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame, as well as food suppression or substitution for unhealthy eating habits.

From a young age, diet culture can expose people to a variety of detrimental terms and eating behaviours (usually to teach someone healthy habits about nutrition). While learning about diets and food restrictions is usually done to teach individuals about good behaviours, these teachings can become harmful and persistent as people become older. If we have an unhealthy relationship with food, diet culture can become our go-to whether we're calculating calories or keeping track of our weight. While the goal of diet culture is usually to lose weight, it can regrettably lead to several unhealthy practices and unfavourable perspectives among those who participate (as well as those that might be observing these habits such as children). Diet culture frequently promotes eating guilt and shame, as well as body prejudice and disordered eating. Diet culture can also contribute to orthorexia, a condition in which an individual has an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy foods. Worse, it can result in a variety of eating disorders, including bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia.

To begin, let's start small to prevent diet culture. Taking steps such as removing the labels of "good" and "bad" when it comes to food can help to improve public opinion of specific foods. 'Good' food may not be good for everyone, and the same is true for 'bad' food. The good news is that food terminology is beginning to shift, particularly when it comes to early childhood education. Young people are increasingly educated about nutrition using terms like "daily food" (healthy food) and "occasional food" (which can refer to foods lacking in nutritional value). These terms better represent our possibilities and can assist to relieve some of the guilt that people may feel later.

Second, we could consider where the judgements of these foods originate from. Have we been indoctrinated to hold these ideas, or have we conducted our research into what works best for us? Focusing on our overall diet with nutritional value in mind, and identifying what makes us feel well in terms of energy, physicality, and mentality could assist in a better understanding of our diet. To guarantee that we nourish our body rather than restricting what we believe to be negative, setting intentions around our choices and leaning into foods that have real value could help. Rather than succumbing to a set of constraints, banking the accomplishments of picking the alternative that will energise us would be appreciated. We could also avoid being exposed to diet culture by unfollowing someone who promotes behaviours on social media or respectfully asking a friend to minimise how much they talk about dietary habits when we're talking. Also, we could be cautious about how we speak about food and weight reduction in front of kids or vulnerable people. We could allow for some balance in our overall diet after that. We could also remind ourselves that 'occasional' meals are fine as long as they are consumed in moderation. In the end, it is our habits and routines that determine our health state, not our weight.

As a result, stringent limitations could be avoided because they might lead to other undesirable habits such as binge eating or eating disorders. It's fine to be careful of our choices and set limits on our consumption as long as we have a healthy balance of what we can and can't eat. It's crucial to work on our food impressions because it's less about the meals we eat (and more about how we perceive the outcome around consuming them). We all need balance; our lives are never divided in half. We could always allow ourselves to enjoy ourselves while also ensuring that we treat ourselves with respect and compassion. 

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Psychologs Magazine

India's First Psychology Magazine 

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