Diet cultures are often a negative influence on teens

Diet cultures are often a negative influence on teens

Alaster Bowles, Reporter

(Content Warning: eating disorders)

Beauty standards have been around for centuries: women corseting their waists to achieve the ideal body for their time period, people wanting to be pale to symbolize wealth, etc.

Some people obsess so much over their appearance and their weight that they resort to extreme fasting just to lose a few pounds. This practice plays right into the hands of diet culture.

The beliefs of diet culture are that someone’s weight/appearance is more important than their physical and mental health. This belief is something that many teenagers think to be true, leading to eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. 

Many people with disordered eating habits are in their teenage years, the average age for bulimia and anorexia to start is 14. On top of that, around 16 million people worldwide suffer from these diseases.

Diet culture likes to hide its harmfulness behind diets like keto, atkins and paleo veganism. People will think they are being healthy by dieting when in reality, they’re eating a dangerously low amount of food.

De Pere High School counselor Carla Duevel thinks that eating disorders, “Have a lot to do with culture and the value we put on being thin. Just looking at Instagram or Facebook, all you see is thin thin thin thin thin.”

Beliefs like this have been around for a long time. In some ways society is moving towards a more healthy way of seeing health and appearance, but in other ways, it’s moving backwards.

“I don’t know if we’re ever getting away from it,” De Pere High School counselor Luke Felchlin says about diet culture. “I think it evolves over time but not anytime soon. I think it will be there. I think it’s always there.” 

Celebrities and models setting a standard for what young people’s bodies ‘should’ look like is a detrimental piece of disordered eating habits amongst teens. 

Although the use of social media can be fuel for diet culture’s beliefs, there are also many people using their platforms to speak out against diet cultures and ‘pro-ana/pro-mia’ organizations. Movements like ‘recontextualizing food’ can be a light at the end of the tunnel for people struggling with poor self image issues. 

Eating disorders are a tricky thing to help cure but it’s definitely not impossible. 

I think the first piece to it almost always is this acknowledgement or understanding that something is there.” Felchlin said. “If we don’t see it and we don’t acknowledge it as something out of the ordinary, as a potential issue or problem, we are less inclined to do anything about it. So until we see that this is a concern or an issue then it’s hard to seek help.”