American society perpetuates the dangerous myth that thinness equals beauty. The pursuit of an idealized, slender body size at any cost has led many women to develop eating disorders, jeopardizing their health. An estimated 20 million women in the U.S. will have eating disorders at some point in their lives.
What Are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are complex mental health issues that often stem from people’s desire to exert control over their environment or deal with difficult emotions and stressful circumstances. Research suggests there may also be a genetic component involved in these disorders.
Due to the body dysmorphia that accompanies eating disorders, adolescents may begin starving themselves, overeating to the point of illness or making themselves vomit after meals. However, older women can also develop eating disorders in response to the many physical changes associated with menopause.
What Is Diet Culture?
A quick glance at the magazine rack in any pharmacy or grocery store will reveal countless headlines such as “Snacks to Eat Without Feeling Guilty” or “New Ways to Shed 10 Pounds Fast” alongside airbrushed photos of models with impossibly slender proportions. The over-emphasis on thinness as the only quality contributing to a woman’s beauty has led to a heavy cultural bias against larger people, and an unconscious assumption that fat people are unhealthy and lack discipline.
Once you start working on your eating disorder recovery, you’ll need to unlearn the entrenched prejudices associated with diet culture, such as:
- Thin women are virtuous, and fat women are lazy.
- Being thin is the only way to be healthy.
- You should feel bad about yourself for eating food.
- The number on the scale reflects your self-worth and happiness.
- Only thin people are worthy of love.
The Dangers of Diet Culture
Diet culture associates strict rules, judgment and guilt with eating. Many of us grow up internalizing these ideas, to our detriment. Instead of accepting that beautiful, strong, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes, we torment ourselves to reach an unrealistic ideal we may not ever attain.
In ignoring the fact that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” body, diet culture creates an environment where eating disorders can take root and thrive. If you find yourself feeling ashamed about eating something, remind yourself that food provides the nourishment and energy you need to get through the day. The reason you eat isn’t to control your body size – it’s to fuel you with protein, carbs, vitamins and healthy fats.
The diet and weight loss industry is worth an estimated $72 billion in the U.S. Fatphobia has established such a firm foothold in our culture that even health care professionals often misdiagnose their overweight patients, dismiss their concerns or refuse to treat them until they lose weight. Meanwhile, a thinner person presenting with the same health issues would likely receive a recommendation for the appropriate, evidence-based treatment. The doctor would listen to them and take them seriously, as opposed to chalking all their problems up to their body weight.
Learning to Love Yourself at Any Size
It’s possible to appreciate your body, regardless of the size you wear or the number you see on the scale. The “perfect” body for you is the one that allows you to lead an active, healthy lifestyle – not the one where you’ve starved and stressed yourself to fit into a pair of skinny jeans.
At Canyon Crossing, we believe every woman deserves to discover the freedom of a fulfilling, well-rounded life. We offer women’s-only treatment programs within a culture of empowerment and self-respect. Please reach out to us when you’re ready to learn more about discovering your best self.