About the Episode

In this episode, Melanie explores the intersection of diet culture, hustle culture, and online business culture. She discusses how these cultures profit and uphold systems of oppression, and how they manipulate spending power and fear tactics to control individuals. Melanie also highlights the similarities between these cultures, such as the emphasis on hard work, the blame placed on individuals when programs fail, and the disregard for privilege and accessibility. She challenges the notion that health is the responsibility of the individual and questions the cost and benefits of constantly pursuing societal beauty standards and external validation.

Topics discussed in episode 003

00:00 Introduction and a BIG thank you!

05:40 Content Warnings

06:36 The Intersection of Diet Culture, Hustle Culture, and Online Business Culture

07:45 Description of Hustle Culture

19:13 Examples of Diet, Hustle and Online Business Culture in Action

23:01 Ignoring Privilege and Accessibility: The Inaccessible Promises of Health and Success

23:44 Wellness, Biohacking and The Marketing of Meal Replacements

30:26 Healthism and the Healthy Hustle Paradox: Equating Worthiness with Physical Health

34:26 Questioning the Cost and Benefits: Is the Pursuit of Health and Success Worth It?


Melanie [she/her] (00:01)
Hello friends, welcome to episode number three of The Culture of It All. Firstly, I want to take a moment to say thank you. No matter how you have supported the show over the last few weeks, I just appreciate you so much, whether you have shared…

some of my content on Instagram, if you have been listening, if you’ve been telling people about it, subscribing, reviewing it, whatever you’ve been doing, I just fucking appreciate it so much because it was really really nerve wracking to start developing this podcast, start researching, start creating content, even though this is something I’ve been dipping my toe into more recently, the last year or so, an actual fact I

wrote some content about being a plus -size coach back in 2020 when my business looked very different. And it’s interesting to see how much I’ve grown since then, how much I know the language I now have that allows me to keep doing my own anti -diet work and also how my personal anti -diet work has helped me to develop that work kind of, more

collectively and to sit down and finally have these conversations because there are not enough anti -diet podcasts out in the world. I mean there’s not enough anti -diet work and content generally but there’s not enough anti -diet podcasts so to be able to have these conversations for you to be able to trust me with these conversations I appreciate it. I really do. And I feel like I can breathe a little bit easier now that the show is out there.

and I I feel like, you know, we’re pals. It’s a little bit easier for me to sit down and record. So today’s episode is part one of a two -parter. It’s a two -parter because I know I have a lot of shit to say. If you have been following me in the online space for a few years, you know that I’ve done a lot of

I’ve done a lot of talking about the issues, problems, toxic nature of online business.

Which is why I wanted to do an episode, actually two part episode, on the intersection of diet culture, hustle culture, and online business culture.

Now if you are someone listening who has not got an online business, do not fear, this is still going to be informative, you’re still going to get something from this, because if you don’t have an online business you’re still a consumer and this is going to help squeaky get get your bullshit lens squeaky clean, it’s going to help you to really see marketing in a different way or the ways in which people are selling their

diet adjacent products or their hustle adjacent products. I am going to touch on some online business stuff, not in today’s episode, more so in part two, but it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be juicy. I’m really excited. I have done so much research. I have spent so long thinking about this episode. Fun fact, this was actually going to be the original concept of the show. I was going to focus on the intersection of these three things.

I decided that there really wasn’t enough for me to fill an entire show and I’d probably end up just talking about business. And that’s not really what I want to do. I want to focus on anti -diet work and specifically talking about ditching diets in a larger body. But this shits important. Whether you’re in online business or not this is important and I am just really excited to have this conversation with you. So

Yeah, welcome to part one of the intersection of hustle, diet and online business culture. It really is the culture of it all. In this episode, we are going to be looking at definitions and examples of each of these cultures and how they kind of look in action. We’re going to look at the intersection and how each culture profits and upholds this system of oppression. We’re going to take a closer look.

at where diet and hustle culture intersect. And I’m going to finish the episode with a series of journal prompts and some reframes, right, some questions that can really get us thinking about this work. And it’s going to help to keep our, as I said, our bullshit lens squeaky clean if you choose to pursue health or personal development work and enter into any of these spaces online.

