How a Culture of Dieting Can Perpetuate Eating Disorders

Wednesday, Feb 10  •  


Flip through your Instagram feed or pick up a magazine at the supermarket checkout and, odds are, you’ll find someone talking about fad diets like clean eating or intermittent fasting.

Diet products can be found everywhere, turning dieting into a cultural norm. This culture focuses on body image, claiming one will be happier if they are thinner, setting often impossible or unattainable goals. Products promoting dieting are advertised to consumers as a quick fix to problems, promoting unhealthy behaviors that are very likely to fail. Because of this short-term solution selling point, most people gain back the weight they lose once they go off the diet. 

Fad diets like Whole 30, Paleo, and Atkins, eliminate foods that contain necessary nutrients, sometimes, an entire necessary food group. These diets can be extremely restrictive, pinpointing the many things you shouldn’t eat rather than zeroing in on what you should eat. With professional help, certain diets and elements of clean eating might yield positive results, however, in the wrong hands, there can be serious consequences. 

American culture has normalized diet culture over the past 20 years, but these methods have something else in common: they mimic and, in some ways, glorify disordered eating behavior. 

How Diet Culture is Linked 

In a study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, they found that 58.6% of the teenage girls surveyed reported that they were actively dieting and that only 15% of the teenage girls were classified as being overweight. 

In a separate study of 14 and 15-year-old girls, dieting was determined to be the most important predictor of an eating disorder. Those who dieted moderately were 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder, while those who restricted food intake were 18 times more likely. 

Our society has normalized this inappropriate relationship with food. We are constantly exposed to the idea that gaining weight is bad but that losing weight is good. 

At Avalon Hills, our dietary and culinary departments play an essential role in the recovery of our clients. The diet and culinary team missions are to help clients re-establish a positive and balanced relationship with food. Clients are introduced to a wide variety of foods through our diverse seasonal menus. They are encouraged to engage in cooking classes that are individualized to fit the needs of the client with topics including basic cooking methods and meal planning. 

If you know someone who has been affected by diet culture, is suffering from an eating disorder, and is longing for assistance in re-establishing a positive relationship with food, give us a call.