“Diet Culture” is a phrase that intends to discredit anyone who is trying to improve their health or change their looks. As a result, rants against the “Diet Culture” are rampant. The self-acceptance movement has gone overboard with this. Criticizing someone for trying to lose weight or work out is bullying. I don’t know why this type of bullying seems to be acceptable. Imagine the uproar if anyone made hateful remarks about those who choose to remain at a high weight. There would be a huge public backlash. So, let’s examine the Diet Culture vs: Nutrition Culture issue.
Eating drastically low numbers of calories is an unhealthy practice. Those who eat too little in an effort to lose weight quickly create a negative impression of what being healthy looks like. Choosing to eat from only narrow categories of foods will cause nutritional imbalances. Therefore this type of chronic dieter looks unhealthy and has little to no energy. They are usually chronically depressed. They frequently border on anorexia, alternating with weight gain.
Adhering to such stringent dietary practices is almost never motivated by a concern for health. Since appearance is the motivation behind this type of fad diet seeking behavior, yo-yo dieting is the norm. They never maintain a healthy weight. They can be painfully thin. At other times they may be carrying too much body fat to be healthy.
Nutrition Culture, NOT a Diet
We advocate a “Nutrition Culture”. Removing empty calories from your diet leaves room for more calories from whole, healthy foods. “Empty calories” are the energy that you get from foods with little nutrition. They are devoid of adequate vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. These nutrients, and others, are needed for good health, energy and a healthy appearance.
Carbs are the main source of energy for the body and brain. They are severely restricted in many of the popular fad diets. We advocate a diet that is lower in carbohydrates than most people eat but we stress that there must be enough complex carbs in your diet for good health. Avoiding carbohydrates is not sustainable. Healthy carbs come from vegetables, milk, nuts, grains, seeds legumes and fruit. (1) We believe in avoiding ADDED sugars, but there are naturally occurring sugars in foods that are okay to eat. They are found in fruits, milk and some vegetables.
Starch is a complex carbohydrate. Many fad diets avoid starches but a baked potato is an incredibly healthy food. Potatoes are rich in nutrition, including Vitamin C!
If we avoid carbohydrates, we will miss out on fiber which is necessary for good health. Fiber is necessary for a healthy gut, regulation of cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels and to help maintain a healthy weight.
Healthy Fats and Diet
Strict dieting can rob you of healthy fats. They are higher in calories than carbs and protein per serving, so dieters might avoid them. They help us to stay warm and are necessary for absorption of fat soluble vitamins, A, D. E and K. Skimping on healthy fats can deplete your stores of these vitamins.
Protein repairs and builds tissues in our bodies along with other functions. Inadequate protein intake causes weakness. thinning hair, brittle nails and dry skin. Kwashiorkor, the disease caused from protein deficiency, causes the swollen belly that is so obvious in malnutrition documentaries. It is caused by a fluid imbalance in the gut. Without treatment, this deficiency can be fatal.
A great irony in the center of this discussion is that the “Diet Culture” is focused on appearances, but you look your best when you are properly nourished. Dry skin, thinning hair and nails and the poor body structure of protein deficiency are not attractive. Obesity caused by constant cravings is not attractive. Lack of proper nutrition can cause cravings that tempt you to eat whatever you can find rather than what you need.
The next time that someone faults you for “buying into the diet culture”, tell them that you are a part of the “Nutrition Culture”…
and we DON’T diet.