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Diet Culture: The enemy within us

Imagine never being 100% happy with your body. If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t have to imagine. You know exactly what it feels like. You’ve experienced feeling like you need to lose weight or put it on. And if you’re unfortunate enough, you would have been body-shamed at some point for either being too small or too big. With Mental Health Awareness Week coming to a close, we want to remind you that the conversation around this toxic trait needs to go beyond this week.

‘Hot Girl Summer’ is rapidly approaching, restrictions are lifting and the pressure is on! Hello, crazy diets, insane workouts, and toxic self-judgment. Diet culture and mental health aren’t two things normally associated with each other, but they should be as one affects the other and we end up being our own worst enemy just to ‘fit in’ within society.

Everybody in life, especially us women, fall victim to society’s opinion of ‘perfect’ and we punish ourselves when we feel that we don’t look the right way. We always hear of the features deemed ‘most attractive’ and work our asses off in the gym to build our ‘peach’, tone our thighs, and trim our waists. We’re told the bigger the boobs the better, but they can’t be too big; the curvier the figure the better, but only curvy in the ‘right’ places – No matter how we look, or what we are always criticised, mainly by our selves.

Celebrities are constantly in the spotlight of the public eye. We know their every move, who they’re dating, what they wore to Starbucks. We know when they’ve lost weight or put it on. Adele is one of the many celebrities to have shed the pounds and focused on becoming a healthier version of herself. Whilst she wasn’t considered ‘slim’ before her weight loss, there was absolutely nothing wrong with how she looked, but now the media deems her to be stunning just because of her slimmer figure.

Singer Lizzo is constantly subjected to the back and forth between not having a ‘healthy body’ and promoting ‘body positivity’ On the one hand she is glorified for being confident and comfortable with her body and on the other, she faces backlash from those who see her as ‘unhealthy’ In her TikTok video she says “What really bothers me are the fake doctors in the comments saying ‘oh, you have this’ or ‘you might have this condition.’ No. What if I’m just fat? What if this is just my body? Bodies are not all designed to be slim with a six-pack, you know what I mean?”

Other celebs, like Ruby Rose and Kendall Jenner, have all been skinny-shamed. In an interview with Harper’s Bizarre, Jenner said “Calling someone too skinny is the same as calling them too fat”. Rose had fans comment on her Instagram saying that “she has lost so much weight” and that to “inspire fans” she needs to put it on. Fat-shaming and skinny-shaming are both extremely detrimental to the mental health of those on the receiving end and can lead to a spiral of toxic body negativity.

The struggle against diet culture is a silent battle and no one really knows what someone is going through. Society puts pressure on us to be perfect and have the most desirable body we can. It’s almost as if we haven’t got enough to worry about. But our thoughts can turn negative and our bodies can become harmed. Beloved Nikki Grahame was a sufferer of diet culture. She died of anorexia nervosa – a disease that no one really understands until you live it.

Jameela Jamil, actress and body positivity activist, also suffered from anorexia and body dysmorphia aged only 14, after having to weigh herself in class and being told she was the heaviest girl. Girls star Zosia Mamet was told she was “fat” and punished her body for that. Everyone goes through a battle with diet culture, and with the idea that ‘Hot Girl Summer’ is about being slim, we need to know that our priority should be our health – physical and mental.

Toxic trends and dangerous diets aren’t healthy, they’re not the things we need to be able to appreciate and accept our bodies. Confidence is the most attractive quality a person can have, regardless of their appearance. But how do we stay confident with the constant pressures and obsession with the way our body looks?

We need to be mindful of how we speak to others and to ourselves, you may think that telling your friend they look ‘soooo skinny’ is a compliment but that isn’t always the case. In the same way, telling them ‘they look ‘meaty’ or ‘nice and curvy’ may not necessarily be seen as a positive.

We don’t need to change how we look to be beautiful in society’s eyes, if you want to change let it be because you want to be healthier, stronger, better. Not because you want to replicate a celeb’s body or an Instagram model.

Newsflash: the only opinion on your body that matters, is your own!

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Abby Bathurst

Abby Bathurst View All

Fresh out of Sixth Form, and currently doing a BA (hons) Creative Writing degree Abby is building her writing portfolio, she created her own magazine for a project at Sixth Form and has her own blog WriteWatchWork - a lifestyle and entertainment blog, specialising in all things books, TV, movies, work and fitness. Abby is a regular writing contributor for Debut and covers topics on careers, relationships, fashion and entertainment as well as content for Debut’s social media. She describes herself as ‘music-loving, occasionally sarcastic, bookworm who has a tendency to scribble down all my thoughts, and get lost in fictional worlds’

Abby on writing for Debut:
“Writing for Debut has given me so much experience already and I’m excited to see what more it brings. I don’t just love writing – I am IN LOVE with writing! Debut has given me the opportunity and experience to write about lots of different things from careers, entertainment, lifestyle and fashion – all of which I have a passion for! And I can identify myself in Debut and their ethos; I’m a confident, chatty, bubbly ambivert who loves to read and express herself in writing, but who also loves to empower women, just like Debut!”

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