New year detox mentality: the dangers of diet culture

Blogs editor, Emily Merrill, discusses detox and diet culture, arguing that for our well-being, and the well-being of those around us, we need to replace New Year weight-loss goals with self-love resolutions.

Men think about sex every seven seconds. If you eat the crusts of your toast your hair will become curly. Cleanse your body with juice and nothing else, and you can flush away all the calories and toxins. What do these three things have in common? They’re all myths.

Detoxing. At this time of year, its hard to walk into the supermarket, scroll through Facebook, or even check your emails without being bombarded with the expression. But let’s be honest: if a glass of water with a lemon stuck in it or a box of expensive tea bags were the only ways to rid your body of toxins, it would be a pretty dire situation. Not only is that what your kidneys are for, it’s also objectively unhealthy to follow a New Year’s fad that instructs you to drive yourself to starvation. Both for you, and for those around you.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in recovery, it’s that the capitalist-consumer relationship breeds two things. Profit, and a hell-bent attitude to make a profit at the expense of everything else. Just days ago, a health food company was slammed for naming one of its meals ‘Thigh Gap’. Brands know that by labelling something as ‘detox’, or by intrusively dropping onto your screens and promoting a six-week meal plan that consists of nothing but slimming milkshakes to ‘cleanse’ your system, they will draw in a crowd. When the modern young adult audience is surrounded by diet culture and the ever-present pressure to fit the mould of an ‘ideal’ body type, who could be surprised. This is only intensified in January, the time of New Year’s resolutions.

Dieting and detoxing have become such normalised aspects of our culture that they are almost expected, bringing with them unhealthy triggers and patterns of disordered eating that can develop into potentially life-threatening illnesses. Not only can the spike in dieting at this time of year set off dangerous thought behaviours in those recovering, it can sow a brand-new seed of doubt in someone else. Recovery is not a straight line, and eating disorders that relapse from a New Year’s echo are not uncommon. The promotion of an improved version of the self at the start of a fresh year can spiral out of control, and it’s vital to remember to be aware of the repercussions.

The glamorisation of the dieting industry has taught us that we should not take up space. Just months away from the next period of enforced guilt, the ‘bikini body’ season, we must take back what has been stolen from us. The ability to be proud of our bodies, whatever shape or size that they are. The ability to ignore campaigns that tell us about the next weight-loss pill, because we know it will not work and we don’t have to want it to.

Most importantly, we must situate our voices outside of the diet mentality present at this time of year and during all seasons of the year. We must do this to be mindful of our own mental and physical health, and those of our friends, family members, and strangers who might overhear us.
We are bigger than the dieting industry. Their tea bags are way too expensive for us anyway.

Emily Merrill

Photo credit: Pixabay