In the U.S. and many other places around the world, diet culture is a normal part of society. Thinness and losing weight are equated with healthiness, and gaining weight and/or being fat are seen as unhealthy. But this isn't the case, and it's a very harmful mindset.
Diet culture is based on the belief that dieting is the key to healthiness and happiness, but this is not the truth. In fact, diets rarely even "work." A 2007 study done by the American Psychological Association found that 83% of dieters gain back more weight than they lost within two years, and more recent studies have found that this number has crept up to be as high as 95 percent. So why is it such a common misconception that dieting is the answer to all our problems? The weight loss industry makes massive profits off of consumers' low self-esteem and dieting, so they continue to promote the lie that diets 1) work and 2) create better health. In the United States alone, the weight loss industry is expected to make $70.3 billion dollars in 2018.
The spread of diet culture's ideals is extremely harmful. It has been found that as many as one in three dieters will develop an eating disorder. Additionally, dieting has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, and even higher mortality rates.
These attitudes have infiltrated every aspect of society, including popular media. Most recently, the release of the new Netflix original show "Insatiable" where the protagonist lives in a higher weight body and is bullied for it until she has her jaw wired shut, causing her to lose a considerable amount of weight. Losing weight, in this show, makes the protagonist "pretty," and her previous bullies begin to envy her. This very premise supports diet culture and the idea that thinness is equated with happiness.
Not all media about diet culture can have the negative impact that Insatiable has, though. For example, AMC's show "Dietland" spends its 10 episodes exploring the main character's journey from believing she occupies too much space, and is too greedy, to her accepting that her problem isn't with herself, but rather with the toxic diet culture around her. By the end of the show, the protagonist learns to love and accept herself and to demand the same respect from others. This show is astronomically healthier for society than ones like "Insatiable," because it shows that people are worthy of love and acceptance no matter what size or shape their body is.
It is hard to interact with any part of society today without coming into contact with some form of diet culture. From billboards promoting weight loss lollipops in the middle of times square, to television shows and films based entirely around the premise of losing weight. However, the diet industry is very harmful, as the methods it promotes can often lead to eating disorders and other health risks. Popular media has an enormous impact on the way we see the world and interact with others; it should be used to help diminish, rather than uphold, diet culture.