Opinion: Focus on growth and ditch diet culture

Melissa Brennan, Nutrition Student

Transitioning back to in-person classes after the COVID hiatus brings both exciting and nervous energy. For some, the stay-at-home orders threw off schedules and routines and resulted in many changes ranging from stress and weight gain to economic fluctuations. While schools and the state opens back up and as life gets back to “normal,” it is important to practice both mental and physical wellness to have a successful year. As you recreate routines, remember to engage in behaviors that serve you and do not fall prey to the diet culture mentality. Diet culture is meant to feed off of insecurities and quick fixes in order to reel in more consumers. Think of diet culture as a business trying to make money off failures. A lifestyle focused on eating and exercising out of joy and respect for your body actually serves you. Here are a few tips for navigating the health space as we return back to in-person classes:

Focus on what you can add to your life.

Diet culture stems from restrictive practices designed to cut out parts of your lifestyle in hopes you will see short-term results. When thinking about long-term health and wellness, it is important to focus on what you can add to your life instead of what you have to stay away from. For some, that might look like adding in more fruits and vegetables in order to increase fiber and nutrient consumption. For others, that might look like adding in joyful movement like dancing or walks on the beach to increase activity. It’s important to focus on how the activity is making you feel mentally and physically, instead of focusing on calories burned or compensating for meals. Thinking about health and wellness as behaviors you can adopt into your life to make it more balanced and fulfilled, will end up reaping more benefits than focusing on things to restrict and avoid.

Reestablish a routine.

Going remote for a year brought a vastly different schedule than what students encounter in face-to-face settings. Reestablishing a routine is vital to feeling on top of schoolwork, jobs, health, and wellness. Quality sleep habits are important to start the day off right. Now that meetings are not remote, the time to get ready and prepared for the day, as well as commute times, need to be considered. Planning out meals, physical activity, sleep, and self-care are all vital components to establishing a beneficial routine. Investing in a planner or utilizing a calendar app on your phone are also good ways to keep track of commitments and healthy habits and also a great place to outline goals for the year. Identifying personal goals can help create a routine that serves you and your short and long-term goals. 

Practice Body Positivity.

During the global pandemic, the stress and stay-at-home orders gave some the opportunity to focus on health and wellness, while it became more complicated for others. It is important to not compare your experiences with those of others during this unprecedented time, as everyone (and their bodies) respond differently to the stressors and changes of the past year. Practicing body positivity for yourself and others is another way to help ease into this school year without judgment and perpetuations of stigmas that lead to further division amongst others and within ourselves. Body positivity is a weight-neutral practice that focuses on celebrating and advocating for our bodies to increase self-confidence, mental and physical health, and overall well-being. While practicing body positivity has led some to believe that this encourages unhealthy behaviors, this is not the actual goal. Flipping the script and viewing yourself nonjudgmentally will open the doors for health wellbeing. Practicing body positivity can be woven into creating your new routine, by scheduling in time for self-care, joyful movement that serves your body and mind, and eating foods that you enjoy and nourish you. 

As we head into this new school year, it is important to focus on your own health and wellbeing to reach your personal and future career goals. Try to avoid falling into the traps set by diet culture, and fill your life with routines, people, and self-care that serves your overall health and well-being. 


  1. Weir K. The extra weight of covid-19. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/07/extra-weight-covid. Published July 1, 2021. Accessed August 1, 2021. 
  2. Cohen R, Newton-John T, Slater A. The case for body positivity on social media: Perspectives on current advances and future directions [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 19]. J Health Psychol. 2020;1359105320912450. doi:10.1177/1359105320912450


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