Diet culture, the predator that’s hiding in New Year’s resolutions


The New Year. A time for fresh starts, personal growth and of course, resolutions. New Year’s resolutions revolve around looking back at the previous year and seeing where you could improve. For some, that’s trying to not procrastinate, drink more water or to not drink as much Dr. Pepper (yes, I said it). For many though, it means trying to get to the gym more, eat healthier, or even losing some weight. In fact, according to NPR, more than half of resolutions in 2021 had to do with fitness; specifically weight loss of some kind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to develop fitness or healthier habits, but an unforgiving predator hides within these resolutions: diet culture.

What is diet culture?

Diet culture, as a general definition, is a set of societal expectations that tells people (especially women) that there is a certain way one should look, how one should eat, and that one is ultimately unworthy if they fail to adhere to these standards. “Women are always held to a more perfect physical standard,” Athletic Trainer Mrs. Melissa Brusnahan said. “Media in general has always portrayed women in a particular, physically acceptable vision. So, young girls and women try to model that. It’s gotten better over the last 10-ish years, but the media still puts a ton of pressure to look a certain way.”

The physical and mental effects of diet culture

Diet culture is unforgiving in that it can attack the mental and physical state of the body. Physical Education teacher Mrs. Beth Dye describes it as a “roller coaster” going up and down. 

“That’s a great point,” Brusnahan said. “You feel great because you lost 10 pounds and then you gain five back, so you feel awful,” she said as an example. The physical roller coaster then becomes a mental roller coaster.

“The mental strain that it puts on you… your body is a whole mind, body, spirit. All three of those are interconnected and when one of them is out of whack, the others are too,” Dye said.

Revising resolutions stemming from diet culture

Making resolutions and keeping them can be hard enough. Revising those same resolutions and trying to keep them might seem harder, but it could be better in the long run of a year. “I think you have got to be realistic with the goals you’re setting,” Dye said. Find what works best and roll with it.

“Yeah, and acknowledge that you’re gonna have plateaus and ups and downs. Don’t give up,” Brusnahan said. “If that’s working out three times a week and eating right, but then you fall off, start back up on it again. Even if it ends up being once a week, you’re doing something consistently.” 

The predator can become prey

Resolutions are a great way to reflect and take action on what can be done for self-improvement. However, it’s societal expectations like diet culture that can make these resolutions less than helpful. Regardless of what your resolution may be, truly make it your own. 

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