Diet culture plays a significant role in shaping our perceptions of a healthy weight and the ideal body image, especially when it comes to the “shredded” or “athletic” muscular ideal for women. It often perpetuates the notion that thinness equates to health and worth. It sends the message that a smaller body size is inherently superior and more desirable.
Diet culture exerts its influence through constant body comparison. It implies that achieving a specific physique is a sign of discipline and self-control, while deviating from that ideal is seen as a failure. The concept of “shredded” or “athletic” ideals often goes hand in hand with an obsession with intense exercise routines. Women are encouraged to push their bodies to the limit in pursuit of this ideal, sometimes at the expense of their physical and mental health.
The constant pressure to conform to these ideals can lead to mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
So how do you really know if you are your healthiest weight? Here are 10 indications to assess if you are:
1. You don’t experience a fixation with food
People who experience food fixation may have a heightened concern about their food choices, body weight, or appearance, which can lead to emotional distress and an unhealthy relationship with eating. A healthy relationship with food means you’re not consumed by thoughts of what you should or shouldn’t eat. Food is enjoyable and nourishing, not a constant worry.
2. No food is off-limits, and you don’t restrict food
You don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead, you enjoy a variety of foods in moderation, without extreme dieting or rigid restrictions in order to control your body weight.
3. You consume a balanced diet
A healthy weight often comes naturally when you eat a diet rich in both macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Your focus is on nourishing your body.
4. You give yourself unconditional permission to eat
You trust yourself to make food choices aligned with your values and health goals. You don’t feel guilty for indulging occasionally; it’s all part of a balanced approach to eating.
5. You aren’t overly concerned when there are deviations in your exercise routine
You exercise for enjoyment and health, not as a punishment for eating. You’re not obsessed with hitting a specific step count or logging excessive hours at the gym. You don’t become overly preoccupied or anxious when your exercise routine or activity levels change. You know it’s natural for life to fluctuate and you embrace it without self-judgment.
6. You maintain consistent eating patterns and are in touch with your hunger and fullness cues
You maintain stable eating habits, avoiding regular overeating, undereating or emotional eating. When variations occur, you understand their causes and make positive adjustments. Instead of using food to cope with your emotions, you have ways to manage feelings of stress, boredom, anxiety, overwhelm, etc.
7. You prioritize recovery and sleep
A healthy weight is often associated with adequate rest. You prioritize quality sleep and allow your body to recover from physical activity.
8. You have a regular menstrual cycle
For women in their reproductive years, a regular menstrual cycle can be an indicator of overall health. Being significantly underweight or having an eating disorder can disrupt normal menstrual cycles. The body may prioritize essential functions over reproductive function when it senses a lack of energy or nutrition. Intense or excessive exercise, especially when combined with inadequate calorie intake, can lead to changes in hormone levels and result in amenorrhea (missing periods). This is often referred to as exercise-induced amenorrhea. PCOS and thyroid imbalances can lead to irregular or absent periods as well. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional if you experience irregularities.
9. Your weight fluctuates within a certain range
You understand that your body’s weight naturally fluctuates within a certain range, and this fluctuation is entirely normal. A healthy approach to weight involves prioritizing how you feel over a particular number on the scale. It means paying attention to your energy levels, mood, physical fitness, and overall well-being rather than fixating on achieving a specific weight goal.
10. You don’t have excessively high or very low body fat
While BMI has its limitations, it can offer a general indication of health. You aim for a body fat level that falls within a healthy range but understand that individual variation exists. Some individuals with a BMI in the obese range or a high body fat percentage may have relatively good metabolic health, while others with lower measurements may still be at risk for health problems due to factors like genetics and lifestyle.
It’s important to remember that health is a holistic concept, and weight is just one aspect of it. Instead of fixating solely on a specific number on the scale, aim to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle that supports your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Here’s what a graduated client shared with me:
“I experienced a mental shift where I went from feeling really negative about myself and my body to accepting where I am now and being OK with my body while trusting that there is alot more good to come.
Enjoying normal food again feels so freeing! I’m not over analyzing or being hard on myself if I want to have popcorn with my kids or go out for dinner. I know I am doing what is best for me.
I’ve let go of diet culture and restriction. Now I’m in a much better place to work on my physical health goals.
Oh, and my husband is happy seeing me happy!” – D.M.
If you need additional support in gaining control over your triggers and enjoying food without guilt, consider applying for personalized 1:1 coaching. You’ll receive practical, evidence-based tools to reshape your food perspective and embrace a loving, sustainable approach. Imagine your life transformed, embracing newfound ease around food, and nurturing your body with a compassionate, balanced mindset.