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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

What is diet culture and why are all of its foundations false?

One in five Spaniards declares having carried out some type of diet in the last 12 months and of course, women are twice as many as men, according to the III Aegon Health and Lifestyle Study. And yet, very few people are aware that this widely accepted pattern responds to something called “diet culture” something that, in the words of psychologist María Caro, from Anma Psicología, specializing among others in the treatment of eating disorders in adolescents and adults, “it is a social movement and a set of beliefs that there are around that thin bodies are those that enjoy good health and are desirable”. And the most dangerous thing about diet culture is not the generalization that associates health and happiness with being thin – the WHO defines the ideal weight as a body mass index that can vary between 18.5 and 24.9, and definitely those values they are not found in what according to the collective imagination we associate with “thinness”, which is usually much less, but above all an omnipresence and dictatorship over decades that has left a residue almost impossible to clean. “They have sold us both ‘being handsome’ as a model of success, that ‘being handsome’ is associated with being happy. We end up looking for the ‘perfect body’ because we believe that with it we will feel much happier and more successful”, adds Caro. The debate about what is wrong with this culture has been opened very recently thanks, for example, to people like the influencer and businesswoman Marina Llorca, who has devoted part of her life to disseminating the problems that wrong assumptions about weight can generate in women. and has recently published The Art of Loving Yourself. “When I was 8 or 10 years old, I was already aware that my body was different. She was also mentally, because she was a very mature girl, but also, physically, she didn’t have a girl’s body. I was bullied at school and a boy started picking on me and calling me ‘fat’. If I already started with insecurities, this was the final trigger for my obsession with weight. At that time to feel better, when I was 15 or 16 years old, I became obsessed with losing kilos. That boy said that no one was going to love me like that and I became convinced that only if I was thinner would I deserve love. So I started dieting. The culture of the diet that reigned in Marina’s mind but also in that of her colleagues. Only she took a toll: “I went to a dietitian with the mindset of ‘I want to lose weight.’ My goal was purely physical and I just wanted to be skinny. I didn’t care about my health. I wanted the boys to notice me the same as my friends and to be able to wear a bikini like them. I did many diets, not only those that the dietitian ordered me, but many that I even saw in magazines. It was what led me to suffer from an eating disorder and I got to do crazy things like eating only liquids. Just to be accepted by others. It wasn’t just a routine, it had become a way of life. I lived counting calories, it was stress and brutal anxiety”, he tells S Moda Although this reign of thinness could begin to seem obsolete, nothing is further from reality: “Among psychologists and health professionals there is a lot of talk and concern . The number of people with eating disorders has increased dramatically [un 20% durante estos últimos años de pandemia según la Fundación Fita]. Most of the population has a complicated or unhealthy relationship with food. It is alarming. It begins as an innocent idea of ​​eating healthy, but when around us we are bombarded with such rigid ideas… I have come to see professionals in the world of diets giving percentages of the number of processed foods that can be eaten, for example. This leads the human being to a super rigid relationship with food that turns it into an obsession and that is when both physical and psychological well-being begin to be in danger. We are seeing more and more people suffering from orthorexia, which is one of the least known disorders but is gaining more ground: it is an excessive concern about eating with restrictive diet practices, eating rituals, irrational fears linked to the effects that can have certain foods or enormous feelings of guilt when the food rules that each one self-imposes are broken”, explains María Caro. According to Google Trends, the interest in this concept (which in this case is measured by the number of queries that users make of the terms in the search engine) has increased by more than 300% in the last year. Again, it might seem unbelievable that in this time when we talk about mental health, we relegate it to the background when it comes to aesthetic issues. But, apparently, it is like this: we have prioritized being handsome over being happy and being thin, misidentified as “physically healthy”, over being mentally healthy. Doctor Agustí Molins, a specialist in Nutrition and Dietetics and a member of Top Doctors, corroborates this: “The eternal ‘being on a diet’ is generating eating behavior disorders, malnutrition and malnutrition problems, dissatisfaction for not achieving a weight required by social pressure , getting to be ashamed of the “love handle” that has not gone away before the summer… that emotional discomfort can become as unhealthy as the extra kilos are.” Fortunately, there are things that were socially accepted twenty years ago that are now considered atrocious: “When I was 13, my mother signed me up for the gym and took me to NaturHouse, where they sent me on a shake diet. She was a teenager and, suddenly, she stopped having tasty food in the pantry and started having bars and powders to make smoothies. She went on a diet for years until I became independent, ”says Begoña Fernánez (29 years old) to S Moda. Again, the approach is wrong: “The word ‘diet’ comes from the Latin and the Greek ‘diaeta’ and means life pattern. Taking care of yourself to be healthy is not only beneficial, but necessary. The diseases of the 21st century have changed: today we suffer from fewer infectious diseases and more neurodegenerative diseases. They are diseases that, by changing the pattern of life, that is to say the ‘diet’, are preventable in a very high percentage. And within that diet comes hydration, quality sleep, exercise, having time for reflection and spirituality, relating healthily with others and eating with the aim of nourishing our body and not with any other” , assures Dr. Molins. However, the correct notion of diet as a pattern of life is still not conventionally accepted: «When we are involved in this diet culture roulette, food ceases to be just another physiological function. Stop being intuitive and natural. It makes it very difficult to connect with the real idea of ​​hunger, of being satiated. It is obsessive and disconnects us from our nature”, explains María Caro. How do we stop the wheel of diet culture? “The slimming industry is the only profitable business in the world with a failure rate of more than 98%,” explains a report by the NEDA (American Eating Disorders Foundation). In our country, Spaniards spend more than 2,000 million euros a year on diets, according to studies by the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Mapfre Foundation. The interests for the diet culture to remain and continue turning like a well-oiled wheel are numerous, but it may be possible to mitigate its damage with self-acceptance, awareness of the environment and empathy. First, excusing ourselves: “There is no greater pleasure than eating mindfully, knowingly and knowing that this diet nourishes our cells adequately,” says Dr. Molins. Second, by becoming aware of our environment: “Human beings are biopsychosocial and the social part is very relevant to how we are and how we feel. There are small gestures that we can all put into practice, such as making a good check of what type of information we consume and what harmful statements about thinness we take for granted, “advises María Caro. And third, but perhaps the most important, be empathic with ourselves and with others. Marina Llorca has the key: «We have spent too much time pounding with that message. Eliminating the entire diet culture from the world of cinema, fashion, the press… is very difficult. That is why movements such as body positive and showing different bodies are so important. What has been lacking throughout history are referents and representation. It is super decisive and it will help us a lot to start seeing them and also work on the issue of empathy and respect. We are still lacking and there are many minds to change.

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– Article Written By @Eva Armas from https://smoda.elpais.com/belleza/contra-la-cultura-de-la-dieta-por-que-estar-siempre-a-regimen-es-un-profundo-error/

Nicole Aniston
Nicole loves to write and works as a corporate communications expert by day. She's been working in the field for quite some time now. Her training in media studies has provided her a wide perspective from which to tackle various issues. Public relations, corporate communications, travel, entrepreneurship, insurance, and finance are just few of the many topics she's interested in covering in her work.
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