The logic of diet is one of the main reasons for our dysfunctional relationship with food. The stereotypes about the body, eating disorders, fat phobia have to do with it
Today is No Diet Day, a day established on May 6, 1992 by Mary Evans Young, an activist who, after suffering from anorexia, decided to create a day whose purpose was to sensitize people to reject the diet culture. , which revolutionized the concept. health and promote acceptance of all bodies.
Google search for “no diet day” pops up several sites in Italian that mistakenly present this day as a moment where you can “pamper” what you want without thinking about diet and to “go overboard” in terms of for daily nutrition. These ways of approaching food and nutrition are part of what is called “slimming culture”, which is precisely what the day on 6 May intends to deconstruct, which shows that the issue in Italy is still a bit addressed. , both in the mainstream and at the academic level.
The definition of diet culture is broad: in general, it is a value system that we are immersed in – especially in the West – that associates a negative ideal with fat, glorifying weight loss.
Within a systemic thinking like that Diet culture, fat acquires a moral value and is therefore stigmatized, which is why weight, physical fitness and food are given a moral value which inevitably leads to guilty and restrictive talk about our way of eating.
Social pressure for thinness and stigma towards fat – fat phobia – has created a toxic system and a narrative about nutrition and food, leading to thinking of nutrition as a means of controlling fitness and weight. .
It happens every day to talk about our “diet” – that is, our way of eating, commenting on a possible weight change or associating certain foods that are commonly defined as fatty or “unhealthy” with a more or less explicit guilt. . We often think we have to somehow to deserve foods that compensate for the intake of certain foods with a future restriction or physical activity. All of these social elements are part of the so-called “diet culture” and are harmful because they create problems in our handling of the relationship to body image and food, giving rise to intrusive and disabling thoughts that invade our lives. prevents many and many from having a functional and healthy relationship with food.
Fat has not always been stigmatized in the West, it was in fact for a long time associated with economic well-being: only later, especially after World War II, when thinness began to be a synonym for beauty, did fat become synonymous with laziness and lack of willpower.
Diet culture is problematic for both mental and physical health because people with a fat body are discriminated against aesthetically and culturally. The moment you associate a morality with weight, fat becomes a mistake and it is demonstrated how fat people suffer bias doctorsThe stigma attached to fat is ingrained in many healthcare professionals, which prevents them from providing the best care.
Any disorder presented by a fat person is immediately associated with physical fitness: iThe body of obese people speaks for them before anything else, and the first piece of advice given is to lose weight.
This is despite the fact that it is complex to understand how much fat in itself is a health hazard, due to the biases that also exist in scientific research on it. Social, economic and individual factors are often not taken into account.
The concept of normal weight is also arbitrary in itself, as this is based on BMI – body mass index – a statistical biometric indexinsufficient to judge people’s health or personal path.
BMI is not even valid for everyone: for example, professional athletes like Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Odell Beckham Jr. all obese according to these data. However, no one ever cared that they were healthy; the same goes for other athletes who have physical forms that are usually considered fat, and this shows how medical parameters are not necessarily impartial and how the concern for health when it comes to weight often has more to do with a aesthetic judgment than with a genuine fear of the health of others.
Diet culture is therefore a risk factor for the mental and physical well-being of obese people, but not only because it mainly affects people who recognize themselves in the stereotype of physical fitness linked to the female gender and who are more exposed to social pressure. to become thinner. and to the imposed beauty standards.
Women also tend to be more likely to have eating disorders, although the incidence is also increasing in men. The constant attempt to drop and regulate weight leads to excessive control over what we eat: the more control there is, the more complex it becomes to listen to our body’s physiological needs. The needs expressed through the feeling of hunger or satiety are actually able to provide all of us the tools to feed ourselves properly. If diet is usually considered a way to stay “healthy” in reality, it is often the exact opposite.
Experts and activists claim that diets, understood as all programs aimed at controlling weight and nutrition, do not work. Even in cases where there is a real weight loss, most people take back the lost pounds within five years. This depends on several social, environmental and physical factors.
Primarily there is a natural weight to which our body is more willingly inclined and this is not a choice or a condition depending on individuals. Due to the weight differences, there are always genetics, but also external environmental conditions that are not individual-dependent. The way we eat depends on economic opportunities, on the time we have available for cooking, on the distance that separates us from the grocery stores – it is therefore also a question of class.
Even the ability to do physical activity, even just a walk, depends on factors that are often beyond our control, such as the work we do or the city we live in, the psychophysical conditions, the cost of gyms. Food can also have different meanings and social values based on the groups and individuals who consume itFor an immigrant, for example, finding the food they were used to in their country of origin can be complex, and often places like fast food chains that offer less culturally targeted food can provide meeting rooms. Just think of the grandparents who take their grandchildren with them to eat ice cream: in that case, the food that is considered “unhealthy” becomes a moment of social encounter.
Diets are therefore in themselves a risk factor for human psychophysical health; gaining or gaining weight is never the individual’s fault, but it is associated with a sense of guilt, lack of willpower and triggers a feeling of inadequacy, low self-esteem. The diet culture imposes not only a calorie restriction but also a cognitive restriction – a trait that is also typical of eating disorders – which leads to the idea of having to eat less or control and limit the consumption of some foods that are considered “fat” or “poor”. “:” However, cognitive impairment can lead to a dysfunctional relationship with food.
To combat the damage caused by diet culture, it is necessary to suggest a different approach to the health and well-being of the body. During the sixties he was born in the United States, The HAES approach or “Health of any size“ health of any size – which recognizes that changes in aesthetic standards linking thinness with beauty and health are harmful to obese people and more.
Nutrition professionals who have a HAES approach propose an inclusive attitude to all bodies and all weights, revolutionizing the concept of health, which is a set of many factors, mental, external and personal.
The HAES method, translated into Italian with non-prescriptive approachrejects the diet culture, and is defined as “non-prescriptive” because it does not provide guidelines or a diet to follow with a view to weight loss, but learns to listen to its body, to make peace with food and body image, and to eat intuitively.
L ‘”Intuitive dining“Is based on the principle that our body already provides all the stimuli we need to feed ourselves properly if we can listen to it. According to this approach, it is necessary to pamper the feeling of hunger or satiety or desire. to a particular food.
What is counterintuitive to the HAES theory is instead a restrictive approach to what we eat, thinking about being able to eat a “fat” food, but only in small amounts, and then continue to want it and eat yet more at a later date. , create a guilt relationship. The pursuit of health at all costs does not belong to the HAES approach, which promotes an alternative to the health paradigm, respect for all bodies and self-determination with regard to health.
Being healthy is a right, but not a duty; to reject the diet culture also means to place oneself in an anti-enabler perspective, where all bodies have the right to exist, to be accepted, to find their place regardless of their state of health.
It is also important to remember that a critique of diet culture does not want to place itself in a judgmental attitude towards people who still want to lose weight, cultural needs are difficult to eradicate and being thin is still a privilege. What we want to propose is a cultural change and not an individual pressure to accept oneself that neglects the still existing social drive towards thinness.
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