How Diet Culture Ruined Female Fat Loss

Ah, diet culture. The toxic ex that always seems to reappear in your life when you’re bettering yourself, to drag you right back down. Diet culture is unfortunately insidious, and has wrapped itself like poison ivy around how we market fat loss to females. Fat loss and diet culture are not synonymous, nor are they mutually exclusive. I’m going to run through the common problems and barriers created by diet culture, and my opinion on these issues.

#1: Losing Weight Is Your Life’s Purpose

Diet culture is an inherent patriarchal institution that aims to keep female involvement in society low by reducing us to calorie counting bimbos, who’s thoughts are too preoccupied with calories and scale weight to worry about trivial things like equal pay and government. Leave that to the menfolk girlos.

Diet culture has perpetuated the notion that as a woman, your goal should always be to reduce your size in some form. Restriction and constant dissatisfaction with the self drive diet culture forward. Losing weight is of course not the sole focus of our lives. Nor should it be.

However, it also begs the question – what about when weight loss is a temporary focus in your life? Does it make you a bad woman? Are you driving diet culture forward by reducing your calorie intake? Being in calorie deficit does not equate to endorsing the gender pay gap. But it does make you think. Wanting to lose body fat, if it will help you feel better and healthier in yourself, is entirely your choice. Surely, feeling strong and secure is what drives feminism.

So I don’t necessarily agree with the other side of the coin, the “anti-diet” accounts that suggest any means of altering your body composition is inherently problematic. That in itself is a big old yikes. Ultimately, I think it all comes down to your motivations for doing what you do. Why do you want to lose fat? Is it because you want to feel better? Or is it because you think it’s the best way to get back at an ex (looking at you #RevengeBod)?

Fat loss is a choice, not a compulsion.

#2: Fat Loss Has To Be Difficult

The diet industry is worth billions of euro, and infinite mental energy in the female brain. Diet culture has spread its propaganda that weight loss must be awful. If you don’t hate yourself enough, you won’t succeed. This has led to the rise of skinny teas, insane workout programs and my biggest gripe, hypocaloric diets.

You’ve seen it on Instagram. Strict meal plans of 1000 calories. Glorifying the “suffering” of being chronically underfed under the guise of #grind. Pushing the notion that if you wanted to achieve this body of your dreams, you’d shut the fuck up and eat your three lettuce leaves.

Diet culture can only exist if you aren’t educated.

Diet culture would crumble if we were to educate females about calorie intake. About not eating below your basal metabolic rate. About nourishing your body, allowing yourself time to rest and not cutting out foods. You don’t have to punish yourself by starving the next day after you’ve had a Dominos. It doesn’t have to be like that.

But diet culture wants you to believe it does.

Some of my clients have come to me and said that they feel like their calorie targets are too much. This is obviously unique to the circumstances of the individual, but I believe that diet culture has a lot to answer for this. You don’t think you can get the results you want without chronic suffering.

And that in itself, is super fucked (yes that is the scientific term).

#3: It’s Nothing to Do with You

Diet culture doesn’t care about what you want. Why would it? You want something sustainable and achievable. There’s no money in that.

Long term success with fat loss that is actually sustainable comes from the unsexy middle ground. Regular meals, decent protein intake, eating your fruit and veg and exercising regularly. It is not rocket science, but it’s also not exciting.

Constantly bombarding you with images of the “ideal” female body takes away your choice, and your ability to decide what you want for yourself. Because diet culture has all the answers. You want to lose weight so you can look like this woman, don’t you? The only reason you could possibly want to lose weight is to impress others. Right?

Ultimately, I think you need to decide for yourself if fat loss is what you want, or what you think you should want. And there is no right or wrong answer here.


In a world that pushes photoshopped pictures, 1000 calorie diets and gruelling exercise plans, it’s not a surprise that body image issues and eating disorders are at dizzying heights. Fat loss is not anti-feminist. Diet culture is.

Social media is rife with misinformation, and I think it is only through education that we will free ourselves from the vice of diet culture.

I am as always open to hear your thoughts on this issue, and what your experiences are (except if you’re going to tell me the gender pay gap is a myth. I really don’t fancy Mountjoy at this time of year).

Published by Michelle Carroll

I am an online coach (MSc Sports & Exercise Nutrition, EQF Level 4 Personal Trainer, PN Level 1) and radiographer (BSc). I believe in empowering others to make better choices for their health through education. I think that the fitness industry has created a disconnect between best practices and “evidence-based” practices. I hope by chronicling my experience as a healthcare professional and my education as a fitness professional I can assist others on the path to bettering themselves.

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