Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Ember, Contributor

cw: fatphobia, disordered eating

Food is what fuels our bodies. So why is it that there is an ever increasing rise of popularity in dieting and diet culture? A movement that encourages us to deprive ourselves; to aspire to be thin. To put it plainly? A hatred for fat bodies that results in widespread disordered eating.

The way we frame different topics and discussions is very important. This especially applies to the way we talk about food, our bodies and other people’s bodies.

Caloric science is based on outdated Western scientific methods from the nineteenth century by Wilbur Atwater. It is the estimate of how much energy is contained in a portion of food by burning it in a tank submerged in water, and measuring how much burning the food increased the temperature of the surrounding water.

However, it is hard to accurately predict the energy stored in food; our bodies do not work as simply as a furnace burning fuel. There are many factors that influence the calories of the foods we eat, like how the food is prepared, if cellulose is present and how much energy it takes to digest the food.

Not to mention, there are additional factors that affect digestion, such as metabolism, age, gut bacteria and physical activity. Labels on food do not accurately represent what we’re putting into our body nor what we’re getting out of it.

Ever since Canada enforced the Healthy Menu Choices Act back in 2016, which requires food establishments to list the amount of calories in their products, there has also been an increasing number of discussions surrounding the negative impact of the addition of calories to menus.

Another measurement that is often used to determine how healthy we are is body mass index, even though it is an inaccurate measurement of “health” for multiple reasons. It was meant to analyze the weight of populations, not individuals, and doesn’t take into account whether mass is fat or muscle. As a result, BMI is a biased and harmful method to gauge health.

Along with measurements like calories and BMI, language surrounding food can also be dangerous. You may hear things like “carbs are bad”, or you may hear discourse on “healthy” versus “unhealthy” foods, “cheat days” and “clean eating”, to name some examples. This language can contribute to the notion that we should feel bad for eating food, when it simply is a way to nourish ourselves and additionally, something to enjoy.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Hannah Meier, a dietitian who contributed to a project tackling women’s health, writes about how society glorifies dieting. In Meier’s article titled A Dietitian’s Truth: Diet Culture Leads to Disordered Eating she writes, “I was half-functioning. I remember filling pages of journals with promises to myself that I wouldn’t eat. I planned out my week of arbitrary calorie restrictions that were shockingly low and wrote them all over my planner, my whiteboard, the foggy mirror in the bathroom.” 

For many of us, the mindset of diet culture swallows you whole, consumes your every thought and waking moment, then spits you out like rotten food.

Oftentimes, people aren’t advocating for diets because they want to be “healthy”. Instead, they often feel passionate about dieting because of their hate and disdain for fat people since they associate being “fat” with “unhealthy”, “unhappy” or “unlovable”.

It’s also important to note that views on fatness and fat bodies change depending on the time period and culture; renaissance paintings often depict fat women in angelic and celestial aesthetics. As well, certain cultures, both past and present, value fatness as a symbol of privilege, power, wealth and fertility.

Diet culture, eating disorders, and fatphobia are so tightly knit together that they are like an ill-fitting sweater woven by your grandmother that you didn’t want or ask for. Sometimes you think about wearing it, to make things easier or simpler. But it won’t. You will only become a shell of your former self; a husk that is barely scraping by.

Any joy derived from depriving yourself is temporary. A scale will weigh how much of you is there, but it won’t weigh how much of you has been lost to an eating disorder. It is a mental illness, a distortion of reality and external factors that influence how you think. You can’t just stop having an eating disorder on a whim.

Calorie counting isn’t healthy, demonizing certain foods isn’t healthy and having preconceived notions about someone’s health based on how their body looks isn’t “just caring about their health.” Stop calling food “unhealthy” or “healthy”, start calling it “nourishing” or “not/less nourishing. Eat food that makes you happy and makes you feel good. Bodies are so many things, including wonderful and complex. You only have one — so treat it with kindness.


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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By anonymous contributor

For a long time, my eating disorder flew under the radar. People always talk about calories, sizes, sugar, fat and new cure-all treatments so casually. Because thinner is better. So, for the most part, I was just like everyone else in our diet culture.

It sounds wonderful; I’ve really romanticized it. The weight comes back sometimes, fluctuating behind smiles and therapy sessions, but all that means is your bra and jeans never fit right. I think it is very important to mention that most people with eating disorders do not lose weight. In fact, the vast majority, like me, are never underweight. So all the crying and counting leads to nothing but more unhappiness and temporary, unglamorous fixes. And a lot of therapy.

I’m not here to discuss my eating disorder “journey.” I want to talk about Western society’s disordered-eating “journey.” About how being fat became a punchline, and the only thing your doctor wants to talk about during your five-minute appointment at the wellness center.

Let’s talk about how new students enter university with one of their top concerns being the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” It’s horrific that this expression has become so commonplace among my classmates. Even the calorie counts on the menus in the student center reinforce this obsession our demographic has with thinness.

