What is Diet Culture?

Jan. 31, 2022

Diet culture, the wellness culture, it's all around us, but what is it really?



Culture, simply put it’s a framework a society or group uses, a common ground that shapes how they view, understand and pass on their common beliefs and it can impact behaviors.  

Our diet is simply what we eat/drink in a day.  It is also when a person restricts food intake or changes their food intake to lose weight. 

Breaking down the two words can be helpful to understand the commonly thrown around phrase “diet culture.”  It is a system of beliefs about bodies and the desire to lose weight that can impact a person’s behaviors. It values thinness over health and well-being.    

Diet Culture also suggests that people’s worth is based on their body size.

When we talk about how diet culture impacts us all, it starts to make sense. It is frustrating because engaging in healthy behaviors is what keeps us feeling well, and weight is not a behavior, but it gets a lot of attention in our culture.  Consider thinking about an “I Spy” diet culture game to bring awareness to ways society puts these messages into play.  Then consider rethinking them.  

Some examples of how diet culture shows up day to day: 

  • Words/Phrases like: “Guilt free” “indulgent” “sinful” attached to food labeling. Also, labeling food “good” or “bad” or “junk”.  

  • Glorifying celebrity weight loss online or on social media. 

  • A trainer in a workout class saying “You need to earn that brunch.”  

  • People saying “I was really bad this weekend” when referring to the food the ate. 

  • Magazines focusing on “melting fat” or “lose x-pounds in a week.” 

  • Complimenting someone on weight loss.  

  • Showing before and after body pictures, that promote weight loss or a "right way" of looking.


Noticing diet culture and having awareness is a great first step.  Calling it out and rejecting diet culture can be really freeing as well. Just getting curious can be eye-opening.  I like to reframe body size by thinking about how people come in a lot of shapes and sizes and that body size tells me nothing about how healthy someone is or how they live their life.  I also love the idea that we could enjoy movement and physical activity just because it is fun and feels good and not for the goal of weight loss.  This concept is not anti-weight loss, it is against thinking body size is all people are about. 

You are more than a body and your size is the least interesting thing about you!