Body Shaming and Diet Culture

By Amanda Nall

A few weeks ago I was sitting in hot tub in Hocking Hills with some women who I did not know very well. The conversation was fun and light until someone began to bring up weight and body size. The comment was made: “I think 200 pounds is the cut off to how much I want to weigh.” Another comment, “you were so skinny, you looked like a twig when you were pregnant.” To hear these comments is painful and my reaction was dramatic. I had to leave and was not confident in speaking how I really felt. I think that these types of conversations are very degrading and create a negative, self-shaming environment. Idealizing body types, not accepting ones body, and encouraging poor eating habits all contribute to diet culture which ultimately silences the people which do not fit the “perfect” size. The outcast group is led to feel guilty about themselves or about what they eat, also the group is encouraged to talk negatively about one self. There is some sort of superior group which would have a very small range of body sizes and has traits that probably would not even be found on just one person. The book Beyond Beautiful as seen in the photo below tries to fight against diet culture and body shaming. It is a great resource for people, especially women, to read if they are having doubts about the health of their body image. The book includes activities that encourage readers to really analyze what events or information constructed their beliefs about body image and specifically about what the ideal body type is.

Through idealizing body types, all sort of outlets like newspapers, blogs, magazines, and advertisements have begun to sell a product that guarantees a different body than the one the consumer currently has. This Dr. Oz advertisement is a perfect example of how key phrasing and marketing ploys are used to convince a buyer that the product will change a serious part of their life. The truth is that most of our looks are determined by genetics and that burning fat is not the only thing that contributes to weight loss. Part of having a healthy body image is being willing to accept where ever ones body is and also recognizing that it could be slightly different based on lifestyle changes.


Image result for weight loss ads

4 thoughts on “Body Shaming and Diet Culture

  1. Hey Amanda,

    I really enjoyed your entry. I was drawn to it because I’m an exercise science major, and I’m particularly interested in the interplay of exercise/diet, culture, psychology, and behavior change. I recognize that my ability to empathize with your story is limited as this seems to be less of an issue within male culture. That is not to say it is absent though, and it may be related to men not expressing their insecurities.

    Bodyweight is undoubtably multifactorial. Genetic predispositions, gene/environment interactions, psychological factors, social factors, and cultural factors (to name a few) all play a role. An OSU professor I highly respect often emphasizes having compassion for oneself in their journey towards a healthier lifestyle. I think this is important here – we should aim to accept ourselves no matter our current state.

    While the obesity epidemic is a serious public health issue, I think what you’re talking about is different. We should compassionately encourage health seeking behaviors (exercise, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, etc) and strongly discourage self defeating behaviors in an attempt to achieve an unrealistic body type. This is also furthered by the damaging marketing such as what you posted from Dr. Oz. Great post!

    Josh Pelland

  2. Amanda,

    I enjoyed reading your post on body image. I think the diet culture and crash diets have been incredibly damaging especially for women in society. It encourages unhealthy eating behaviors and gives the image that in order to be considered beautiful you must be thin as well. I do think it is important to take care of our bodies and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but there is a very large range of what is medically considered a healthy weight to be at and is much higher than what society would tell you.

  3. Amanda,
    I found your systemic injustice example to be so interesting because I had never thought about body-shaming as an example of injustice when in fact it is really so common and relevant in our society. This example relates to so many women and even men in society and I think in many cases, individuals do not even realize that the comments that they are saying can have such a negative impact on one’s confidence or self-esteem. It truly is so unfair to make judgements based on weight, a pants size, or even just based on body type yet our society seems to normalize these numbers and thus stresses how much we support diet-culture. Thank you for sharing this example because I think it helps us all to remember that our words can impact people more than we may realize.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your experience with body imaging. I feel like everyone has this issue in their life, whether it be positive or negative. Just like marquez.72 above, I also did not think about body shaming as a systemic injustice due to the normality it has created in our society. Yes, it has never been the right thing to do to someone but it has become to accept as a normal thing to do that it did not seem so wrong anymore. This is a huge problem in the same sense since most would probably agree that they do not do much about this injustice and tend to brush it off as normal.

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