What does the word 'diet' mean to you?
Unfortunately, whilst once, a diet described a positive movement and involved the introduction of healthy food choices, strategically planned workout routines and positive lifestyle changes, we fear that the words 'diet' and 'weight loss' have been altered by the rise of social media, appearance ideals and unrealistic expectations – and this is something we want to change.
Here at Innermost, we think of diets as a positive health choice that describes the decision to monitor your food and drink intake, with the aim of increasing your wellbeing, energy and self-love levels - not necessarily to lose weight, but just to be an overall happier, healthier version of yourself.
Whilst scientifically, ensuring you are in a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight healthily (if that is your goal) – quick-fix diet techniques and body image issues have brought a grey cloud over the health-conscious subject. It’s not hard to see why people get carried away with highly restrictive diets in order to lose weight quickly due to societal ideals, arguably introduced by social media, but it’s something that is quickly changing the dieting culture for the worst.
What are the consequences of this?
This has meant that people are equating dieting with solely losing weight, and as a result, their self-worth with their ability to achieve weight loss. These changes have brought a whole new meaning to the connotations around the action of dieting, and arguably bringing ‘dirty’ connotations to the term ‘weight loss’.
Unfortunately, many people have begun to equate their self-worth with their outward appearance, holding the view that if their appearance does not match those of societal beauty standards, aka, they aren’t slim enough, that they aren’t good or successful enough. Often, this perpetuates the idea that weighing less or becoming thinner is the key to success and loving yourself – an ideology that has contributed to this hijacked diet ideology and the toxic diet culture and negative stereotypes surrounding weight loss.
Being thin doesn’t automatically mean you are healthy, and being overweight doesn’t mean you are automatically unhealthy – but these consequences have been noted and drastic movements to address the effects of this diet culture have become hugely popular. Now, if you were to state that you were going on a diet, you’d probably be met with instant exclamations of “You don’t need to be dieting!” or something along the lines of “I’d never be dieting if I looked like you” – even if you could benefit from going on a diet for health and wellbeing reasons alone.
Think about it. If you were to bring the topic of 'dieting' up in the office, instantly people assume you mean that you want to lose weight. Ask for dieting advice and cue the weight loss plans and techniques that your Mum's friend's co-worker's girlfriend absolutely swears by, and before you know it you've given up every carbohydrate and sweet treat – even if that wasn’t the goal of your diet in the first place.
What does this tell us about attitudes towards dieting? Are we so programmed to view a diet as solely a way to reduce our weight, and so scared of offending someone when it comes to their weight, that we would rather avoid the topic or give an encouraging comment than ensure someone is living a healthy lifestyle?
But, shouldn’t we love the skin we're in?
The body positive movement – first noted in the 1960s, has recently seen a huge rise. Born out of challenging societal views and values about body shapes, types, and sizes, the aim of the movement is to promote acceptance of these variations. In the twenty-first century, the body positivity movement is greater than ever. With our social media feeds flooded with a range of body types: short and tall, big and small, it can sometimes be a minefield of a topic to navigate, in fear of saying the 'wrong' thing when it comes to weight, and more specifically: weight loss, as a result of people’s possible body image issues.
So, where’s the balance?
The rise in the prevalence of this movement can be largely attributed to Instagram, due to the platform this medium provides to high profile individuals, brands and influencers. Three-times Grammy award-winning artist and global superstar Lizzo is a great advocate for loving the skin you’re in. Whilst it’s great that women like Lizzo with a huge platform are advocating for self-love and acceptance – many argue that those that are clinically overweight or even obese should not be promoting the message that they are living a healthy lifestyle – as if they were exercising and eating healthy – would they be overweight?
Similarly, health and beauty magazine Cosmopolitan put American plus-sized model Tess Holiday on their front cover, only to receive huge backlash. Whilst many stated that it was irresponsible to promote this obesity with the risks this takes on your health, others came to the magazines defence, stating that in this day and age, this kind of body positivity is necessary to avoid body image issues. It has been argued that this movement has evolved in a way that promotes somewhat unhealthy lifestyles, in fear of causing offence or discrimination to those that are not typically viewed to have a ‘healthy’ body type.
So, what now?
Whilst body positive movements such as Tess Holliday’s #EffYourBeautyStandards are most likely all over your social media pages, it is sometimes hard to find the balance between empowerment and noting your genuine health concerns due to the taboos of weight loss and dieting, in fear of offending someone or perhaps coming across discriminatory.
Whilst someone may be wanting to make a positive change, immediately dieting is considered negatively. This clash of mentalities can often lead to some pretty controversial and probably awkward conversations. This means it’s really important that we ensure that we do not view going on a diet as being seen to feel bad about yourself. It’s time to take back the words ‘weight loss’ and ‘diet’.
You don't just go on a diet to achieve weight loss - but if that's why you are embarking on one, that's okay too.
These aren’t dirty words, just intimidating ones. It’s time to push awkwardness aside and have serious conversations about our health and well-being, promoting healthy weight loss and positive body image. The key here is to remember you can be unhealthy at any weight, and so making positive, considered changes to our diets to improve our health, immunity, energy levels and body should be seen as a good thing. We need to shift our ideologies – both personally and as a society, to support this view.
True empowerment and body positivity is the freedom to choose whether we want to lose weight, whether we want to diet, and for what reasons. Not everyone needs to lose weight, but some people do to improve their health – and that is perfectly okay, and nothing to be embarrassed about. Life is all about bettering ourselves.
Let’s take away all the stigma around diets and celebrate changes to improve our wellbeing and health. Let’s be a positive voice, and encourage positive changes. Obesity is a huge medical problem that the nation faces, and in order to positively change this issue – harmful rhetoric surrounding dieting and weight loss need to be eradicated and discouraged. It’s time to replace these ideologies in favour of mindful eating practices and incorporating health products that encourage positive improvements in your life. Look for positive influences in your life and make the change.