ETR 282: Similarities Between Anti-Aging Culture & Diet Culture (Body Image Series)

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-Worth

Podcast on Similarities Between Anti-Aging Culture & Diet Culture
Similarities Between Anti-Aging Culture & Diet Culture

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m talking about the similarities between diet culture and anti-aging culture, as part of the Body Image Series.

I also talk about the importance of being more discerning of the messages we’re taking in.

In This Episode, I Chat About

  • How aging concerns spans generations,
  • That ageism is rampant in our culture and seems to have piggy-backed off the same dynamics of diet culture,
  • The surprising stats on the growth of the anti-aging industry,
  • My own experience with skin care and anti-aging products and procedures,
  • That they both stem from and profit off of oppressive systems,
  • How anti-aging upholds anti-fatness, sexism, classism, and ableism,
  • That once you’re invested, you have to keep investing,
  • The ways in which they both steal a lot of time, energy, and money,
  • How participating in these cultures chips away at your self-worth,
  • A question to ask yourself to bring awareness to where anti-aging is impacting your decisions,
  • Plus so much more!

Listen Now (transcript below)

Watch on YouTube

Don’t forget, I’m on iTunes! You can be one of my kick-ass subscribers. Also, I would be SO GRATEFUL if you took 2 minutes to leave a review. Go here -> click “Reviews and Ratings” and then “Click to Rate”.

Links Mentioned in Show


It’s not enough to just be thin now now we have to be thin and we have to have skin that looks like a glazed doughnut.

This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image, self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and confidence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.

This episode of ether rules is brought to you by you on fire you on fire is the online group coaching program that I run that gives you a step by step way of building up your self worth beyond your appearance. With personalized coaching from me incredible community support and lifetime access to the program so that you can get free from body shame and live life on your own terms. Get details on what’s included and sign up for the next cycle at summer forward slash you on fire. I’d love to have you in that group.

This is episode 282. And I’m talking about the similarities between diet culture and anti aging culture. You can find all the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 282 You can always just go to the body image to find everything that I talked about on this podcast.

I want to give a shout out to cat and girl who left this review. The best summer is such a clever understanding compassionate and enthusiastic voice shouting against diet culture. She is like having your very own cheerleader in your corner. And that’s why I love her podcasts. They are the best thing to binge on. I have learned so much from her. Thanks so much summer for your amazing work, you are the best thing to help fight that inner critic we all have inside of us. Thank you so much what a kind review all the way from Australia. Thank you so much cat and girl, I really really appreciate that you can leave a review by going to Apple podcasts search for eat the rules and click ratings and reviews and click to leave a review. It only takes two minutes of your time. But it helps this podcast a lot. If you haven’t already done so grab the free 10 Day body confidence makeover at summer and forward slash freebies with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. And if you are a provider who works with people who may also have body image struggles, get the free body image coaching roadmap at summer forward slash roadmap.

All right, let’s talk about the similarities between diet culture and anti aging culture. I wanted to do this episode because aging and body image concerns go hand in hand, the majority of the clients that I work with tend to be at a point where they are experiencing shame and worry not only about their their body size, but also about their appearance as a result of of aging. And I see this span generations. So I see this impacting people who are 60. Plus I see this impacting people in their 40s and 50s. And I also see it impacting people in their 30s, which I feel like was never a concern for me when I was in my 30s like it has really become this proliferation of anti aging messaging, which I suppose is why we now call it anti aging culture, right. But it is so similar to diet culture. And I want to point out those similarities today. That’s the point of this podcast today. When I sent out the listener survey, at the beginning of the summer of 2023, a lot of you said you wanted to have more content that spoke to aging. And so here you go. And the next episode is going to be about it too in a different way more about how to deal with changes in your aging body, but ageism. Much like sizes. It’s really rampant in our culture. They both stem from very similar systems. They both stem from our capitalistic white supremacist beauty standards and culture and the different subsidiaries of things like classism, and health ism. And I’ll talk more about that here. But one of the reasons that we see aging being more of a concern is because like I said, the messaging has just become prolific, and so much of that messaging is so similar to diet culture, which makes sense, right? They’re both upholding these ever changing unrealistic standards and

They both profit immensely off of that, and they profit off of our insecurities. The other day, I was having this conversation with one of the practitioners in our body image coach certification program. And I referred to anti aging culture as the Nepo baby of diet culture, because it really seems to have piggybacked off of the same dynamics. Now, anti aging culture has been around since the dawn of time, in some way, shape, or form. But I think the mainstream proliferation of it and the influence of social media and like the Kardashian effect, and everything else, has really caused it to have like exponential growth in the last few years, I would say, I did a bit of research for this. And the anti aging industry is estimated to be valued at $67.2 billion. That’s US dollars in 2022. And it’s growing at a rate of about 6% per year with 35 to 55 year olds holding the largest market share, which is kind of surprising yet, not like I said, they’re really targeting younger individuals with with this messaging and with these insecurities, and that stat, that number, that $67.2 billion, that doesn’t include things like plastic surgery, that it does include things like sunscreen and hair color products, but it doesn’t include plastic surgery. So I feel like if you got down to some of the more nitty gritty numbers, that it might even be a higher number. But things like sunscreen and hair color, it’s kind of wishy washy, right, not all of that is necessarily targeted for used for anti aging purposes. But to just to give you a comparison, the global weight loss and weight management market is valued at $175.44 billion. So, you know, over twice the size of the anti aging industry, which is why I called it an EPO, baby, it’s also protected to keep growing, they are both huge markets, like that is a lot of money, and they are taking our money and our time and our energy. And they’re capitalizing off of these systems of oppression. And they’re contributing to keeping these systems of oppression alive. And well. They keep us feeling bad about ourselves. They keep us fixating on our appearances. And so in this episode, I really wanted to explore the similarities between diet culture and anti aging culture. Because I think that by doing so we can be more discerning of the messages that we’re taking in. I think a lot of you listening to this podcast are pretty familiar with with dye culture is and where it shows up. But looking at the similarities, it helps us to see how harmful anti aging culture is as well. And I just want to be fully transparent here like, I am not perfect when it comes to no longer participating in anti aging culture. I still use an anti aging eye cream. I use retinol on my face. And I question why sometimes, and yet, I still continue to do it. So there’s nuance to it. It’s complicated, right like, and that’s why I want to be really clear, I’m not shaming anyone who participates in this system at all. Rather, I think it’s important even if you’re participating in a system to be critical of it and to understand where you know, implicit bias and things like that may be causing you to collude with that system, or uphold that system. And a couple years ago, I really found myself getting more invested in skincare like I was more critical of my face. And I think since really kind of considering a lot of these things, I’ve paired it I’ve definitely pared it back a bit. I have certainly wrestled with this question of like, do I get Botox? And I have not. But I know a lot of people that do. And I just don’t think it’s for me, after deep reflection, and I mean, deep reflection, I had to be like, what is it that this would give me? And I think for me, it really came back to like classism, but I decided it’s not. It’s not for me. And again, I’m not judging anyone else who does it. But I dislike the sunspots on my face. And I sometimes wonder I’m like, is that because of the last few years, like, there’s been so much messaging around, like having really flawless quote unquote, skin and that like sunspots are a reflection of age and age is bad, right? And so I wonder if the reason why I don’t like my sunspots is because of this conditioning. I mean, it probably is or whether it’s because I just don’t like the inconsistencies. I mean, now that I’m saying it aloud, I’m pretty sure it’s because of the conditioning. And I also question where we draw the line on like what constitutes anti aging, like when we consider something like hair color, or versus getting something like lip filler, right? So like, I just don’t think this conversation is black and white.

So all that is to say is there’s probably some nuance here, and I’m still wrestling with some of these things myself, and I’m not so far on the other side as I am with diet culture, where like, I really just don’t think about food at all anymore, which is loaded with privilege as well, because I have size privilege and I have class privilege. So eating is certainly going to be easier for me as well. But you know, it’s not something that I’m still wrestling with. Whereas this is something that still is, it’s on my mind. But the awareness I have is really helping me to unpack a lot of this stuff for myself, and consider like where I want to invest my time and energy. All right. Let’s get into this. But before I do one more thing. There is a writer called Jessica Tofino, she has a subset called the unpublishable, and she talks a lot about skincare culture. And so if you are interested in this stuff, I will link to it in the show notes. Her content is amazing, her analyses her critiques are so good. I’m not nearly as educated on the subject matter as she is, so definitely check that out. But I’m going to go through eight similarities between diet culture and anti aging culture. The first similarity is that they both stem from oppressive systems, and they both profit off of those systems. So diet culture and anti aging culture, both uphold this ideal appearance as the goal quote, unquote, like, it’s like this image that you need to reach. And when you do that, your life is going to be better, you’re going to be confident, you’re gonna be happier, you’re going to be able to like be in a relationship, you’re going to be more successful. And they all kind of follow this, they both follow the same script, it’s like if you use these products, then you’re going to feel better about yourself. Or if you engage in dieting, you’re going to feel better about yourself, where they’re both coming from is these oppressive systems. So like anti fatness, which comes from anti blackness, you can see the Sabrina strings book fearing the black body for more on that connection, as well as listen to the episode that I did with Jessica Wilson a few months ago. And when we talk about anti aging, that upholds anti fatness as well, because the ideal as you get older, as you get older is still thin. And they both uphold sexism. You know, they both uphold this idea that like women are meant to be desirable. They both upholds classism, you know that you need wealth to really kind of participate in these systems and thinness as well as having sort of flawless skin both signal wealth, they both uphold like gender norms, and they both uphold ableism. You know, we assign value to the way that someone can function which goes hand in hand with ageism and anti fat bias, right, we see fatness fatness as kind of saying like, wow, that person can’t function as well. And we same thing with agent, we assume like that person can’t function as well. And so by basically selling something that’s going to sort of like that’s going to uphold these ideals, not perpetuating these biases, we’re perpetuating these stereotypes. And they have a lot in common in that way. And the goalposts for PD standards, they just keep changing. And that’s going to fuel both diet culture and anti aging culture, which has a direct impact on how we feel about our bodies, you know, like you don’t just have to be thin. Now, you also have to have donuts skin, which for those of you that don’t know, it just means like really smooth, like glowy glazed skin, and they use that term donut, Donut face or donut skin. So what I think we can do with that information is we can just be critical of these messages. And we can be critical of the visuals we’re taking in, you know, like, what ideal is being upheld? What is polluting your brain? And can you get rid of that pollution as much as you can. And look at that from both like a body size and aging perspective. The second point that they have in common is that once you’re invested, you have to keep investing. So if you stop the perceived benefits go away. So we know this with dieting, once you diet, the diet doesn’t work any longer after a certain point in time, because your body won’t allow it to work any longer. And so therefore, you end up gaining the weight back. And so for most people, they blame themselves and I think I did something wrong, there must be another way. And so they try another diet, or they repeat the same one and they’re continuously on this cycle. So dieting you’re signing up to this lifetime of participating in it. Otherwise, you know, then your body just goes back to gaining weight or being the size that it was or what or whatnot. With anti aging. It’s the same thing like we have to keep investing in it, or we’re not going to be able to maintain it and like how genius is that from a marketing perspective in order to profit off of people, like they’re both set up with long term profit in mind. So with anti aging, if you stop using Botox, your face is gonna go back to the way it was if you stopped dyeing your gray hair, it’s gonna go gray again. So if you stop using your anti aging cream, like you’re gonna speeding up the aging process, so to speak.

So with all these things, there’s a long term investment in mind, and they have you as a consumer for life until you opt out. So I think that like, what we have to ask ourselves is, Am I okay with doing this for the rest of my life, whether that relates to dieting, or whether that relates to engaging in anti aging practices? Like, are you okay with doing that for the rest of your life. And so that leads to my third point, which is they both steal a lot of time, energy and money. So if you think about doing this for the rest of your life, how much time energy and money is that going to cost you dieting steals an immense amount of our time, our mental space, our money, we’re focused on what foods we’re going to eat how much more we’re maybe buying different supplements, we’re investing in different like nutritionists or whatever, or fitness plans, weight loss drugs now, and it takes up an enormous amount of time and energy and money, and what anti aging is the same thing that can occupy a lot of our thoughts. It takes a ton of money to do elaborate skincare routines. And in particular, it takes a significant amount of money to continue to participate in that for the rest of your life. That shit is not cheap, okay, like, these creams are expensive. And if you think about how much you have to spend on that on a monthly basis for the rest of your life, you know, where could that money go instead? And that’s a question I continue to ask myself too. So I’m not perfect. And so again, I’m not judging anyone who participates in this. But I think it’s really helpful to ask ourselves like, well, what would I gain? If I have this time, energy and money back? Like what? Or where could these resources go that might better serve myself and others. The fourth thing they have in common is that they both decrease our self worth. And this is where they’re both really clever with their marketing, because they give you this illusion that you’re going to have more self worth, and feel better about yourself. If you engage with both of them, like if you participate in dieting, then you’re going to feel better about yourself. If you participate with these, you know, anti aging strategies and products, then you’re going to feel better about yourself. And that’s bullshit. Like, yes, there is social currency to be gained by participating in dieting and anti aging. Of course, if you look younger, if you’re thinner, you’re going to have more social currency. But if you are participating in both of those things, or one or the other, what we’re doing is we’re sending a message to ourselves, that we’re not good enough as we are. And that is the core of our self worth, right? Like if we are continuing to reinforce this belief in ourselves that like, I’m not good enough as I am, through the practices that we have through the thoughts that we have, then that just continues to chip away at our self worth. And that’s what dieting and anti aging stuff does. So to break that down, when we die it, we’re sending a message to ourselves that thinner is better, and that our current body isn’t good enough. When we engage in anti aging practices, we’re sending a message to ourselves that being younger is better, and our current body or face isn’t good enough. And of course, there’s nuance here, I’m not saying every time you use an anti aging product, your product, you’re sending yourself that message. But if you really think about like, if you’re coming at this from a place of I’m not good enough as I am, so I’m engaging in this to feel better about myself, then all you’re really doing is reinforcing that you’re not good enough. I want to speak a little bit to this nuance here. Because I think for some people, they tend to look at this in like a black and white way. And so for example, if you choose to eat a salad salads have often been like kind of, you know, wrapped up in diets. So a lot of people will kind of associate salads with dieting, but if you actually want to sell like eat the damn salad, you know what I mean? So there’s nuance to all of this. And I think the question to ask yourself as it relates to weight is like if your weight didn’t matter, what would you do similarily as it relates to aging, this is it can get kind of like, nuanced, because it’s like, are you coloring your hair? Because you just want your hair to be like a certain color? Or are you coloring it to hide the gray because you’re afraid of aging? So I think a question to ask is, if aging didn’t matter, or if other people’s opinions didn’t matter, like what would I do? And it doesn’t mean you have to always make those choices that are aligned to you know, if aging didn’t matter what would I do, but they’re just helpful questions to bring awareness to were things like anti fatness things like anti aging, and those biases where they’re influencing our behaviors and our decisions. Because the more that we are participating in these systems, we are actually chipping away at our own self worth as well. So they’re just good questions to ask ourselves.

Number five, they both have ties to health ism. So both diet culture and anti aging culture have ties to health ism in a few different ways. So first off fitness and participating in diet culture is considered like quote unquote healthy and often done under the guise of health. And with anti aging we actually use the term like quote unquote healthy skin, you know, or like more youthful skin and now is supposed to signal health as well, implying that if you have skin imperfections or wrinkles, or maybe there’s something, it implies that there’s there’s maybe something wrong with you or that you’re not healthy, when the reality is that aging and getting wrinkles is healthy, like that’s what your body is supposed to do. Just like your body is supposed to change. Your body is supposed to change when you go through perimenopause and menopause. It’s just that body changes, whether that be skin or size changes have become so intertwined with this notion of health, that it skewed our true understanding of what what health actually is, which is a whole very nuanced conversation in and of itself. The other tie that they both have to health ism is that they use similar language around health. So if you think about the way we talked about food, we talked about, like clean foods, well, not me, not we, but like it’s a whole, like, diet, culture, sphere, people talk about foods as like clean, keeping a focus on like, removing toxins, anti aging culture uses the exact same thing. They’re like, You got to have like clean products like you wouldn’t like eat these chemicals. So why would you put them on your skin? Meanwhile, people are literally injecting themselves with the same toxin that causes botulism.

They’re talking about the cream they put on and how it has to be cleaned. But then they’re injecting themselves with botulism, which is Botox in case you didn’t know that. And again, I’m not shitting on people who do Botox, but like, make that make sense for me. It just doesn’t. So I think one thing we can ask ourselves is like, can you see the health ism in anti aging? Like, what similarities do you see there as it relates to health ism and diet culture and anti aging culture? And like, are you seeing that like certain products, or certain skin types are like seen as like, morally superior, right? Because they’re, like, clean or because your skin looks, quote unquote, healthy? And what’s that doing to your own interpretation and perception of your own skin and your own face, the sixth thing they have in common is that they both co opt in the language of empowerment. So diet companies use phrases like love your body, and skincare companies use phrases like you’re worth it. And they both use the same co opting of empowerment, to try to sell the things that literally disempower you. I’m on a newsletter for Dermatology Clinic, and I’m on this newsletter for research purposes. And they send out these newsletters, and they profile these women who have been clients of the clinic. And they talk about their lives. And they talk about their quote unquote, positive aging plan, and how that fits into their identity. And their positive aging plan is based on like, all these procedures that they’ve had, and all these injections that they have had. And like, again, I’m like, make it make sense. Like when positive aging mean, embracing your age. Like to me that’s like negative aging, because you’re feeling like you have to hide it, you’re like, Oh, it’s a horrible thing. Don’t look at me, like, No, I just so anyways, they use the language of empowerment, and all they’re doing is selling the fact that you’re not good enough, and that you need to invest your time and money into their products to be good enough. Again, I think is this like the fourth time I’ve said make it makes sense.

But really make it make sense. Number seven, they both claim to use science. So they use science lingo in their marketing. And I’m not saying they don’t use science, like I’m sure they use science, right? But they use that lingo in their marketing to make it seem more valid, right? Like it’s like, and so we see this with dieting, we see this with like new saying that they know it’s all about the psychology or we see this when people go into like the science lingo on like your gut permeability as it relates to gluten in fire culture, when a lot of the times, like, really, when we boil down what they’re suggesting you do, it’s just restriction, whether it’s caloric restriction, or food restriction, and a lot of the science are using is like very cherry picked and etc, etc. And we see the same thing with skincare and anti aging, because we see these influencers talking about the different molecules or the other biological processes. And it gives a lot of validity. Like, I will admit, I have like watched some of those videos and been like, Oh, that’s really interesting, but it’s mostly just a marketing tactic. I think using this scientific lingo is used as a way to, to sell the product and give it a lot of validity. And we’ve seen how that works with food and dieting, and we’re seeing it with anti aging now too. And again, it’s not to say that that science isn’t accurate or true. It’s more just the way that it’s used to market these products.

And the last thing that they have in common is a lack of representation. There is such a lack of size diversity and age diversity, and both diet culture and skin care culture benefit from or anti aging culture, I should say they both benefit from this lack of diversity, the lack of representation, you know, it just continues to push harmful beauty ideals continues to push anti fatness anti blackness, anti aging, anti everything, you know. And I think that if we had more representation in the media, and I don’t just mean the golden bachelor, because I think that that’s like, really just showing like, one sort of archetype of human instead of like, different variations of how aging can look for people, you know, we need more representation to change these narratives to fight back against these biases. Okay, that’s the end of this one. So I want to give you the show notes at summer Forward slash 282. What did you think? Did I miss anything? What questions do you have? What did you learn? I’m curious. The first time I have talked about it like this? Not really, I talked about it quite often. But in the podcast, I suppose. A whole dedicated episode. I’m just curious to know. So let me know get in touch. reply to my emails. Send me DMS on Instagram or Facebook or whatever. Thank you so much for listening. Today was so great having you here. Rock on.

I’m Summer Innanen. And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on.

    Share this Post