Diet Culture and Its Downfalls in the Early 2000’s: An Introduction

The US is a country which is full of constant media exposure of celebrities. Tabloids and social media show the public what they’re eating, wearing, drinking, and doing 24/7. While there is some good that can be taken from celebrities and their influence, there is also a lot of negative lessons that can be taken from their lifestyles. In the early 2000s, as media grew in size and modality, the downfalls of it were seen much more clearly. One of the negative parts of media during this time was diet culture, with many celebrities setting an unrealistic example for bodies, particularly for women.


Diet Culture is best described as an adapted set of ideas surrounding food and body image which is pushed forward by the media and other actors.1 The idealization of smaller bodies seen in the media in the early 2000s had a widespread effect on women and their perception of an ideal body type. For many, it meant starving themselves or purging their food in order to achieve this “standard” of beauty. For others it meant self-hatred, with the goal of being skinnier always associated with happiness or success. The impacts of diet culture are vast and its roots stem from many factors, but can be traced back to the media and the patriarchal values that govern it in pushing so many young women towards eating disorders.


Anorexia nervosa is an illness defined by a person’s unhealthy obsession with thinness. A person becomes so infatuated with their weight and often have a distorted image of themselves, seeing their reflection as fat, ugly, lumpy, etc. Anorexia differs from other eating disorders as it is characterized by the restriction or refusal to consume food. The effects of the disorder include extreme loss of body fat, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hair loss, heart problems, and many more. The danger of an eating disorder such as anorexia is the risk of heart failure because of the lack of nutrients that someone suffering from anorexia is putting in their bodies.


The extreme diet culture and patriarchal values that were put forth in the early 2000s extrapolated the risk for many women to develop anorexia due to the cultural environment that they were in. This makes the impact these factors much more extreme and noticeable in the trends that will be explored throughout this project.


1 Frances M. Berg, Women Afraid to Eat: Breaking Free in Today’s Weight-Obsessed World, (Healthy Weight Network, 2000), 193.

2Stephan Zipfel, Andreas Stengel, Stephan Zipfel, Andreas Stengel, and Katrin Giel. Anorexia Nervosa. (Basel, Switzerland: MDPI – Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021)