The Irish Diet Culture: How Is The Way We Talk About Food Impacting Our Kids?

Now more than ever we are surrounded by diet culture. The phrase ‘New Year, New You’ is one which I see everywhere. People have become obsessed with getting the perfect body and for many, they try to achieve this through dieting. Society tells us that being in a smaller body is what we should all be striving for. (It’s not!)

Let me just say this: diets are disordered. The definition of a diet is "restricting yourself to a particular type of food". Of course, there are diets that must be adhered to for medical reasons, but I’m talking about the diet culture that has swept our society like a modern-day plague.

These days the diet culture can often be masqueraded as "wellness". The wellness industry is massive, and the way it’s become a billion-dollar industry is through clever marketing. It makes us believe that there is something wrong with the way we look. That we would be happier if we could just stick to certain plans. That life would be easier if we followed a certain food or exercise regime.

Happiness is so much more than how we look.

As a person who has battled an eating disorder for over two decades, I am painfully aware of the damage it does when children hear their parents or trusted adults speaking about food in a way that inspires guilt or regret. I am sure we have all said the words "I shouldn’t have eaten that" or "I wish I had more self-control".

I remember as a teenager having it suggested to me that I could go on a diet. It’s crazy looking back on that now, but those early seeds that were planted in my head really stuck to me. The message that society was giving me around food and guilt massively contributed to developing disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with my body. To this day I have certain foods that I automatically see as "bad". I have to actively work to change my mindset and understand that food is just food.

It genuinely worries me to see people in positions of power and influence speaking about dieting and losing weight as though it’s something to aspire to do. I see it daily on my newsfeed. It’s usually dressed up as "sticking to your resolutions" or "healthy living". But really, it’s just toxic diet culture all over again.

The only way we can change it is if we each challenge the way we look at food, exercise and our bodies.

No guilt. No regret.

Weight does not determine your value as a person, so let’s stop putting so much value on it. Our kids need to be led by example. I for one am not buying into any sort of culture that encourages dieting.

Ranae von Meding

Ranae is a proud mama to her two girls Ava and Arya with her wife Audrey. Find her on Instagram @ranaevonmeding where she shares their journey as same sex parents and the ups and downs of life with little ones.

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