So I will be taking you on a deeper dive into how online business intersects with diet and hustle culture at individual and collective level next time in part two. So just to cover a couple of things, the information in this episode does consist of both my personal experiences and the experiences of other small business owners who I know, who I’ve worked with, and there is some research. So it’s a real mixture of an episode, which I think makes a really fun episode. And…

Also, as always, I just want to start off with some content warnings. We are going to be talking about diet culture, hustle culture, and whilst I’m not going to be talking specifics of diets, there is going to be some conversations around different, like, wellness trends or things that could be triggering for some people. Please, please just take care of your own mental health first.

If you need to pause, if you need to not listen to this episode, that is always okay. We are going to be talking about the ways in which diet culture and hustle culture kind of focus on our desire for health, or to pursue health, and what that means, and how it’s demonised it. So we are going to be really digging into that specifically today later on in the episode. So as I said…

if you need to take a pause, if you need to skip today’s episode, that is okay. Put your own mental health first. So let’s get into it, let’s get started. So we talked about diet culture and anti -diet culture specifically in episode, back in episode one, we really dug into that. So I’m not going to go into too much detail but let’s just kind of have a recap of diet culture. Diet culture is a system of oppression which senses white, thin,

cisgendered and able -bodied people. It associates health with thinner bodies, it actively promotes weight loss, and it demonises certain foods, attaching virtue and morality to what we eat, labelling it as good or bad. Diet culture disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of colour, and people with disabilities. So…

What we’re going to be talking about today includes ditching the diet mentality and it goes beyond the act of dieting. Right? Anti -diet work goes beyond the act of dieting or ditching diets, which again, we covered that in episode one.

So let’s talk a little bit about hustle culture.

Urban Dictionary describes hustle culture as “The glorification of working very long hours in hope of reaching one’s professional goals while having a disregard for the health and relationships with loved ones.” I feel like this is a very simplistic term or a simplistic description but I want to start there. When I was doing some research for this I knew how I felt about hustle culture.

I know my own personal experience with it, my personal experience in the corporate world and then being an entrepreneur and an online business owner. I understood my vision of hustle culture, my experience of hustle culture, but I wanted to look at how the wider world are looking at hustle culture. What are they talking about? What’s really interesting is a lot of the articles I found were from before Covid, before the pandemic.

More recently, a lot of conversations have shifted and we’re going to get into that later, but a New York Times article titled “Why are young people pretending to love work?” It quoted Ryan Harwood, who’s the chief executive of 137PM’s parent company, which is something to do with Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m not going to talk about Gary Vaynerchuk if you don’t know who he is. That’s like, you don’t need to, to be honest, but you can go Google him. But he describes hustle culture as “owning one’s moment.”

And I thought that was again a very simplistic way, a very like sexy, buzzy way of describing it, right? We’re owning our moment. It feels really like exciting and it’s like, yeah, I really want to do that. I can understand how that would really build like this morality behind working harder and a culture of people who really are like fighting to own their moment. It sounds really sexy.

One of the things I noticed about all of these articles that I read and the research I did is that not everyone has the same opportunities, resources and access to hustle their way to success. And this is just kind of ignored. It’s kind of ignored when talking about hustle culture, right? It doesn’t consider personal limitations to pursuing one’s goals or owning one’s moment. And I think that’s a really, I mean, this happens across the board.

we cannot talk about these things without talking about access and privilege. And so it’s no different when we’re looking at hustle culture that the way in which, the ways in which hustle culture is marketed, the ways in which we perceive hustle culture, the ways in which people show us what like hustling looks like determines how we then approach it.

So as I mentioned, hustle culture or hustling wasn’t really part of my vocabulary until I started a small business. I started my online business in 2016 and I threw myself into that work. I really did. I didn’t think I was hustling, I just thought I was working hard. I just thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. Hustle culture obviously has become much more of a buzz in recent years.

And I think in the online business space it is something that’s really contradictory. People want to use it as a marketing tool. We see phrases like, I would rather work 75 hours a week for myself than work 50 hours a week for someone else. In the same hand that same person might put a post up on Instagram.

that says stop wearing your hustle, your busyness like it’s a badge of honour, right, or stop hustling for your worthiness. So it’s very contradictory. In the online business space, and I’m talking specifically around like coaches and people creating products and programs and that way, there is a lot of contradiction around hustle culture. Because we’re buying into a

we also don’t want to be seen as buying into it. It’s a really interesting concept and I’m gonna dig into that later but online business I know when I talk about it it’s very broad. Very very broad. So I’m focused specifically on the multi -level marketing or MLM style approach amongst the top coaches in the industry. Folks who in the online space have been placed on a pedestal

and like a game of six degrees of separation all lead back to one guy. This looks like coaches who coached coaches to coach other coaches and what happens in these spaces and I have been a part of these spaces myself, unbeknown to me at the time, the few who look the part and are willing to play the game really, really well have created businesses that feed

one another through marketing and promotion and joint venture launches. They’re often found at the same events and retreats and masterminds. It’s not specific to one niche. It is broad. Their reach is everywhere from marketing and building a business to fitness and wellness and personal development. They have their reach is expensive. And yet it’s still a clique

It is a harmful culture that has caused many small businesses to find themselves in debt with, and these are like individual, when i’m talking about a small business i know that the like, i don’t know if it’s still the same but there used to be a description of small business that was like a business that makes less than a million dollars a year. I’m not talking, that’s not, to me and most of my peers that’s not a small business, that’s a big business. I’m talking about folks who are like individuals.

building an online business, individuals who are perhaps working with a few clients or creating content, not a million dollars a year. We’re not talking, there’s a massive gap between those two places and I’m talking about individual people who are deciding to build an online business.

So they find themselves in debt, very little to show for all of the hard work, the time and the money that they invested into these programmes that they’ve purchased. And it all usually starts with a $47 investment. So as I said, in this episode, we’re going to explore the ways in which diet culture and hustle culture intersect. I will dig deeper into online business culture in part two.

we’ll look at business culture with both diet and hustle. It’s gonna be juicy. So let’s talk about this intersection. I did so much research. I started with a Venn diagram. I’m a very visual person. I – my scrawl and scribbles and all the – just everything on my Venn diagram I felt like – I felt like I had a murder board but it was a – it was a circular murder board where everything led back to the same thing. Um.

I knew, I know, I know who’s responsible is basically what I’m trying to say. So I started with this Venn diagram and I reflected on my own experiences over the past five or six years of paying attention to what is happening in the online space. As I said a few years ago, around 2019 and into 2020, I was calling out a lot of the…

a lot of the problems, the toxic, problematic issues going on in the online business space. And I was a small fish talking about this stuff, but I was fed up. I was so tired of following these rules. I was so tired of being told there was only one way to do things and these ways were not working for me and hadn’t been for years. And it turned out I wasn’t on my own. And I think…

Timing was definitely a part of it because the pandemic hit. We were all online a lot more. And a lot of my peers started to share their experiences with me as well. And I had a previous podcast called Entrepreneurial Outlaws and that was kind of born from this process. Still a big part of my brand over Outlaw Creatives. Still a part of the work I do.

But yeah, it was really, really wild. So when we look at this intersection of diet, hustle and online business cultures, they encourage us to pursue social acceptance and success through the lens of hard work and wealth and status.

At the very centre they use fear tactics and morality as a form of control. They manipulate spending power and where people will invest their resources, including their attention.

So for example in diet culture when we talk about fat phobia it’s not people being afraid, it’s not that people are afraid of fat folks. People are afraid of weight gain, being in a larger body. This fear is rooted in the stigma and stereotypes that are associated with folks in larger bodies. From lousy

government policies to tackle obesity, or b -roll footage of headless fat folks in the media. If the ongoing narrative is that fatness is something to fear, as a society we will continue to invest our resources into diets and uphold the system of diet culture.

With hustle culture it uses status and success as a fear tactic. Within this like “we work generation” of working long hours to achieve your goals and doing more before 9am than most people do all day, it’s creating a seemingly priceless social position. On the surface it’s morally ambitious to work harder and be more productive than anyone else.

With online business, setting up a business is actually risky. It’s not as risky as it used to be because we have the online space, but swapping a paycheck for the unknown is risky. It’s scary as someone who’s done it. But on reflection, marketers had to create language.

that re -frames that shit -your -pants -taking -a -risk feeling, because otherwise nobody would want to do it. Or very few people would want to do it. In online business this often looks like manipulated coaching techniques, manipulation of neuro -linguistic programming or NLP, and a lack of context to sell the next best secret.

They prey on fear of failing, fear of mediocrity, fear of going back into the corporate world, and they sell us on the promise of being your own. And I’m using air quotes – “girl boss”, because I would not use that phrase.

They sell us on the idea of having time freedom, setting your own schedule and having no limit of income.

All of the small business owners I know would tell you it didn’t quite look like this. And many folks, as I said, have invested thousands of dollars upfront to see very little growth whilst following all the steps, working their arse off, hustling as it were.

And similar to the tactics that we see in wellness culture, when it doesn’t work or you don’t get the promised results, the individual is blamed rather than the program. Right, we blame the individual rather than questioning the program. In wellness culture it’s because, I don’t know, your butter wasn’t grass -fed or your celery juice wasn’t clean enough. In online business it’s often just your limiting beliefs.

You can see how these three things are very, very similar in the way in which they approach selling, in the way they approach marketing.

And all three of these cultures ignore privilege and accessibility when spouting their marketing claims.

They’ll shout from the rooftops phrases like, if I can do it so can you. Again, not everyone has the access, opportunities and resources to hustle their way to success. To eat organic or to quit their 9 to 5 and start a business.

And whilst each culture has its own set of individual issues, I have a Venn diagram to prove this point. There are many similarities between all three and today we’re going to focus on the intersection of diet and hustle culture.


The fad diets that were household names back in the 90s. They started becoming too obvious about their intentions as we hit like the 2010s. People still wanted to lose weight, they still wanted to be smaller, but they didn’t want to diet, or at least that’s not what they wanted to call it. And we saw this growth of “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.”

Spoiler alert, still a diet. If the goal is to control your body size or moralize certain foods and apply external rules over your choices, it’s still a diet.

Around 2012 I was deep in the diet industry. I was getting my qualification for personal training and I remember witnessing the shift in language. This was the first time I really found myself in quote the online space. It was very different to what it is now. It was a time when

fitness YouTubers were becoming the new celebrities and they were some of the first online influencers I saw making money from blogging and brand deals. With their influence came this increase of products like protein powders and protein bars and other supplements, especially gym related supplements, they became grocery store staples. These were not things…

least here in the UK, they were not things that you could buy when you went to buy your potatoes and whatever else at the grocery store. And we saw this influx of people really selling and…

wanting to help us manipulate our body. And this term kind of biohacking became very popularized. A biohacker is a term used to describe somebody who uses science and technology to make his or her body function better and more efficiently. It’s all a bit… I think it’s the, um, I’m pretty sure this term came about from

the guy who founded Bulletproof Coffee. Bulletproof Coffee is this idea of putting grass -fed butter or macerated coconut oil in your coffee, and that’s like what you have. It’s supposed to like help you fast. This story comes from him being in… I want to say the Himalaya’s… And he had yak milk? And I don’t know, it’s the whole thing. If you’re really interested you can find the story, but I heard it a few years ago.

and I heard him talking about it and he is kind of this like…

founding person of biohacking, right? He’s all into this. So there’s lots of people out there doing this. But an interesting side note is that the founder of Bulletproof Coffee has been featured on blogs and podcasts hosted by a number of these well -known online business coaches or mentors. Because it’s such a small world. So biohacking has become this like very…

this very wealthy approach to wellness, right? It’s this, it’s this like secret, not so secret way of supposedly making you the best.

Alongside this influx of bulletproof coffees and biohacking we’ve seen meal replacements become really popularised. Now I want to just make sure I’m being very clear. Some people need meal replacements. Some people need additional nutritional supplements in the form of meal replacements. Whether it’s like a shake or powder or whatever it might be. I understand there are people who need this.

But brands like Huel, it’s not so much about their marketing towards people who need the products, it’s this way of positioning themselves and their product within this market. It’s, it’s… I’m not demonising the addition of meal replacements when it’s necessary, what I’m focused on is the way they market and position their product within hustle culture.

within biohacking and this idea of being the best. The idea that you don’t need to eat, but positioning your product where it’s very, very expensive and you can’t buy small amounts of it. This is very common in this, this kind of industry where you have to buy like a kilo bag of whatever it is. So it’s, again, it’s, it’s the marketing, right? It’s the marketing of it all. It’s that.

So oftentimes these things market themselves as simple and they have this like, anyone can do this attitude, but actually it requires privilege. It requires a privilege of time, money, and energy. And so often these things don’t really give us the results we promised. Such a surprise, such a shocker I know.

And what we find is because there’s so many specifics and rules around how you’re supposed to consume this thing or do this thing or follow this thing, that when it fails it’s the individual’s fault. Again, right, we don’t, we’re not allowed to question the product or the program. We have to, it’s our fault, we have to blame ourselves. So it’s kind of this…

inevitably it’s not going to work for us in the way that it’s been promised because so few people are going to actually be able to access this specific product in the way they’re encouraging you to do it. Now we can’t talk about all this stuff, biohacking and things, without addressing healthism. And I’ve got a description of healthism from Lucy and I think her surname is Aphramor

She’s a registered dietician. And this is her description of healthism.

“Healthism is a belief system that sees health as the property and responsibility of an individual and ranks the personal pursuit of health above everything else, like world peace or being kind. It ignores the impact of poverty, oppression, war, violence, luck, historical atrocities, abuse, and the environment from traffic, pollution to clean water, and nuclear contamination and so on.

It protects the status quo, leads to victim blaming and privilege, increases health inequities and fosters internalised oppression. Healthism judges people’s human worth according to their health.”

Healthism reinforces the need to pursue your health at all costs and equates our self -worth to how healthy we are perceived to be.

The definition of hustle culture that I’ve been using highlights working long hours in order to achieve your goals. And whilst in recent years people have started to challenge the hustle and grind mentality, debating whether indeed we can do it all or have it all. We’ve seen this increase in what I’m gonna call the “Healthy Hustle Paradox”.

The healthy hustle paradox is a byproduct of diet and hustle culture. It’s a capitalistic dreamboat because it sells us on the idea that we can indeed do it all and we should also do it thin and it’s not enough to just do it all. We should always be striving to improve ourselves and be the most productive machine possible. It equates morality and worthiness to our physical health.

and our ability to create daily routines, rituals and habits in order to be seen as the best.

The quote I do more before 8am than most people do all day kind of sums it up. And because all of this shit is the same and all roads lead to the same place, it’s not a surprise that so much of the online business space is full of celebrity coaches building their 8 figure businesses whilst slipping in a conversation about biohacking or drinking their grass fed butter coffee that helps them stay focused all day long.

Now, I’m not villainising hard work or success. I’m really not. And autonomy always. You do you. I’m not villainising hard work or success, but my question is, at what cost? At what cost are we willing to be the best? And whose voices are these companies further marginalising in order to sell their product? In order to make profit?

Who really benefits when we are constantly chasing a patriarchal beauty standard? Who really benefits when we’re always looking outside of ourselves for the next product or program that might make us feel worthy?

Who really profits from our poor body image?

Nobody’s value or worthiness should be determined by their health. We do not owe anyone our health. It is no one’s business, not even that stranger on the internet, and we do not have to be in constant pursuit of health in order to be respected and treated like a human being.

I’m not saying that this is easy, sometimes it doesn’t even feel simple. Ditching diet culture whilst living life in a larger body is complicated at best. We’re not just unlearning beliefs about ourselves and our bodies, we’re also trying to reframe beliefs that have been reinforced by our actual lived experiences, how other people have spoken to us or treated us in the world. So,

Let me leave you today with this two -part question. Now you can use it as a journal prompt if you would like. As always take what resonates, leave the rest, and I’ll make sure that this journal prompt, this question, it’s in the episode description and show notes for your reference as well.

If diet culture is no longer an option, what does health mean to me? Does it include more than just my physical health?

And if I could achieve my personal definition of health without changing my body size, would I still want to pursue it?