Why diet culture sucks

September 28, 2017

I typically don’t like to buy low-cal ice cream (Halo Top, Arctic Zero, Enlightened, etc.) Reason number one being it’s not really that good. Every time I have gotten it it’s rather icy and flavorless. If I’m going to eat ice cream I want the real stuff no hold on the cream, sugar, fat and toppings—give me it all. Reason number two being it’s way too expensive and reasonably so…it’s all the rage right now. But why?


Well I’ll tell you why…Diet Culture. Alex Agasar’s blog post on diet culture sums up what it is and how it seeps into our every day lives so perfectly, so I’ll leave that to her. Check it out here.


She defines Diet Culture as, “Anything in society that promotes changing the way your body looks. This is typically done through dieting in order to lose weight, to eventually reach what society has deemed the 'perfect body.' Diet culture loves image, and with over half of women being on a diet (most of them are already at a healthy weight), it can sell you things by tugging right on the insecurities we all have.”


She even mentions Halo Top as something that is a part of diet culture. Simply dropping the quote from Sarah Berneche, “You wouldn’t need to eat Halo Top if you weren’t afraid of ice cream.”


Let’s think about that for a minute. Why do you buy Halo Top? Why do you eat low-fat, low-calorie, thin, clean, or light options? I do it often. It’s not shameful or bad but there should be an understanding of why we make these food choices and what the underlying motive is for eating them.


The other weekend I decided to give Halo Top another try. I ripped open the seal and started digging in only to take a second look at the writing on the label. It said something to the extent of, “No bowl, no regrets.” This was implying that you should feel no regret for choosing this type of ice cream, and subsequently not needing a bowl because it's lower-calorie and it's "acceptable" to eat the whole pint, but you should feel regret for buying other types of ice cream. Halo Top is appealing to, typically, women who feel guilt or regret from "accidentally" eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting. Therefore feeling guilty and ashamed of it and reverting back to restricting the next day only to do it all over again in a week.


Remember when I ate an entire jar of Nutella in one sitting? I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I know what it feels like and I can tell you that from experience, eating low-cal ice cream or even low-cal Nutella (if they ever made something like that) is not the solution. Eating an entire pint of something just to eat an entire pint of something is not solving the true underlying problem here, it’s simply trading one problem in for the other.   


What and how we eat is multi-faceted. Halo Top (and so many other food companies, diets and magazines) capitalizes on the fact that women, in particular, are afraid of becoming fat, obsessed with dieting and don’t want to feel guilty for consuming ice cream so let’s give them an option that doesn’t seem so guilty. Seems harmless, right? Wrong. Diet culture may not be as noticeable as we think but it is everywhere and being aware of the way we talk about and approach our food choices is important to dialing into our internal cues of hunger, fullness and cravings and tuning out all the diet noise.


At the end of the day what I’m really trying to say is that diet culture sucks and reading that on the label of Halo Top really rubbed me the wrong way. At the end of the day if I’ve eaten all my vegetables and want a little ice cream it shouldn’t matter if it’s Halo Top or Rocky Road Moose Tracks with double fudge and marshmallows and when I make those decisions I don’t want to be guilt tripped or patronized for making one decision over the other. There’s nothing wrong with choosing full-flavor anything over the diet version and there’s nothing wrong with choosing the diet version over the full-flavor version. Our decisions shouldn’t be dictated by diet culture, wanting to look a certain way or feeling guilty—our decisions surrounding food are emotional, primal, instinctual and influenced by many things, diet culture shouldn’t be one of them.  

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