The Culture of Diet: Unveiling Its Impact on Food, Health, and Society


The culture of diet encompasses beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes surrounding food, body image, and physical activity with the primary goal of weight loss. Thinness is idealized within this culture, with individuals resorting to any means necessary to achieve it. Some authors define it as a belief system that venerates thinness, equating it with both health and moral virtue.

Recently, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada made a seemingly jesting remark that inadvertently shed light on the pervasive influence of diet culture. She joked about avoiding dinner outings with friends for fear of gaining weight, opting instead for a solitary meal of plain yogurt with sugar or nothing at all. She humorously suggested that if she did go out, it would be with gentlemen, implying that their company might involve activities to burn off the calories consumed during dinner.

These statements reflect the essence of diet culture, where food is stripped of its enjoyment, and individuals are willing to forgo social interactions out of fear of weight gain. For many women, achieving thinness has been associated with societal validation, attractiveness, and the promised happiness of success.

The Multifaceted Role of Food

Food serves not only as a source of nourishment but also plays a crucial role in regulating emotions. The act of eating triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, inducing feelings of pleasure and well-being. However, diet culture has stripped away this inherent pleasure, portraying emotional eating as a sign of weakness rather than a natural response to our emotional states.

Numerous nutritionists and influencers claim to have the secret to overcoming emotional eating, but the reality is far more complex. Emotional eating is a deeply ingrained aspect of human behavior, and attempting to eradicate it completely is both unrealistic and unhealthy.

Denying the Pleasure of Food

By denying the pleasure associated with food, diet culture perpetuates a false dichotomy between “good” and “bad” eaters, equating enjoyment with indulgence and health with deprivation. This mindset only serves to deepen the divide between those who adhere to strict dietary regimens and those who find joy in culinary experiences.

Moreover, diet culture extends its reach beyond mere dietary restrictions, infiltrating societal perceptions of health and well-being. The term “self-care” has become synonymous with weight loss, further reinforcing the notion that thinness equates to self-worth.

Characteristics of Diet Culture

  1. Promotion of Restrictive Diets: Detoxes, pineapple diets, and fasting regimens are often glorified within diet culture, accompanied by dramatic before-and-after photos that prioritize thinness above all else. These images fail to account for the individual’s circumstances, glossing over potential health issues or mental health struggles in favor of celebrating weight loss.
  2. Stigmatization of Overweight and Obesity: Those who do not conform to society’s narrow standards of beauty and health become targets of ridicule and mockery. This stigma is often justified under the guise of concern for the individual’s well-being, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and damaging self-esteem.
  3. False Promises of Effort and Sacrifice: The narrative that thinness can be achieved through sheer willpower and sacrifice disregards the diverse range of body types and the potential consequences for mental and physical health. Individuals may develop eating disorders, metabolic imbalances, and a distorted self-image in pursuit of an unattainable ideal.

The Fear of Weight Gain

The fear of gaining weight is more than a concern for physical appearance; it reflects a deeper societal bias against aging and the natural changes that accompany it. Diet culture perpetuates a patriarchal view of women’s bodies, dictating that only youthful, slender figures hold value. This constant battle against our own bodies serves to reinforce gender norms and maintain a sense of submissiveness among women.


In conclusion, the culture of diet permeates every aspect of our lives, shaping our beliefs, behaviors, and societal norms. By prioritizing thinness above all else, we sacrifice the joy and pleasure inherent in food, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and damaging both our physical and mental well-being.

Breaking free from the grip of diet culture requires a fundamental shift in our societal values, one that celebrates diversity, promotes body acceptance, and prioritizes holistic health over arbitrary standards of beauty. Only then can we truly liberate ourselves from the oppressive constraints of diet culture and embrace a healthier, more fulfilling relationship with food and our bodies.