Let’s Social Distance from Diet Culture

by Sharra Kohm

In the midst of a global crisis, diet culture has not backed down from the spotlight. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing to light just how pervasive fatphobia really is. The media is rife with fear mongering about weight gain, fitness challenges, and messages telling us to eat a certain way.

During this time of heightened anxiety and stress, it can feel tempting to turn to diet culture’s false sense of control. It can also feel tempting to fall into the grips of disordered eating. Diet culture tells us that our bodies cannot be trusted and that we need to manage our bodies to make sure that they don’t change during this difficult time.

We are here to tell you that diet culture is wrong.

Your body can be trusted.

Take this time to tune in to your body. Try asking yourself: How can I care for myself right now?

Only you know the answer to this question – nobody else can answer it for you. Answers will look different for every person, on different days of the week, at different times of the day. Trust that your body knows what a caring choice would be for you, whether that’s enjoying rest, movement, food, connection with family, or relaxing activities.

It’s okay to eat for comfort

Food does more for us than provide fuel for our bodies. From the time we were born, food has provided us with a sense of safety and love. It connects us to our culture, family, traditions, and positive memories.

In this time of uncertainty and isolation, it makes sense to follow our natural instinct to seek comfort with food. Though diet culture wants us to believe otherwise, comfort eating is a natural part of a positive relationship with food. Caring for your yourself with food includes eating enough food throughout the day and giving yourself permission to enjoy your favourite comfort foods without guilt – now and always.

Feel free to skip the fitness challenges

There are many quarantine fitness challenges circulating on social media, and we’re giving you full permission to skip them. While movement can be a health enhancing practice that can bring joy and stress relief for some people, whether or not you choose to participate in movement does not indicate your moral value (whether you are “good” or “bad”).

If your answer to the question “How can I care for myself right now?” is to move your body, we invite you to listen to that. Aim to follow your body’s cues and engage in movement that feels caring and life-enhancing for you. That said, it’s just as valid that rest may be what your body craves during this time of stress and uncertainty. Remember that your body can be trusted, and that no social media influencer can tell you otherwise.

Unfollow accounts that perpetuate diet culture

COVID-19 is shining a light on the pervasive nature of diet culture and fatphobia. While media outlets and influencers take advantage of this time to try to profit from our insecurities, we too can take advantage of this opportunity to create social media environments that feel safe and conducive to our own self-care.

When you see media accounts or outlets perpetuating food or body shame, click unfollow. Change the channel. Choose to opt out. COVID-19 is not the only virus we have the power to take down. Let’s social distance from diet culture too.

To help distance yourself from diet culture and to create social media environments that are more body-positive, below are a few weight-inclusive, non-diet accounts recommended by the dietitians at WHC.

Christy Harrison @chr1styharrsion
Fiona Sutherland @themindfuldietitian
Haley Goodrich @hgoodrichrd
Marci Evans @marcird
The Body Positive @thebodypositive

Sharra Kohm, is a dietetic intern at Women’s Health Clinic.

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