The diet culture

Audio: Medium

Now that summer is coming, all women want to look flawless, perfect, to have the ideal body for the sexiest bikini. Sipping from my glass of wine as I write this article, I sit and wonder what the ideal body means? What are the standards and why should they exist? Well, I may not have the answer to all of these questions, but I think I could share a little with you about the history of the diet I found out about recently.

Well, the image of the ideal body has changed over time, each having a meaning. The woman, from ancient times, has suffered because of these ideas and concepts. In reality, there is no perfect body, and what we see in magazines today, many do not reflect reality; either the images were photoshopped or the models were starved to reach a certain image, and so on.

Photo sources:

According to this adds that we’re seeing everywhere, these women with the ideal body are highly feminine, slim, tall, and so on. Whatever diet they can pick is the one that definitely is working. But what exactly is diet culture? Put simply it’s living your life by thinking that going on a diet and being skinny may solve all of your problems. Is it? Obviously not.

Dieting is a billion-dollar industry that makes money from all of our insecurities. A lot of researchers found that 98% of all diets are complete failures. I say let’s see where this thing started and what women were open to doing for looking flawless.

I won’t go that far as where history wasn’t even written, but I’ll go into Ancient Greece, about 3000 years ago. Diet comes from the word ”diaita” and it used to represent an entire way of life, or lifestyle as we call it today: good food, good drinks, and exercise or a lot of moving. We all can see in museums or statues in parks that the ancient Greeks, they had an admiration for the human body. In my opinion, since the Afroditis were pictured as having a curvy body, that became a standard for a long time.

Photo source:

Now, fast-forwarding to the 1800’s, weight was viewed as a symbol of status, as many other cultures still have this. If you were large and curvy that meant that you have enough sources to eat well and automatically be fertile. I don’t know exactly what was the situation if the woman was the other way around.

In the 1890’s when the magazines became more popular and the drawing started to show up, the Gibson Girl (made by Charles Dana Gibson) was now to inspire every woman out there. Little that they knew, this Gibson Girl wasn’t even existed. Beautiful, tall, slim-waist, and with a flawless face, doing sports and all kinds of moving activities. This Gibson Girl was the perfect example for every single woman.

After World War l, women wanted independence and not to return to their boring lives as they had before the war. They wanted to work, to have freedom. The first thing that happened after the war was that in 1918 doctor Lulu Hunt Peters printed the first diet book (Diet and Health with Key to the Calories), the second thing that was ”invented” was the bathroom scale (the nightmare of every single woman nowadays) and the 3rd and the one that really matters, in my opinion, it was that in 1919 women were finally allowed to vote in the USA for example.

I try as much as possible to make this article a pleasure to read and not be as long as Wednesday 😅.

Photo source:

This is the period when Coco Chanel shows up with the iconic silhouette. Because of the scale, the calorie counting, and the cultural desire to feel and look independent, the women wanted to be thin. So fad diet came on the scene. One of those diets, which are so unhealthy, is the cigarette diet. Basically, whenever you had the need of eating more or at all, women suppose to smoke instead.

This desire of 1920’s women to be slim has led to extreme diets such as the experimental tapeworm diet. In short, it means ingesting a large capsule that contained such a worm, which will grow in the body and thus cut the appetite. The goal is that wasp waist that we aspire to even today. Historians say women’s bust to waist ratio size in magazines dwindled by almost 60%. From what I know from college and books that I read over the years, that’s the first period that an epidemic of eating disorders started and young women even died trying to reach perfection.

Photo source: Mizz Serendipity

Now, the perfect body shape changed again after The Big Depression in 1920’s. Being skinny was associated with being poor. Then, after 4 decades of curvy bodies, the trend went back to the skinnier silhouette. And so on appeared the struggles between currents and trends, between that wasp silhouette and fat acceptance.

Like the struggle wasn’t enough by now, shakes for men and women came on the market, of course with the same goal, to rich perfection. But, one diet, in particular, changed everything and continues to exist even today and that’s the Atkins diet, created by Robin Atkins in 1972.

Photo source: YouTube

Probably a lot of you tried this diet and it worked but with what cost? Fatigue, heart problem, constipation… does this ring a bell? Well, everybody is free to try whatever is available these days, no judgment here.

From Jane Fonda exercising, and to today’s perfect slim body, one thing came to light. Bulimia and eating disorders should not be beread under the carpet; it’s a real thing, a big deal and we should take this into account before anything else.

What I am trying to convey through this article is that I personally do not consider that the ideal body exists, it is just an idea imposed by society. I really don’t think it’s okay to let ourselves be swept away and eat unknowingly all the crap out of the land that the food industry can offer. Having 100 kg just because we like food a lot again is not a healthy option. I believe that 80% healthy food and 20% exercise is ideal for keeping us in the best shape and having a healthy body. The rest are the aspirations that society imposes on us. I am convinced that in decades to come, the perfect body will look different. In conclusion, it does not exist. We need to feel good in our skin, take care of our health, and understand that what we see is what sells to the public. There is no ideal body.

I hope this article is a source of information for many of you out there who are looking for the ideal. This does not exist. Instead, a healthy body and a healthy mind are all that anyone needs to have a happy life. The rest of your career success or vacations 12 months a year are from another field, but the connection between them is a healthy body. Take care of yourself, choose to eat healthily, and exercise a little every day. See you next week, as usual, on Sunday at 2 pm, Helsinki time.


Sources: Wikipedia, YouTuber Bailey Sarian-The Dark History of Diet Culture

4 responses to “The diet culture”

  1. You pose a question that really can’t be answered. Physical beauty or perfection depends on the time frame, as you pointed out, but also upon the culture. In some culture, women shaped like beach balls are the ideal of beauty, in others, women whose bodies look like twigs are considered beautiful. So, what is the ideal body? If the person you care about and who cares about you finds you beautiful, that is the ideal body to have. Women have to stop trying to compete with supermodels and celebrities and just be who they are…they will be much happier for that and so will the people around them

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with you. I just wanted to point out that women should stop butcher their bodies in order to look perfect. That leaves marks on their mind and soul, forever in the search for perfection.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of your best article yet! Is a pleasure to read again something informative from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad you like it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: