Sunday 22 September 2019

Colette Fitzpatrick: 'We’re so inured to diet culture we hardly recognise it any more'

Colette Fitzpatrick Photo: Mark Condren
Colette Fitzpatrick Photo: Mark Condren

Colette Fitzpatrick

Jameela Jamil’s guest edit of Stylist magazine this month has triggered yet another conversation about diet culture.

The actress and radio presenter is featured attacking sets of scales with a hammer.

The cover has received praise from some quarters, but others have criticised it, citing the

irony of a slim, beautiful woman “smashing diet culture”.

There’s that, and the fact that many of the clothes in the accompanying fashion shoot aren’t available past size 18.

It seems diet culture, ironically, isn’t about health at all. Although technically “diet” means what you’re consuming, diet culture is all about being thinner, therefore prettier and so happier and better.

Nothing to do with your actual health, then. We know diets don’t work, so the messages have morphed into being all about health.

However, look at the number of women who are actually thin and are so underweight or unhealthy that they’re sick, infertile or anaemic. Thin fat, or is that fat thin? I don’t know which is worse.

We’re so inured to diet culture we hardly recognise it any more – the culture where being thin equates to being better, being heathier, more virtuous, more deserving, having more self-control.

What you look like matters more than what you say or do. A constant state of believing you’re a dress size or 10 pounds away from being your best self affects men too, but diet culture overwhelmingly consumes women.

The language we use with one another, especially women, is toxic.

I need to lose five pounds. I made a pig of myself at the weekend. You look amazing – have you lost weight? I committed mass carbicide last night. I’m having a cheat day. How many calories are in that?

It’s all so negative and insidious, so unforgiving, nipping away at a life that should be lived rather than constantly physically scrutinised.

Foods are divided into “good or guilt-free” foods or “cheat” foods, the choices you make around food being one long guilt trip.

Demonising certain foods means you’re in a constant state of being hyper-vigilant about what you can consume.

When women talk about being on a diet, it generally isn’t their first rodeo: they’ve been in a cycle of dieting for years.

I’m sure many people think they’re not dieting, but if you put their relationship with food under the microscope, the “wellness” or “clean living” looks very much like a diet.

All of this contributes to women spending massive amounts of money on slimming and diet products, gyms, clothes and courses.

According to the Global Weight Loss and Weight Management Market report, this

accounted for $168.95bn (€152bn) globally in 2016 and is projected to reach $278.95bn (€252bn) by the end of 2023.

The diet industry has an interest in diet culture. Without it, it would go out of business.


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