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diet culture

Nothing Tastes as good as
freedom does 

Photographs by Joel Muniz

Sanele Ngubane - MODE Magazine


May 1, 2022

We live in a world dominated by social media where perfection is the obsession and small is always the goal.

I remember - very clearly; the first time my mother put me on a low carb diet. It was during my two years in middle school and this diet promised to be the key to unlocking my skinny girl dreams. I mean my mother had seen it “working wonders” for a few of her work colleagues and I could tell that she really believed it would shed a few kilos off my developing body. That it did! I lost 5 kilos, I felt amazing, my mother was proud of me and all my friends thought I looked great! Of course within only two weeks, I had gained it all back because it’s impossible for a twelve-year old growing girl to live only off meat and water-based vegetables for the rest of her life. Whilst said twelve-year old girl is being invited to birthday parties and sleepovers where cake, sweets and food deemed as “bad” are in abundance.

I wonder if my friends categorised foods as either bad or good too...

I think that was the very first time someone had confirmed the fears that had made a home within my mind about the size of my body. I mean, if my own mother believed I was too big, I must have been too big right? It was a shameful and isolating feeling, and little did I know that this feeling of inadequacy would stick with me for the next seventeen years of my life.

Alright diet culture, - let’s talk about it.

Diet culture is the belief that appearance and body shape are more important than your physical, psychological, and general wellbeing. It’s the idea that controlling your body, particularly your diet – by limiting what and how much you eat, is normal.

The culture is so very rarely, if ever about health; rather more about the way we look. It’s made up of a collective set of social expectations telling us that there is one way to be, to look, to eat. That if we are that one way, we are on a higher level than others who are not.

WOMEN - MODE Magazine

To put it simply, diet culture says; skinny = good, fat = bad.


Naturally I’m someone who has thicker thighs, bigger bum, and a fuller figure – Although I don’t completely lack self-awareness; I know that I carry a few more kilos than I should, but do I need to shed those for my health now or in the future or because of the pressure I feel to exist in a smaller body? 


I’ve been “thin” before, I’ve done every diet under the sun, seen multiple nutritionists over the years, worked out 3 times a day for a period, even lost my period for several months and suffered from a number of eating disorders; all in an effort to feel beautiful and seen in a world that I was conditioned to believe wouldn’t “see” women my size. How ironic.

MODE Magazine
 - MODE Magazine

I’ve done all the things, with great temporary success. My existence in a smaller body never lasts more than a year or two at the most because it always comes back around to the fact that the routes taken to get to the destination were always abusive to my body and my mind. It’s never been for my health because I am healthy, it’s never been for my own personal growth because I am consistently growing in many areas of my life because I am so much more than this body.


Yes, we need to take care of the body we’ve been given, by fuelling it with the right things, listening to it and moving it when we can. It helps us physically accomplish some of the things we dream and aspire to do, and to do those things we need to have a healthy working shell, it just cannot be the definitive distinction of who we are.


“Nothing tastes better than skinny feels”

*“Nothing tastes better than freedom feels”


This idea that fat is bad, leads us as a society to always move onto the next weight loss diet. The diet that promises you a new body in five days, barely getting enough nutrients and energy to perform simple everyday tasks, but holding on for that freedom that we all think comes from living in a smaller body. It’s an endless cycle of eating with regret, the unquenchable need for validation, starting over on Monday, crippling comparison, deep insecurity, and a long list of other things.


Diet culture has been a main character in my life for as long as I can remember. Written in by the insecurities of other people fuelled by this impossible goal of perfection. Whilst I’m living in a society that I believe doesn’t find a flaw in the saying “nothing tastes better than skinny feels”, all I can do for myself is rewrite the narrative of my life and no longer have diet culture as the main character. This looks like accepting my differences, confronting my own insecurities, and looking after myself, for myself. 


I’ll say it again and I hope to continue saying it for the rest of my life; I am so much more than what my body looks like and so are you.

Women  - MODE Magazine
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