This “epidemic” of obesity is on everybody’s mind all the time. I can’t tell you the number of people I witness who venomously insist on non-fat milk at Starbucks — ironic considering “non-fat” has more sugar which begs the question, what is the true epidemic here?

There are things the public health campaigns do not want you to know. Like how much money is generated by diet-fads and weight-loss companies. How little their guidelines are backed by scientific literature. How much easier it is to blame you than blame society. How hard your body will fight to stay at its predetermined ideal weight – and that you really can’t change that predetermined weight. And, the most shocking to me, how little weight affects health.

Your body was not designed to handle weight fluctuation. Any amount of weight loss is a worst-case scenario, and this is whether you are 100 or 500 pounds. So your body is going to fight like hell to stay where it is unless it’s below the genetically predetermined ideal size.

Ask pretty much anyone who has tried sustained weight loss. You can do it, but it will be a constant struggle. Unless you lose weight extremely gradually, in which case you are likely not doing it consciously, you cannot be happy or relaxed around food. You will be starving yourself until you are hungry enough to eat a horse, and then you’ll eat that horse.

As for weight and health, we all know about body mass index. 18-25 is normal, and then everyone below is a “model” and everyone above is “disgustingly” unhealthy. But the science says otherwise.

A high BMI is not correlated with high morbidity or mortality rates until you get into the above 30 range. And above 30, the rates of morbidity and mortality are far more correlated with physical activity than with weight. So most research would show that so long as you can move with your body, you can live with your body. How’s that for a slogan?

It is true that freshman do gain some weight during their first few months at university but nowhere near the exaggerated fifteen pounds. If you gained some weight, relax – it’s normal! Researchers at McMaster University are currently investigating environmental and biological determinants of weight change because, yes, that number on the scale really isn’t all up to you.

So drink that full-fat latte. Stop obsessing over food. It doesn’t lead to anywhere good. The world is your goddamn oyster, with lots of other yummy things on the menu. Quite frankly, weight loss is boring. But that’s another story.

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Hating your body is NOT normal

You do not have to hate yourself. It is not normal, even if it is common. Often, our negative thoughts about ourselves become habits and we don’t even notice how much they have taken over our lives. It is perfectly OK to love your body as it is, or even just to come to terms with it.  Disordered eating is pervasive, and bodily self-hate is everywhere, but it doesn’t have to be. The mantra of “every body is beautiful, including my own” is one that I repeat to myself constantly, and that I also tell those I love when they are struggling. Find your own mantra and use it wisely. You and your body are on the same team; cultivate a good relationship and you will be astonished what you can accomplish together.

Food is everywhere

And I don’t just mean physically, I mean socially. You don’t realize just how many events — religious, family, or friendly — revolve around food until you try to give it up. Swearing off food is nothing short of social death. In hindsight, the saddest moments in my life were those when I sat and ate my pitiful meals alone, picking at celery sticks and egg whites alone in the quiet confines of my room. Food was never meant to be a solitary activity, yet we spend too much time eating independently or in the company of Netflix. Treasure your communal meals, because the nourishment of company is just as important as what you are eating together.

Everyone is beautiful

A funny thing happened when I started being open about my body dysmorphia. The people I thought would be the happiest with their bodies — the slim and conventionally appealing — were no more satisfied with their appearance than the ordinary looking. What I discovered is that how you feel about your body has very little to do with your body itself. When I was a full 70 pounds heavier than my sickest weight, I was also happier with my body than I’d ever been (and the healthiest I’d ever been too). The best way I’ve found to begin healing your relationship with your body is to stop judging other people for their appearance. If you can learn to accept other people, it becomes a hell of a lot easier to coexist with your own “faults.”

Life is too short for diets

Remember what I said about food and social death? I was not kidding. A diet takes away your focus on the important things in life and replaces it with a cycle of guilt, self-hatred, and smug superiority. While not all diets are eating disorders, they have one important thing in common; they narrow your focus down to one thing and one thing only — the food you cannot eat. They also don’t work. Five years after a diet your chances of keeping the weight off is only five percent likely, and many people actually gain back more weight than they’ve lost. My — admittedly extreme — diet has even had permanent or semi-permanent negative effects on my body and mind. You are torturing yourself for nothing. Seriously, life is too short.

Relearn everything about your health

Thinness is not health. We all have that one skinny friend that eats terribly and does not exercise — and as an autonomous human being, that is their right — but why on earth would we assume that they are healthier than the fat person who exercises daily and enjoys wholesome food? More and more studies are showing that lifestyle has a much larger impact on health than size, and the two are not necessarily correlated. We accept the fact that some people can be naturally skinny, but we can’t accept that some people may be naturally larger, and that there is nothing wrong with that. Some people are naturally fat and they are not any less healthy, beautiful, or worthy of respect.

