Why Does Diet Culture Target Women?

(T.W- food, dieting, eating disorders)

I don’t know a single girl who hasn’t had a toxic relationship with their mothers and dieting. For as long as I can remember, my mum has talked all things diet, from working out, to getting slim for summer, to eating nothing but protein for weeks at a time. The 2000’s brought low rise jeans ands ultra-skinny tummies to match.

This wasn’t helped by us constantly reading trash magazines, that talked about people’s weights in ways that would make any person feel insecure. The way in which people argue online that their ‘preference’ is thin women, that even though celebrities support body positivity, most of the time they have an unrealistic body for the average person to match.

Women have been dieting for years, and if you walk into a high school and ask the pool of girls if they are dieting, more than half will say yes. They are ever aware of consumption at the stake of the internet, the everlasting lists of influencers with perfect skin, perfect hair, and flaunting their laxative infused health drinks at you. It is hard to see why girls would not become affected by diet culture.

But if we asked the guys in those classes if they had ever been on a diet, you’d maybe see a sprinkling of hands. Men have a naturally higher metabolism, and don’t store as much fat as women, so they don’t feel the pressures as much. And if a man does gain a little weight, so what, it doesn’t make them less attractive, or doesn’t affect others the way it does to women. That’s because there is a proper way to be feminine and a proper way to be masculine, and the two aren’t necessarily interchangeable.

Women have been targeted at most body altering advertisements; do you want a slimmer waist? Try this detoxing tea! Want flawless glowing skin? Take this supplement! Want long flowy hair? Try this gummy! Want a meal replacement? Try this shake! The list could go on.

And we’ve all been guilty at some point of judging others weight without due principle. Of seeing someone as less attractive because they weighed a few stone heavier. Most girls I know have suffered with some sort of disordered eating at some point during their lives, and when you are in this state of mind, seeing others eat will destroy every ounce of you as you guzzle more water for dinner.

Women don’t diet because they want to, they diet because they think they have to. You wouldn’t want to rock up the the beach looking like a ‘beached whale’ or with hundreds of fat rolls would you? It comes from the internalized fear of fatness, as fatness isn’t considered beautiful. It’s determining your body worth based on the number on the scales. And when you do lose some eight, you are deemed as good and inspirational, it just doesn’t make sense.

Plus, whenever a brand does post someone with a tummy, they get the stereotypical tirade of users discussing how disgusting that brand is for showing someone who is so severely unhealthy. But where this person may be unhealthy to their body, it doesn’t mean that that person doesn’t deserve to feel positive and happy with themselves. Plus size people are hugely underrepresented by brands.

Why do people feel the need to comment on others’ weight? There is nothing in life more humiliating than someone commenting on how much you eat, how much weight you’ve gained or lost or talking to you about losing weight. Maybe it’s because people assume you aren’t happy being your weight, or assume that you need to walk a million miles a day otherwise you wont lose the bit you’ve gained.

Even pregnant mothers, despite recovering from birthing a whole child and dealing with hours of sleep deprivation, the first thing most of them get asked: did you lose the baby weight yet? Are you back to your old weight on the scales yet?

Most people forget the comments they have made about your weight in the past, but I can remember every single one. It’s kind of etched into the foundations of my mind. If you ask them about it, I guarantee they will say they can’t remember it, or they will shrug it off like dust off a shelf. And why would they, it didn’t mean a lot to them, because it wasn’t aimed at them.

Where you could blame your mum for you growing up in an era fuelled by dieting, think about it that they did the same. The eighties brought aerobics, fast dieting, the ideal body type was Kate Moss and the calorie counting epidemic began. Every era since the 1890’s, where they stopped making clothes to fit each individual woman, and started making a one size fits all, have seen an evolution of diet culture as people attempted to fit into sizes that were smaller than their bodies.

So before you are quick to judge, or understand, or make a comment on someone else’s weight: THINK:

T – Take time and consider is what you have to say if it’s going to hurt someone.

H – How would you like someone commenting on your body and appearance.

I – Is it your body? No – then no opinion.

N – numbers on a scale do not amount to your worth.

K – know your body is good, and deserves happiness and food, even if the world feels like it does not.

Published by Heather Dalgleish

21-year-old journalism student. Author and illustrator for In Full Bloom Magazine

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