Diet culture is rife in our everyday lives. Whether it’s in magazines, adverts and social media, or even on the food packaging itself. What we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ eat is everywhere.
Fitness and food bloggers and social influencers are on the rise. Yet so is obesity, with recent findings suggesting that Britain is now the most obese nation in Western Europe (63% of UK adults being overweight).
Why are obesity rates rising, despite there also being a huge surge in wellness, fitness and health-related content?
Are we fighting against what we’re being told, due to the sheer volume of information?
How do we know whether we have a healthy relationship with food, or if we’re falling victim to negative diet culture?
There is so much information available, and much of it conflicting. It’s understandable that the topic of health and diet can be overwhelming when advice seemingly changes every week.
The thing to remember is that your journey is exactly that, it is yours.
Diet culture is thought to be having a massive effect on our emotional relationships with food. Social media shows us amazing meals, often accompanied with a caption or comment on the nutritional benefits (or lack of). Whether it’s a labelling foods as ‘naughty’ or ‘cheat meals’, or even promoting ‘healthy’ alternatives with gluten-free, sugar free options.
Supermarket aisles are filled with ‘free from’ and ‘low fat’ products, while magazines, TV and celebrities continue to promote quick diets and comment on anyone that doesn’t have a flat stomach.
Frankly, it’s no wonder our relationships with food (and ourselves) are taking the hit. How do we know what’s right for us, really, when everyone else is telling us we’re wrong? How can we love ourselves for who we are, and make healthy changes for us, if the world is telling us that we’re not good enough?
Here’s our guide to navigating diet culture, and rebuilding your relationship with food.
First, recognise your relationship with food
Most people know that really, the best way to get (and remain) healthy is a balanced diet and regular exercise. Quick-fix diets don’t exist, and yet many of us will adopt an intense, ‘lose weight quickly’ style diet in desperation. You may give yourself ‘treat’ or ‘cheat’ foods, only to feel guilty afterwards. Perhaps you check the back of food packagings for calories. Maybe you binge on your favourite foods until you feel sick, or you turn to food for comfort, despite it making you feel worse.
Food, once essential for survival and well, enjoyment, is now feared by many. There’s nothing wrong with having a chocolate bar every now and then, or a glass of wine or two with dinner. What is wrong however, is being overcome with guilt for having what you want.
Of course, it’s about balance – eating cake and drinking alcohol every day isn’t healthy just because you have no guilt – moderation is key!
When it comes to having a healthy relationship with food, it’s really about your relationship with yourself. Often there are underlying issues to problems with food, whether it be a result of low self-confidence and self-love, or a past experience affecting how you think.
If you’re worried about your relationship with food and diets, consider speaking to someone. This can be a friend or family member, or even a professional – like a nutritionist. If they suspect there are some underlying issues that first need to be resolved in order to change your outlook on food, they may refer you to a counsellor or even a hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapy can help you change your negative thoughts and behaviours towards food, helping you to focus on the path ahead. If there are issues holding you back, further support may be helpful. You don’t have to do it alone – it’s OK to need help.
Know how to cope with the facts / information
If you know that things need to change but you have no idea where to start, that’s OK. Take your time and read as much as you can. There is a lot of conflicting information available, so ensure you look at reputable websites, such as the NHS, and make up your own mind on certain topics.
Health and fitness while essential, is totally unique. What your body needs will differ from others, so sometimes your own opinion is what counts.
And try not to take notice of the quick-fix articles in most magazines, and any detox, fat-burning teas or supplements. They can be very dangerous and often aren’t professional-approved.
For more information on what makes a balanced diet and support in changing your own, consider seeking professional help. Speaking to a nutrition professional can help you understand what makes a balanced diet, and they can work with you to create a personalised plan, tailored to you and your lifestyle (forget cutting out any food groups!).
Take the first steps to change
Like diets, there are no quick-fixes when it comes to changing your lifestyle and relationship with food. It takes time. Introduce changes slowly, like walking to work or swapping your bacon sandwich for porridge and fruit. Day by day, these changes will become a part of your routine and you’ll feel more confident in your choices.
Talk to people and discuss what’s going on. We all have an opinion on food and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and openly talking about it can help you make your own decisions.
It’s not easy, but over time it does become more manageable. For more ideas on how to find a balance with food, visit our recent news section.