Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Eating disorders are currently the second deadliest mental illness and body image issues continuing to rise (1,2). So, how can we combat the societal pressures to achieve the ‘thin ideal’?
One possible strategy is cognitive dissonance (3). This practice requires you to critique the ‘thin ideal’ to conflict with any ingrained ideation of thinner bodies. An example to practice this is to think about how unachievable this ideal really is. We live in a world where everything is photoshopped and companies profit by telling people that they are never good enough (4). Celebrities are sometimes working out anywhere from 90 minutes to 6 or 7 hours every day and if mannequins were real they would be too thin to menstruate or have children (5). Yet this is what society seems to strive for. By acknowledging and being conscious of this, perhaps it will be easier to realize how unachievable and ridiculous this ingrained ideal really is.
In your day-to-day life, you can also consider how you talk about your own or other people’s bodies and what you allow other people to say. Avoid laughing at jokes about people’s appearances and don’t allow comments about other’s appearances to go ignored (6). You can also try to compliment others (and yourself) about achievements or personality traits, rather than physical qualities (6).
Finally, to combat diet culture at-home try to avoid negative self-talk and consider getting rid of that scale. Try thinking and saying positive things about yourself every day and avoid comparing yourself to others (2). Additionally, remove the labels you give to foods such as ‘bad’, ‘sinful’, ‘junk’, or ‘guilty pleasure’ (6). Food is only inherently bad for you if it is poisonous or may cause an allergic reaction. Furthermore, remember that your weight is not a good measurement of health or self-worth (6).
Not all eating disorders are related to body dissatisfaction and it may be important for you to seek professional help (3). If you or someone you love needs help dealing with an eating disorder or very disordered eating please visit nedic.ca for resources and support.
(1) Plotkin, M. (2020, August 28). Eating Disorders: By The Numbers. FEAST. Retrieved December 22, 2020, from https://www.feast-ed.org/eating-disorders-by-the-numbers/
(2) National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (n.d.). Body Image. https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/
(3) Stice, E., Rohde, P., Butryn, M. L., Shaw, H., Marti, C. N. (2015). Effectiveness trial of a selective dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program with female college students: Effects at 2- and 3-year follow-up. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 71, 20–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2015.05.012
(4) Body Acceptance Project. (2020). The Body Project: Facilitator Fact Sheet. Body Project. http://www.bodyprojectsupport.org/assets/pdf/materials/facilitator_fact_sheet.pdf
(5) Rintala, M., Mustajoki, P. (1992). Could mannequins menstruate? British Medical Journal, 305(6868), 1575–1576. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.305.6868.1575
(6) National Eating Disorder Information Centre. (n.d.). Awareness. Health Promotion and Prevention. https://nedic.ca/health-promotion-prevention/