As A Psychologist, These Are The Problems I See With 'Diet Culture'
If you’ve spent any time in a mommy Facebook group recently, you’ve probably seen the posts:
“Help, I can’t seem to lose the baby weight! What’s the best diet to drop the pounds fast!”
“I can’t curb my sugar cravings, please give me leads for the best sugar detox plans on the market.”
“Need to drop 15 lbs in the next 2 weeks! Give me your best tips.”
Almost every week brings a new crop of posts. But it’s not the posts in and of themselves that are so troubling. It’s the responses. Hundreds upon hundreds of women coming out of the woodworks with tips on cleanses, potions, and diet plans they’ve used themselves, not to mention the ones selling magical body transformations through direct sales products and multi level marketing plans.
It is clear: body positivity has not reached the mommy realm. Diet culture runs rampant and, as a psychologist specializing in eating disorders, I find this scary AF. Here is why:
A mother’s concern about her own weight increases the risk of dieting, disordered eating, eating disorders, and body image dissatisfaction in her children. Our kids are like little sponges, even when we think that they aren’t listening, they are. The little buggers are soaking up every little thing we say and do, including the ways we relate to ourselves and our bodies. Eating disorders in young children are rising at alarming rates. In the past 20 years, eating disorders in children under 12 years old increased nearly 120%. Almost half of all preschool girls (aged 3-6 years old) are worried about being fat. These stats only get worse as they get older; 80% of 10 year-old girls fear becoming fat. Is this really what we want to be filling our children’s minds?
As adults, 97% of women report at least one body hating thought each day. 91% feel unhappy with their bodies. More than half of all women diet.
We are products of our culture; one that normalizes body hatred and teaches us that the golden path to health, happiness, and everything good in life is paved with diet pills, juice cleanses, and boutique fitness classes. When a mom posts seeking weight-loss tips, harming her child is probably the furthest thing from her mind. She is in distress and believes that changing her body will help her feel better. These posts are a manifestation of the ways that women are taught that our value is in our appearance and smaller is always better. The weight loss industry makes more than $68 billion each year selling us the idea that our bodies are broken objects that need to be mended, manipulated, and sculpted into an unattainable vision of perfection.
It takes a village. This is the motto that mom groups evolved around and I think it holds true in how we are going to break the cycle of body-hatred from continuing to be passed down through the generations.
The next time a mom posts asking for diet tips, rather than hundreds of responses with the latest fad diets, beach body programs, or detox plans, what would it be like if she were bombarded with messages of self-love? Reminders that her body is not broken; it’s our culture that needs fixing. Resources on body positivity, body confidence, and empowering messages to move away from ineffective and harmful diet plans. It’s up to us to make the world a better place for our children. And that means allowing them to experience freedom from the body-hatred that plagues most of us.
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