Diet Culture in the Age of Body Positivity

Health unpacks why women struggle with disordered eating and body image, and what role the media and medical community play in helping or hurting wellness.

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we're sharing the stories of women who have been there, done that—and are still coping. For hundreds of years, a woman's beauty, namely her thinness, has been equated with her health. The phrase someone's 'a picture of health,' pretty much says it all. But as our series on Invisible Illnesses and Misdiagnoses prove, health is so much more than meets the eye. Still, whenever we post a picture on Instagram of a proud non-straight-sized woman, inevitably we get comments about how irresponsible we are for promoting such unhealthy ideals. It's our obligation as health journalists to explore the potential risks and benefits and expert opinions on anything peddled in the name of good health. And it's also our obligation to put a spotlight on the people and the issues that often live in the margins of mainstream health media. The women featured in this series are coaches, trainers, therapists, journalists, and activists. Their stories examine the body positivity movement and its predecessor, Health at Every Size, and reveal the economic, racial, and sexual underpinnings of diet culture.

Each woman has questioned their right to sit at the table, their authority, and their human value because of what they look like. My story is one of them.

Source: National Eating Disorders Association

Did you know…
A review of nearly fifty years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011).

— Source: National Eating Disorders Association

Did you know...
Weight stigma poses a significant threat to psychological and physical health and often leads to depression, low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction.

Did you know...
By the age of 6, girls will start to express concerns about their own body weight and shape.

Did you know...
40-60 percent of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about becoming too fat.

Did you know...
70 percent of American adults surveyed in 2010 believed encouraging the media and advertisers to use more average-sized people in their advertising campaigns would reduce or prevent eating disorders

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