Everyone has their moments when they look in the mirror and decide to go on a diet. Or maybe your friend comments on what you’re eating. It’s a universal feeling that can be hard to bat away.
When we are children, we look at models in magazines and compare. When we see our “prettier” friends, we compare. Things like diet culture tell us as a society what we shouldn’t and should look like.
We can change this narrative by realizing that “the perfect body” is a social construct created by the media to ostracize larger bodies.
Diet culture is everywhere we look: on signs driving down the highway, on benches, with girls shaming each other on the internet for eating at McDonald’s. It’s everywhere.
I believe something that slips most minds is that everyone is dominated by diet culture. Underweight people are considered to be “too small” and people who weigh more than the person next to them are labeled “lazy.”
There comes a point, as we fall down the rabbit hole of an ever-shrinking waistline, when we ask ourselves “When will it finally be enough?”
The health and fitness website Greatist states: “As a culture, we continue to equate thinness with wellness and weight loss with effort. Thin = healthy, fat = unhealthy. Losing weight = accomplishment, gaining weight = laziness.”
One study reports that at age 13, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17. This study also showed that 46% of 9- to 11-year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets. And 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
Consider two philosophies. An article on Best Health (besthealthmag.ca) gives steps to lose weight. Step 5 is “Sweat the small stuff.” The article states, “A free sample of pizza at the grocery store. A nibble of the cookies your colleague brought into work. A bite of your son’s grilled cheese sandwich at the diner. Yes, it may just be a taste here and there but the calories from those BLTs — bites, licks, and tastes — really do add up.”
Meanwhile, the website Wanderlust gives advice on how to love yourself to lose weight. No. 3 on its list is “forgive yourself.” The article states, “How can you expect to move forward in your life if you’re being weighed down by anger and resentment? It’s simple. You can’t. It’s time to forgive. Forgive yourself, and forgive others.”
These two approaches are completely different. One explains that every single nibble is terrible and the other explains how self-love is to forgive mistakes and learn from them. Beating yourself up over everything just causes resentment that leads to never being truly happy, even if you achieve your desired weight.
A healthy way to lose weight can be achieved in many ways, but this is the simplest way to put it: Learn to love yourself first. In a world that revolves around the internet’s perspectives on the body, we are taught to have flat stomachs, no double chin, clear skin and white teeth. We as a society fail to realize that social media are toxic mirrors, criticizing every flaw and anything “abnormal.”
Not only is self-love an important part of healthy weight loss, but what we put into our body can have a tremendous impact. Making a diet that works for every single person is impossible because everyone’s body works differently. So creating eating habits that work for you can take some experimenting.
A key point, though, is making sure your body is getting enough food. Being in high school, the temptation and desire to drop a meal or two out of your diet is increased and more common with young minds. In reality, skipping meals and starving yourself makes you gain weight.
The website Lifesum states, “Your body’s natural response to a decrease in food can lead to your body’s metabolism slowing so that your body can conserve energy. In the long run, this slowing metabolism can lead to weight gain.”
Instead of reducing the amount of food you eat, think about alternatives to the food you already eat. For example, attempt trading soda for sparkling water, or try tofu for the first time.
Even if you already have a healthy routine or if you simply do not strive for weight loss, it is always significant for all of us to work on self-love and what we put into our body. We’re all dominated by diet culture in some aspect or another. It’s our responsibility as a community to change the way we see each other. No one should be shamed or put down for their looks, and acknowledging that we are all different is the first step we can take in a positive direction.
Madison Gonce is in 10th grade at Solanco High School.