What is Diet Culture?

If you have been following me for a while, you may have noticed that I use the term Diet Culture a whole lot. We are seeing more and more posts, books, blogs, podcasts etc. coming out that talk about Diet Culture and being anti-diet to advocate for changes on how our society views food! This is something I thoroughly believe in and I am excited to share with you! Let’s clear up some confusion and perhaps even fill in some of the blanks about what is diet culture!


Truthfully, diet culture can be defined in many different ways, however generally, when we think of diet culture, it’s defined as a system of beliefs that:

  1. worships thinness and equates our body to health and moral value. In other words, being in a thin body means you are healthier and worthier of basic human rights like respect and dignity.
  2. promotes weight loss and shrinking your bodies in order to feel more valuable or gaining a higher status.
  3. demonizes certain foods, or certain way of eating right while putting other foods like our super foods on pedestal.

Diet Culture creates a system where we become hyper focus on food and where we end up feeling ashamed of certain foods that we eat if they are labelled as “bad”!  When we really think about it, it oppresses people who don’t match up with that “perfect picture of health/attractiveness” that diet culture has set for us. It acts as a system of oppression because then all you do is spend your time trying to reach that ideal in order to feel like you are enough. Diet Culture distracts us from things that actually matter!


“So diet culture…. it means being on a diet, right?”. Short answer: No.

Diet Culture goes beyond simply following any “traditional/fad diets”. It is a whole system of beliefs! Some people are no longer dieting, or they are on their “off cycle” (because we know that diet often come in cycles), but they still believe in a lot of the diet culture messages. For example:

  • They still believe that in they are inadequate in their current body
  • They still need to find a way to reach a “perfect” weight.
  • They feel inadequate in their current bodies

So really, when we think of diet culture, we need to think above the act of being on a diet, and reflect on what messages are being given to us that affect we actually believe in. Do you believe that: Thinner bodies are better bodies? By losing weight, you will be happier? You will finally be able see more value in yourself once you lose the weight?

^ These thoughts right here = Diet Culture.


Diet culture is a 72 billion dollar business.  Just like most businesses, it will try and sell you a product or a message that has you wanting more! Honestly when you think about it, it’s a very smart (yet damaging) business model….

  1. They create a problem AKA your body
  2. They sell you a product that will ‘fix’ the problem AKA diets (or meal plan, or point system, or weight loss incentive etc.)
  3. Their product has a failure rate of 95% (but then blames the consumer!) which results in people buying over and over and over again.
  4.  And the cycle continues…

For 95% of people, they actually end up worse than they were when they first started, not just in relation to the weight fluctuations, but mentally! Most people come out of dieting feeling unworthy or feeling like a failure after trying these diets and seeing on social media that all of these other people have done these diets and have been successful. We think to ourselves “How come it worked for them? I must not have tried hard enough. I need to be more disciplined and have more self-control”. Notice how we don’t we don’t blame diets, we blame ourselves! We’re rarely thinking “Oh, no, this diet did not work”. But the issue is that it was never sustainable to begin with.


In our current environment, diet culture has started to disguise itself into what we call the wellness lifestyle. This encompasses things like “clean eating”, “detoxes”, “cleanses”, “elimination diet”, “eating for your gut”, and any other label that tells you that you are making changes to your diet for your “health and not for weight”.

The messages sounds like: “Oh, yeah, you MAY lose weight, but this is just for your health”. You may often hear some companies claiming that their products support a “mindful weight loss”. At the end of the day, it is still a diet because it still emphasizes that your current body is not okay and that your body needs to be fixed.


Diet culture is a system of beliefs that our society has adopted that praises the thin ideals and promotes disordered eating. Diet culture is normal and accepted which makes it even harder to walk away from. You don’t need to live by waiting for your body to be this “perfect size” for you to enjoy life. We can start living today.


  1. Recognize diet culture messaging 

Write down your thoughts and identify your beliefs. A lot of our thoughts become subconscious and we aren’t even aware that we are having them on a daily basis. Write down your thoughts and be super aware of how you’re talking to yourself and others about food and body image.

  1. Seek Support

We live in a society that praises disordered eating, which means that in order to let go, it’s so important to find a new group of likeminded people that can support you as you let go of the unhelpful beliefs you noticed. It’s hard when we live in a society that really believes in diets and really has these messages engrained in our minds! So, finding someone you can connect with or a group you can connect with is so important.

I hope this post was valuable to you and that hopefully you have a better understanding of what Diet Culture is! If you have any questions, please email us at info@thebalancedpractice.com

You can listen to the full Podcast episode on this topic by clicking HERE.

Need support?👇

The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!

We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.

Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of  The Balanced Practice

Eating disorders are complex illnesses | The Balanced Practice Inc | Ottawa, ON

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