Tackling the pressures of diet culture this New Year


Emma McGreevy (she/her) offers her advice for breaking up with diet culture and it’s expectations

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Image by Solod Sha, Pexels

By Emma McGreevy

Happy new year! For most, a New Year comes with a new set of resolutions. ‘Finder’s’ recent survey found that “58 percent of the UK population will make a NewYear’s resolution in 2023” which equates “to 30million British adults.” Although resolutions can be positive and a productive way to start the new year, one of the negatives that a large proportion of the population faces is expectations from diet culture. January is the prime time for diet companies to advertise their newest products in order to capitalise on such expectations that are propelled onto us through social media and generational prejudices. They are so ingrained that often the decision to put ‘lose weight’ or 'get into shape’ on to our New Year Resolutions list is second nature. This should not be the case. Intuitive eating dietitian and author of ‘Anti-diet’ and the ‘Wellness trap’ Christy Harrison stated that ‘weight cycling’ (periods of weight loss and regain, also known as ‘yo-yo dieting’), “have negative mental and physical-health effects’’, being linked to “binge-eating, higher mortality, loss of muscle tissue, diabetes”. Harrison believes that “weight cycling is likely to pose a serious threat to the well-being of millions of people (especially those who are trying to lose weight).”

Diet culture imposed upon us by the media thrives on personal insecurities and societal pressures that force people into following new ‘fads’ and subscribing to the most ‘in’ way to look. One minute we are told ‘tiny waists’ and ‘big bums’ are in, the next it’s a horrific article in the NewYork Post stating “Bye-bye booty: heroin chic is back”. It is impossible to live up to the standards the media endorse and so this January, if you’re considering trying the newest form of dieting, take back your freedom and hop off the diet train. Obviously, that’s a lot easier said than done. It’s hard to move away from diet culture especially if it has been an impactful factor in your life. We are faced with dieting messages from all corners of our lives and so it’s not always as easy as saying you no longer care about them. This article is to help you on your journey to saying no and meaning no. Below are some thoughts and tips to help you face the new year pressures and to kick diet coercion messages out of your life for good.

Curate your perfect Instagram, TikTok and Twitter feeds: There’s no doubt, social media is one of the best ways to stay in contact with friends and family. We are living in a time where it has never been easier to reconnect with people and make new connections all over the world. However, social media is also one of the worst places for being bombarded with unrealistic expectations of what you and your life should look like. To try and combat this, take some time to go through your following list and unfollow any page that isn’t bringing you joy and positive messages. Some of my favourite positivity influencers are Megan Jayne Crabbe, Kelvin Davis, Jameela Jamil and Wearefeelgoodclub.

Do Veganuary for the right reasons: According to the ‘Veganuary’ website, taking part in Veganuary can be a great way to do our part in “better protecting animals, reduce the impact on our planet (climate breakdown, deforestation, pollution, and wildlife decimation) and improve our health”.These three reasons are all very important and so if you are doing or have done Veganuary then brilliant. However, there is a stigma and negative message surrounding Veganism from diet culture that encourages it as a form of weight loss. If this is your main reason for doing Veganuary, it may not be the best option for you. Checkout our features piece on Veganuary to find out tips and tricks for doing it the right way.

Movement: Exploring different forms of movement and working out what makes you feel good is liberating. No longer feeling tied to the treadmill and instead taking a dance class, yoga class, home pilates, rock climbing, swimming - or whatever it is that makes you happy - is an incredible feeling. Moving your body should be a stress reliever, not something you dread. Take some time this January to try new forms of movement and allow yourself the space to give anything a go. I highly recommend Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube if you are interested in yoga for all levels.

Feel good foods: Instead of focusing on cutting out certain foods, find those that make your body feel good and give you energy. Scientist Tim Spector believes that “diversity is crucial to warding off infections, combating age-related diseases, and maintaining a healthy weight.” As well as this, avoid labelling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Intuitively eating and having all types of food in moderation is the key to a happy, healthy lifestyle. It may take some time to get used to, but once you start trusting your body and its queues again you will be free to live your authentic self. Although it may be tricky at first and a bit out of your comfort zone, taking the steps to ending your relationship with diet culture is freeing. Remember food is fuel and part of some of life’s best experiences. Don’t let some silly money-hungry diet companies hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest