The Problem With Diet Culture

Photo credit:  Breakingpic

Photo credit: Breakingpic

I spoke with a client this week who was interested in losing weight. She's 5'6" tall and weighs 135 pounds. This puts her in a normal BMI range. BMI stands for body mass index, and it is an attempt to measure body fatness. Of course, if someone is overweight they are at a greater risk for many chronic diseases, so BMI can be used (loosely) to gauge someone's risk.

There are all sorts of issues with using BMI as a metric to assess someone's body fatness. BMI does not take into account muscle, or where the fat is located (around the middle is associated with a higher risk of disease) for example. 

When I asked my client why she wanted to lose weight, she said she felt more comfortable 10 pounds less than she is now. I mentioned that based on BMI, her weight is within a normal range. Her tone changed and I could tell I couldn't push more at the time to have a deeper conversation about body weight and body image expectations.

Our bodies actually have a genetic set point for weight, and beating our bodies into a place they do not belong can have serious health consequences.

This isn't only an issue among women, I've worked with men that have body weight and body image issues as well.

It disheartens me that we have the food industry marketing products, even health food products, to us that are anything but healthy, yet they are promoted as being good for us. The result of consuming them can be nutrient depleting (we eat products instead of food, and products, even health food products, are not a substitute for whole real food). Overtime this can lead to metabolic dysfunction, which in turn leads to changes that affect our natural weight set point (weight gain) through a wide variety of mechanisms (hormone disruption and inflammation are examples). As we battle to manage our weight while eating 'healthy' processed products, we also have the fitness industry which has us convinced that their products and programs will fix the problem. Now we become trapped in a vicious cycle, and two very large industries become wealthier at our expense, leaving us scratching our heads, wondering where we have failed. We begin to feel worthless, and our perceived failure pushes us even farther down the rabbit hole of trying to obtain a level of aesthetics that is not just unrealistic, but also impossible. Physical activity is absolutely necessary for overall health, and its purpose should not be only to counteract poor dietary habits.

You can break the cycle, and it begins by eating whole real foods. To get you started, download my free healthy snack ideas here. 

If you'd like assistance developing a customized food plan, I can help you do that as well.