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.
By Dara P. Kapoor
Updated February 18, 2020

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.

How Health At Every Size Is Trying to Change the Way We Think About Weight and Wellness

There is a growing and controversial movement to change how we approach our health. Find out what it’s all about.

By Sunny Sea Gold

Photo: Emma Darvick

What Happens When You Hate Dieting—But You Also Hate Your Body

I got trapped in diet culture as a kid and I may never get out.

By Dara P. Kapoor

Photo: Emma Darvick

The Problem With Body Positivity: As Long as Doctors Judge Your Looks, Nothing Will Change

The movement argues that loving your body can improve your physical and mental health—but who does that really work for?

By Your Fat Friend

Photo: Yeji Kim

It Took 10 Years of Misery to Realize Weight Loss Wasn’t Going to Make Me Happy

No matter how great people said I looked, there was always a reason to hate my body—until I discovered strength training.

By Chrissy King

Photo: Eric Jeon

I Loved My Fat Body—Until People Started Telling Me to Stop Eating

The thin line between health and healthism.

By Virgie Tovar

Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

The Real Reasons Why My Eating Disorder Went Unnoticed by Almost Everyone

Scratch the surface of diet culture and you’ll see that it’s rooted in female obedience and even racism.

By Savala Trepczynski

Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

I Won Countless Fitness Competitions for My 'Perfect' Bikini Body—but Was Really Hiding an Eating Disorder

There’s more to the picture of self-love and body positivity.

By Mary Jelkovsky

Photo: Ana Celaya

Being Thin is Just Another Way We Try to Follow 'the Rules'—but at What Cost?

Women need their bodies back.

By Virginia Sole-Smith

Photo: Emma Darvick

How I Made Peace With My Fat Body and Disappointed My Parents

To find self-love, I had to reject their toxic ideals of good health.

By Sonalee Rashatwar

Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

I Lost 70 Pounds But I Still Struggle With My Body

Weight loss is way more than a physical change.

By Emily Abbate

Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Losing Weight as a Fat Girl Was the Most Dangerous Thing I've Ever Done

And giving up dieting was the safest.

By Arielle Calderon

Photo: Emma Darvick
Photo: Julia Bohan