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5 Creators Fighting Diet Culture That Go Beyond Body Positivity

by Emmaly Anderson

Media is overloaded with advertisements and other content that pushes harmful beauty and “wellness” standards, but this is increasingly being juxtaposed by content creators trying to drown it out with more empowering ideas that challenge diet culture. “Diet culture” – which tells women how we must look to be considered valuable, and what food and exercise we must buy, shun, or subscribe to in order to achieve that look – is an amalgamation of social and cultural biases that oppress us, including, but not limited to, capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy. The diet industry is worth $58 billion – a lot of white men in suits make quite the pretty penny off of the self-hatred we have been taught to hold on to. As a result, refusing to buy into the ideas diet culture teaches us is significant economically, culturally, and personally. 

The body positivity movement, which has become more prominent with the rise in social media, asserts that every body is worthy and desirable, despite what dominant beauty standards lead us to believe. This belief is true and good, but it often doesn’t do much to unpack why desirability is tied to our value as human beings in the first place, or how structures of power related to race, class, gender, and ability inform what desirability even means to us.

These creators go much deeper than surface-level “everyone is beautiful” messaging. Instead, they offer more radical and nuanced understandings of how diet culture is a for-profit tool of control as well as share tools and coping strategies for navigating a world that tells us we are not enough.

Aubrey Gordon (@yrfatfriend

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As “Your Fat Friend,” Aubrey Gordon has been writing about her observations and experiences living as a fat person culturally, socially, and politically and critically examines and challenges the ways anti-fat bias is embedded into so many facets of our culture. She has published two books – What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat and “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People. In addition to her writing and activism, Gordon is the co-host of the podcast Maintenance Phase, which debunks myths and faulty “science” surrounding diet and wellness culture. Gordon’s work seeks to unpack and unlearn anti-fat discrimination so that we may treat ourselves and others with more humanity and respect.

Dalina Soto (@your.latina.nutritionist)

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A self-described “anti-diet dietitian,” Danila Soto, MD, RD, LDN has curated an online space for the Latinx community where natural bodies and cultural foods are embraced as a pushback against the whitewashed dominant culture that tells women of color to shrink themselves. Soto is an intuitive eating expert and offers coaching to her community where she helps Latinx people, particularly women, reclaim true physical and emotional wellness by leaving dieting behind, enjoying cultural foods without shame, embracing their natural bodies, and finding joy in community. 

Lindsay and Lexie Kite, PhD (@beauty_redefined)

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These identical twin doctors co-founded the nonprofit Beauty Redefined and co-authored the book More Than a Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament. Their work is centered on an idea that challenges the conventional understanding of body positivity, which would merely tell us that our bodies are beautiful regardless of what they look like. The Kite sisters’ approach tells us that true positive body image is not believing that our bodies look good, it’s believing that our bodies are good, regardless of how they look. Beauty Redefined fights the culture that values us as bodies first and people second. They push for the development of Body Image Resilience – a set of cognitive coping skills to navigate triggers surrounding body shame and connect to our true selves.

Dr. Kera Nyemb-Diop (@black.nutritionist)

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This nutrition coach and expert describes herself as a food activist. She uses her education and expertise to contribute to the broader movement for Black women’s empowerment and liberation by offering services and resources and sharing content to encourage Black women to nurture their bodies while connecting with their culture. Nyemb-Diop points out in an interview with Forbes, how Black cultural cuisines are vilified by whitewashed diet culture and, more broadly, how diet culture is a tool of colonialism and white supremacy. She fights for Black women to “decolonize their plate” by challenging racism in healthcare, particularly in the fields of diet and nutrition, unlearning body and food shame in their communities, and embracing cultural foods as both physically and emotionally healing.

Kira Onysko Jones (@kiraonysko)

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In addition to being a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, this creator is also an eating disorder awareness advocate. After struggling with poor body image and disordered eating and exercise habits due to the toxic, appearance-obsessed culture of fitness influencers, she’s made a career out of teaching others about the positive physical and mental health impacts of movement when weight loss isn’t a goal. As a “size-inclusive and diet culture-free” exercise coach, she encourages movement for the purpose of feeling good and seeks to empower women through helping them cultivate a relationship with exercise that brings them joy and fits their lifestyles.

This list is by no means exhaustive – there are countless other creators that have dedicated themselves to helping women heal their relationships with food, exercise, and their bodies that have been so damaged from years of exposure to targeted diet culture advertising. Challenging an industry and set of ideas that is so powerful and ingrained in our collective consciousness is no small feat, but every individual that finds their personal power to embrace themselves, find joy, and take up space in a world that tells us to be small can have a big impact. This applies even more to women who exist at intersections of marginalization – plus-size women, women of color, poor women, LGBTQIA+ women – when acts of rebellion against diet culture, no matter how seemingly small, fight against multiple systems of oppression. 

If you’re sick of being told that you must make yourself smaller and that your physical appearance dictates your worth as a human being, use these creators as a jumping-off point to find people sharing anti-diet culture content to replace the messaging that’s been poisoning our minds for so long.

Top Photo by ThoughtCatalog on Unsplash

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