"Beliefs & behaviors about food & bodies that are passed down from generation to generation and causes a negative impact to a persons relationships with food and body image."
A system of beliefs that:
- Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
- Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
- Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
- Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health”, which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.
- Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN
What is Normal Eating?
Normal Eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It's being able to choose the food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it - not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is three meals a day, or four, or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It's leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some more again tomorrow, or it's eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food, and your feelings.
- Ellyn Satter
Body image includes both how you feel about your appearance and what you see when you look in the mirror. Often this mental image can be quite different than reality. Body image is more about how you feel than how you actually look. When you feel poorly about your appearance, you are more vulnerable to other mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. A negative or poor body image is a small voice in your head telling you that your body is “wrong," and that your body should look a different way, or that your body “feels” faulty. These messages and feelings are irrational beliefs that your mind and our society’s diet culture may dictate to you. We are all genetically programmed to have bodies that are different shapes and sizes (this is known as body diversity or size diversity) – it can take time to accept and feel at home in your body’s natural size and shape. It takes work, but peace can be achieved and bad body image will eventually go away.
- Jen Petro-Roy from ANAD.org
Self-esteem is one's beliefs of one's characteristics, attributes, and abilities. Self-esteem is often influenced by external factors, such as what others think or one's ability to achieve. Excelling in certain areas, fitting a particular certain standard of beauty, and/or being praised by others, can raise one's self-esteem.
The terms self-esteem and self-worth are often interchanged; however, they are different, as self-worth is an internal feeling that one is worthy of love and respect despite one's accomplishments, outward appearance, and/or what others think. Self-worth is recognizing that one is valuable despite what one believes about their own traits and attributes.
"Self-worth is the internal sense of being good enough and worthy of love and belonging from others. Self-worth is often confused with self-esteem, which relies on external factors such as successes and achievements to define worth and can often be inconsistent leading to someone struggling with feeling worthy. Low self-worth is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging, or evaluating oneself critically, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person."
- University of North Carolina Counseling
Body diversity is embracing and celebrating all body types, shapes, and weights, including bodies of all races and abilities. Body diversity means there is not one body type that is considered correct, "healthy," or perfect, in which to compare all other bodies. We acknowledge that humans have different skin colors, heights, hair texture, eye colors, etc. As much as all of these are a beautiful part of human diversity, the weight, size, and shape of bodies are also part of diversity of our species that should be accepted and celebrated. Related to Size Diversity/Weight Diversity
The action or practice of expressing an aversion to an individual’s body shape or size; a form of bullying that can result in severe emotional trauma, especially at a young age. Body shaming can be done by parents, siblings, friends, enemies, peers, strangers, and even medical practitioners.
Negatively commenting about the size or shape of anyone’s body can be extremely damaging to them, potentially leading to low self-esteem, self-harm, and even mental health disorders, specifically body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders. It often leads to comparison and shame and perpetuates the idea that people should be judged for their physical features. Sadly, body shaming occurs among both men and women of all different shapes and body sizes. Body shaming includes both criticisms of being “too fat” or “too skinny”, often picking on flaws that are completely irrelevant.
A societal or cultural phenomenon that discriminates, oppresses, judges, or makes assumptions about a person's health, habits, or lifestyle based on the size, shape, weight, or appearance of their body. This belief equates “fatness” to laziness or lack of self-control and views an individual’s weight as a “personal choice”. This form of discrimination exists in the workplace, healthcare settings (known specifically as Medical Fatphobia), education, personal relationships, the media, clothing stores, and elsewhere. This pervasive belief views people in larger bodies as “lazy”, “ugly,” or somehow less of a person. Fatphobia can be directed toward one’s own self as a fear of weight gain or becoming “fat” or can be directed toward someone else as judgment, insult, or bullying. Fatphobia is directly involved in the increase of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors and the rise in a number of eating disorders. Related to Fatphobic/Anti-fat Bias.
A type of fat shaming/body shaming that specifically occurs in a medical setting, where healthcare practitioners aim these weight biases toward their patients in larger bodies. This form of weight stigma is often learned in medical school (or before) and can cause healthcare providers to attribute a vast majority of pain, injuries, symptoms, diagnoses, sickness, and disease/risk of disease to a patient’s weight. Sadly, medical providers forget that their patients living in smaller bodies often suffer from the same exact challenges and complaints as their patients living in larger bodies. However, providers will offer multiple evidence-based treatment options to their patients in smaller bodies and will repeatedly offer only one option to their patients in larger bodies – lose weight. Even though nearly ALL the research shows that prescribing intentional weight loss: 1) is the biggest predictor of weight GAIN, and 2) is not a form of practicing Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). Medical fatphobia causes harm and creates challenges to the provider-patient relationship and is attributed to a lower quality of care. In certain circles, Medical Fatphobia is known as ‘the last acceptable bias.
(also known as Weight Bias in Healthcare)
by virtue of being, or living in a body below a certain size, a person has greater access to resources and faces less discrimination in society versus a person whose body is above a certain size. People in larger bodies face consistent, systemic oppression – not just body shaming from a few individuals but a culture that makes it difficult or impossible to find clothes & spaces that fit, healthcare that’s effective & non-discriminatory, equal access to employment, and all other basic human rights that we all deserve.
The term “thin privilege” is meant to highlight this systemic disparity, and to call out the fact that dignity, respect and equitable treatment shouldn’t be privileges reserved for smaller-bodied people at ALL – they should be a universal right afforded to everyone, no matter their size.
Having thin privilege doesn’t mean that you’ve never had any body image issues, or that you’ve never struggled with disordered eating, or that you’ve never been bullied or shamed by an individual for your size. You can have thin privilege and also hate your body. Having thin privilege doesn’t even mean that you feel thin – the vast majority of people in diet culture NEVER feel thin, even those with thin privilege.
-Christy Harrison, Food Psych Podcast
The repeated loss and regain of body weight. Weight cycling is often referred to as “yo-yo” dieting. A weight cycle can range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to larger changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle). Research links greater health risks to weight cycling versus an individual’s weight alone. Losing and regaining weight may have negative psychological effects as well.
Orthorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder characterized by an extreme focus on “healthy” eating. When healthy eating becomes an obsession, the individual may start to cut out more and more foods, ingredients, and/or food groups from their diet. They may, for example, stop eating gluten (without a diagnosis of an allergy or celiac disease), any processed food, seafood or fish, all sugars, oils, and so on. People with Orthorexia Nervosa usually start with a few foods they won’t eat and then progress to more and more. With Orthorexia Nervosa, the desire for healthy eating begins to affect a person’s physical and psychosocial health. Even though the root cause is not a desire to lose weight, in advanced cases extreme weight loss can occur, similar to the weight loss seen in anorexia nervosa. In addition to the health risks associated with malnutrition and weight loss, the individual also faces psychological trauma and social difficulties.
Behavioral signs that a person might be struggling with Orthorexia Nervosa:
- Constantly checking ingredient labels and nutritional information
- Spending inordinate amounts of time on “health food” or nutritional sites, or similar social media sites (i.e. Instagram “healthy eating” groups
- An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
- Increasing inability to eat certain kinds of foods and an increasing amount of “fear foods”
- Cutting out an increasing number of food groups
- Avoiding eating with others if they do not control the menu
- Showing high levels of distress when “safe” or “healthy” foods aren’t available
- Frequent “cleanses” where the person fasts or eats a specific diet intended to rid the system of “toxins”
(National Alliance for Eating Disorders, 2022)