Diet Culture + Bikini Bodies
I think we’d all be lying if we said we’ve never compared ourselves to others, whether it be positive or negative. But let’s be honest most of the time it’s negative and directed right at ourselves. Let’s say someone walking across the street from you has long, gazelle-like legs and you’ve always wanted long, gazelle-like legs. You automatically notice what she has and you don’t and you may even automatically hate her for it. But you don’t even know her and you don’t actually hate her. You hate yourself for not having what she has. And guess what- she could be thinking the exact same thing about you aka you have a quality or attribute about yourself that she wishes she had. We’re so wired and adapted to this mentality, we do it without flinching or skipping a beat. It just happens. We’re programmed to find our faults and constantly compare ourselves to others fueling jealousy, envy, resentment, superiority. Emotions we don’t mean to feel, they just bubble to the surface. And we find ourselves thinking, I will do anything to change my body. And that right there, ladies and gents, is DIET CULTURE!
Now you know I’m not talking about liking someone’s hair color and giving them a compliment and thinking to yourself “wow I love her hair so much, she’s cool.” There’s a difference between appreciating qualities and attributes in someone else and noticing their differences in a positive way versus COMPARING yourself negatively to others based on society’s beauty ideal.
Now let’s talk about the beauty ideal. The beauty ideal has changed over time depending on what society and diet/weight loss companies are deeming “beautiful” at that time. This goes for men and women. Magazines, social media, TV, etc. play off of this beauty ideal and drill it into your brain that you have to look exactly like these people portrayed- despite the fact they might be heavily edited or only represent a small percentage of the population. Diet companies promote crazy products from food to pills to patches (that aren’t regulated by the way) that promise to help you shed weight to make you feel your best and look your best. They make you feel like you HAVE to lose weight, (even if you don’t even need to, want to, etc) that you’re current body isn’t good enough. Even if that means pushing your body to a dangerous, unattainable state. It’s affecting people of all ages- yes kids too because they see advertisements on TV, they watch their parents try crazy diets or talk negatively about their body, so they’re being conditioned to it somewhat and exposed to that mindset.
Diet culture LOVES to play off our emotions, tug at our heartstrings- make us feel ashamed for our current body and guilty for not taking it the extra mile to change it. So we give in. We diet like crazy leaving our body malnourished, exercise our asses off until we overwork our body and run into adrenal fatigue, try sketchy pills or laxatives, count calories, count points, and have extremely high standards, expecting to lose ten pounds in one week. Diet culture loves bikini body season. Why? Because we’re already all programmed to compare ourselves to others, so companies use that to plaster models in bikinis all over the place so we’re ready to feel guilty and disgusted with ourselves and spend hundreds of dollars on the quickest diet fix.
Now back up- disclaimer. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to look good in a bikini or exercising/eating healthy to tone up or lose some weight- it’s when your intentions and mindset are paralleling diet culture/engaging in unhealthy behaviors it gets sticky. BUT all bodies are bikini bodies. Plus, nothing wrong with the model’s bodies. They are beautiful, too. But again, I disagree with how companies use their bodies to manipulate the public and just drive in profits for diets and weight loss.
We’re fighting against diet culture for many reasons- one, because life’s too short to be worrying about our bodies. At the end of the day, our bodies are in a constant state of change and we all have unique bodies. Everyone is different and gifted with unique qualities that you get to call your own. So why fight it? You’ll just be miserable, trust me. When I was at my lowest weight and very sick, I was in the darkest place. I was the unhappiest I had ever been. So no, skinny doesn't equal happiness. I know, I’ve been there. Just take my word for it. Two- diet culture is directly related to our rise in mental illness, especially eating disorders and disordered eating. It’s a slippery slope and an easy one to find yourself at the very bottom, very quickly. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (15-20%). Plus, we’re seeing kids each year, younger and younger, develop disordered eating and eating disorders. Like I’m talking seven, eight years old. I can tell you I was NOT thinking about my body at that age, and it gives me such a knot in my stomach thinking about kids that should be running around worrying about where their roller blades are, are instead already starting to believe they are “fat” and need to look like someone they see on TV.
With so much knowledge about diet culture, eating disorders, diet and weight loss companies, we have the opportunity and resources to fight back- to educate people about the reality of it all. To make it known that ALL BODIES ARE BIKINI BODIES. And how do you get a bikini body? You put on a bathing suit. Done. That’s it. I could ramble on and on about diet culture, but at the end of the day it’s so much more rewarding to love the body you have and appreciate it’s uniqueness and all it can do.
You can’t tell if someone is healthy or unhealthy just by looking at them. Fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, body-shaming- it’s all the same. We need to stop the judgement, comparisons and shaming. Your body is your home and diet culture doesn’t get to come in and rob you of that.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.