Mirror, Mirror: Why All Those Dumb Diet Headlines Are More Dangerous Than You Think

It wouldn’t be January without the media focusing on anything and everything having to do with weight loss. One of my favorite activities around this time of year is to hate-scroll through The Daily Mail, the website with what I find to be the most absurd/offensive/dumb diet and weight-related headlines. Why do I this? Because it reminds me how important it is to continue to challenge these twisted ideas about body image. It’s easy to think that because you’re intellectually aware of the insidiousness of weight loss propaganda and body shame rhetoric, that you’re immune to falling prey to it. We’re all susceptible to the negative messages we receive our bodies that we receive. That’s why I make it a point to spend a little bit of time each January detoxing my mind — reminding myself what’s real about my relationship to my body and what’s a load of noise being piped into my subconscious. I already wrote about The Daily Mail’s warning about “buffalo humps” and “bingo wings,” but below are some more headlines that I need to call bullshit on.

Headline: One In Four Will Sabotage A Friend’s Diet Because Restricting Food Makes People So Utterly Boring”

What’s Screwed Up About It: If you are paying that much attention to what your friends are eating, you probably have undressed food issues of your own. That being said, restricting food and eating healthy are two different things. Restricting food is about elimination and absolutism, eating healthy is about balance and moderation. There’s nothing boring about balance and moderation.

Headline: Ke$ha Blames Music Producer Dr. Luke For Her Eating Disorder”

What’s Screwed Up About It: Anyone who has ever had an eating disorder, or food issues in general, will confirm that having a dysfunctional relationships with food is never really about food. It’s about the deep emotional issues underneath. Headlines like this keep eating disorders neat, tidy and simple. They keep the sick person from owning their issues and keep the blame external, which is counter-intuitive to healing. You can’t wake up one day and become bulimic because someone told you look like a “fucking refrigerator.” If Dr. Luke did actually say that, that’s fucked up. I’m not excusing him. But eating disorders don’t work like that. Body snarking doesn’t cause an emotionally healthy person with otherwise good self-esteem to start binging and purging.

Headline: Super Skinny Nicole Richie Back Down To 88lbs By Living On A Diet Of Sunflower Seeds, Celery, Juice And Chewing Gum”

What’s Screwed Up About It: I should mention that this article is all speculation. Nicole Richie made no official statement about what’s she’s been eating lately. The thing that’s most awful about this headline is the subtext: “We’re watching your fluctuation in weight and talking about it behind your back.” Sure, Nicole Richie happens to be in the public eye so people are watching her, but headlines like this condone watching and commenting about all women’s bodies.

Headline: Winter Weight Woes: More Than A Quarter Of Women Put On Half A Stone As They Comfort Eat And Forgo Exercise During Cold Months”

What’s Screwed Up About It: The word “woes” implies that the way your body looks should make you feel like crap. It assumes that all women are engaged in a struggle with themselves. In addition, there’s a mixed message here: you’re supposed to be losing weight this time of year, but sadly, your fate is to pack on the pounds. You’re destined to fail. But failure is only an option when you are goal-oriented (read: aiming for a particular weight). Health is not about being goal-oriented.

Headline: Should You Be Worried About Your ‘Thut?’ How Our Sedentary Lifestyles Are Causing A Rise In The Seamless Thigh-Butt”

What’s Screwed Up About It: In case you didn’t know (I didn’t!), the “thut” is the area between your thigh and butt. According to a pilates instructor interviewed by The Daily Mail,having a good body means have a seam between your thigh and your butt. If you don’t, you will heretofore be referred to as a woman with “blogger butt.” Gee, thanks! The underlying message here is that we should live in constant fear and anxiety of our bodies being out of our control. Why? Because your body is not yours. Scary thought.

Headline: “Want To Stop Snacking? Eat Half An Avocado At Lunch To Banish Hunger Pangs”

What’s Screwed Up About It: Avocados are healthy for you. So is snacking, actually. The weird thing about this headline is the way it’s phrased. Instead of focusing on the benefits of eating avocado at lunch, it sends a subtle message that it’s very, very bad and wrong to be hungry between meals and even worse to give into that hunger by indulging in a healthy snack. God forbid you should eat an apple at 3p.m. You’re whole life is going to go to hell in a hand basket. And what does ignoring and suppressing your hunger do? It makes you overeat and it prevents you from determining when you’re full. So, the takeaway here is: don’t listen to your body’s signals. That’s fucked up.