Diet Culture & Beauty Standards: A Lethal Combination

The combination of a prevailing diet culture and the unrealistic standards put onto women in the early 2000s had a devastating impact on eating disorder statistics. The hospitalizations for eating disorders increased 18% between 1999 and 2006.13 This increase in in-patient treatment for eating disorders adds substance to the impact that growing up surrounded by increased diet culture and ultra-thin bodies were the norm.

Young girls who experienced celebrities showing off their thin figure in clothes that most couldn’t fit in has an impact. As well as the targeting of diet ads towards women, which further the need that women feel to be as skinny as possible.14 This culture in the early 2000s flaunted the idea that skinny people were the happiest and most successful.15 That without the extra 20 lbs, you too could be on the front page of an Abercrombie ad.

While not all girls coming of age during this time experienced a full-fledged eating disorder, it certainly introduced many to an unhealthy relationship with their bodies. The lingering ideals of “skinny is better” left many young women to wonder their value and to question if their body was good enough.16

The tweet above encapsulates a generation of women who came of age during the early 2000s that felt the effects of this harmful culture. The perpetuation of diet culture in the comment “just drink some water” made many girls and women feel like hunger was a defeatable opponent. That if you could hold out against stomach pangs you were normal, rather than fueling effectively which should’ve been the readily accepted lifestyle.

Despite the prevalence of diet culture and harmful rhetoric surrounding women and young girls, there was still efforts by women to combat this. Using the media to their advantage, celebrities such as Madonna fought against norms with their song lyrics. Providing a place to start for girls who wanted to move against the standards.



14 Emily Halban, Perfect: Anorexia and Me, (London: Vermilion, 2008).

15 Richard Maisel, David Epston, Ali Borden, ed., Biting the Hand That Starves You, (New York: Norton, 2004), 162.

16 Melissa Binstock, Nourishment: Feeding My Starving Soul When My Mind and Body Betrayed Me, (Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 2001.)