OPINION: Diet culture is toxic

Kristen Brainard 

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     In the age of social media like TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, it is common to see all different body types and compare yourself to others. It does not help that photoshop and filters exist to create unrealistic images of our bodies and lives.  

     Social media can cause people to compare themselves to others and think that a diet is the way to look like models and celebrities. The word “diet” makes my skin crawl.   

     Diets like keto, juice cleanses and Beachbody can increase your vegetable intake and help you get nutrients in your meals, but they will not help you in the long run with confidence and body positivity.  

     Jesie Steffes, a licensed professional counselor at the UCCS Wellness Center, said, “Diet culture is a framework of beliefs that elevates and prioritizes appearance — specifically thinness and ‘ideal shape’ over wellbeing and health.”  

     Steffes works with UCCS students on body reclamation and body respect. Her goal is to help her clients gain a positive and mindful relationship with their food intake and bodies. 

     I, myself, have tried dieting. I went 30 days without sugar, carbs, soda, salt and all the works. Sure, I liked the way I looked, but I craved the old food I was eating before my diet more than anything. Eventually, I went back to how I was eating before.  

     Therefore, I feel diets are not sustainable and healthy eating should be done in a better way.  

     Steffes said, “Diets just don’t work. We know that intentional effort to lose weight through dieting fails 95% of the time. What results is negative body dissatisfaction and negative impression of self and our body and weight gain.” 

     Diets can also lead to more serious negative relationships with food. Diets have a strong correlation to issues like body dysmorphia, disordered eating or even eating disorders. If I had any say in society, I would completely rid the world of the terms “diet” and “lifestyle changes.” 

     “All foods can exist in a healthy relationship for food, there’s no need to limit your foods to live a healthy life,” Steffes said.  

     If you are struggling or experiencing body image issues, the Wellness Center offers a positive body image group and an eating disorder support group. The Wellness Center also has nutrition coaches who can help students with questions on nutrition and food intake. 

     There are also resources for those who may be struggling with disordered eating. The National Eating Disorders helpline number is 1-800-931-2237, and the Hopeline Network can be reached at 1-800-442-4673. 

     In a culture that highlights models, photoshop and self-comparison, try to resist the pressures of dieting. Choose resources like those at the Wellness Center to cater your everyday foods to maximize nutrients. Never compare yourself to someone else, because all bodies are beautiful.