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By: Sohana Farhin/ SHEC

Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah, Salma Hayek, Megan Fox, the clan of Kardashians, Jared Leto and Beyonce, have claimed to use detox diets to lose weight. The most popular celebrity detox diet is known as the Master Cleanse.

The Master Cleanse was created by Stanley Bourroughs, a man arrested for practicing medicine without a proper license. The detox diet promises to “cleanse the body of toxins and obliterate cravings for juices, alcohol, tobacco and junk food.” The diet plan consists of drinking a glass of salt water in the morning, 6-10 glasses of a concoction consisting of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper throughout the day and drinking a laxative tea at night for 10 days. For these 10 days, you do not consume any solid foods.

First and foremost, what does it mean to detox your body? “De-tox” literally means eliminating toxins — harmful agents that are found in the environment, including mercury and bisphenol A. Detoxification is a natural process that occurs in your body in which organs such as your liver, your kidneys, your lungs, or your skin excrete toxins to eliminate them from your body. Despite being “based on a natural bodily process,” there is no scientific evidence that proves that certain detox diets actually help the organs in our body in the process of detoxification. Detox is becoming a buzzword widely used by celebrities, and it is essentially a sales pitch with no evidence-based research to back it up.

At the end of the day, losing weight can be attributed to creating a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories in a day than you are eating. Celebrities have used the Master Cleanse to lose weight, but the reason they are losing weight is not because the concoctions they drink throughout the day have magical detoxifying properties, but rather because of the large calorie deficit that these diets promote. Although you will consume very few calories while on a “detox” diet, you will be deprived of macro and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function optimally. This will stress your body, with particularly intense effects on the digestive tract, and may have negative long-term health effects. Additionally, it can lead to a cycle of dieting followed by binging. This process, popularly referred to as “yo-yo dieting,” can lead to weight gain as well as physical and mental health complications. Ultimately, it is advisable to always consult a healthcare professional to make dietary restrictions that will work for you and your health long-term.

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Edward Lawlor
The Silhouette

“You need to eat more.”

As a tall, lanky teenager I have heard this one time too many. I have been openly criticized for my weight by peers, co-workers and even teachers. Today, there aren’t many people who would approach their overweight peers, co-workers or students and tell them to “hit the gym,” or “lay off the fries.” So why is it acceptable to tell someone they are not allowed to be thin? It seems that this age of self-love and size acceptance has left out one demographic: skinny people.

Now, before you angrily turn the page and curse the media for trying to tell you that “thin is in,” please read on. I do not represent any media entities. I am a sole person, trying to plead my case. It is no secret that the media often portrays only one body type as being ideal, and in doing so leaves everyone else feeling physically inadequate. In light of this unfair portrayal, many have spoken out against it. However, some have misdirected their dissatisfaction at thin people. One need only search “skinny hate” on the internet to observe this.

Often people who find themselves struggling with their weight will direct their unhappiness towards the thin individual. These same people will even go so far as to say “being thin is unattractive” or “I’d rather have curves than have people see my bones.” While these statements might have the intention to target the media, they in fact do more damage to those who are thin. It seems almost counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? In an attempt to reject the preference of one body type over another, they have done the exact opposite.

Now, I am not oblivious to the sad reality of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. They are awful afflictions, which no one should have to suffer through. But, there does exist a third reality: some of us are born thin. Whether it be hyper-active metabolisms, genes or simply fate, there exist humans who eat normally, but find it hard to gain weight. We should not be shamed for our naturally slender physique, the same way no one should be shamed for their naturally full-bodied physique.

Furthermore, the proverbial grass is not much greener here on the thin side of things. There are drawbacks attached to every body type, and ectomorphs are no exception. People often associate a lean figure with weakness, so it may come as no surprise that slender children and teens encounter bullying. I remember being made fun of for my weight (or lack thereof), throughout elementary and high school. Being called scrawny, bony and lanky subtly prompted me to wear long sleeves and pants constantly. I would refuse to leave my home without a sweater on, even in the summer heat for fear of being ridiculed. Shopping for clothes can be almost as discouraging, when pants won’t stay up and every outfit makes you look like a toddler playing dress-up. And being told by others that your gaunt frame is reflective of poor health is always disheartening.

To be clear, I am not scrounging for sympathy by stating the aforementioned facts. If they represent the peak of my bodily setbacks, I should count myself as fortunate. Nonetheless, it should be made known that being thin is not always beneficial.

I am not looking to spark a war against people who are not thin: I only wish to inform. Everyone has at one point had issues with their body, whether they be skinny, portly, lanky, curvy or somewhere in the middle. Truth buy discount cialis be told, there is nothing wrong with being naturally thin – some of us just are. Conversely, there is nothing wrong with being naturally full-bodied either – some of us just are. Keeping this in mind, let us celebrate body types from every point of the spectrum, not just our end.

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