Raise your hand if you’ve tried every diet under the sun. South Beach, Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Nutri-system, Jenny Craig? High fat, low fat, low carb, high protein? Blood Type Diet?
The list goes on and on for me. If your hand isn’t raised and dieting has not been an issue for you or you aren’t interested, head over here for some good decluttering articles.
Now raise your hand (or nod your head) if you’ve ever measured your worth by your weight or body size, or felt measured by others in a negative way because of it.
I remember this one time in my early twenties. I thought I looked ok. I had been counting points at Weight Watchers and being really careful about what I ate. I was working for a small business and I was the only woman who worked there. Someone called in to check on an order and I asked them who was helping them. The customer on the phone said, “I can’t remember the name, it was the chubby girl.” It took a minute for me to understand.
I was the only girl.
I was the chubby girl?
Just for the fact that I still so clearly remember than conversation that couldn’t have lasted more than ninety seconds reminds me that this is worth some of my attention. Most of us have many similar stories from the past that still have impact many years later.
But Isn’t It Important to Be Healthy?
If you are still here, I’m right here with you. I’m not judging you or trying to fix you … just working on myself out loud, thinking that we might have something in common when it comes to dieting, food and body image.
I mentioned last week that I stopped weighing myself last year. I’ve stopped dieting too. In fact, after my MS diagnosis in 2006, I began to eat for health instead of weight loss. While that’s been a good shift overall, I still have to watch the way I think and talk about food.
Even though being healthy is my priority, I’m sure I’m holding on to some unhealthy messages and patterns.
- Am I really avoiding that cupcake because I think I’ll be healthier if I don’t eat it OR am I bouncing back to old internal messaging that cupcakes are bad?
- Am I cutting sugar and dairy from my diet because it makes me feel better or because I know that weight loss will likely be a secondary benefit?
- Am I doing Whole 30 because I think it will help identify food that doesn’t work well for me, or is it because I feel like I am a better person because I made it through 30 days without cheating?
I still believe that food is a powerful part of the healing process AND now I know that how we think about food is part of it too.
This week on the Soul & Wit Podcast, I talked with my daughter Bailey about dieting and diet culture and how my dieting affected her as she was growing up. We also discuss disordered eating, what the word “flattering” really means, ways we can fight diet culture and resources to help.
The Definition of Diet Culture
At first I planned to just talk about giving up my scale, but the more I learn about diet culture, the more I realize I have to break this down too. It’s all connected and if I’m not aware of it, I’ll keep getting sucked in, bringing others down with me.
Here’s how Christy Harrison, an anti-diet registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor defines diet culture:
Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:
- Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
- Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
- Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
- Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.
So not only was I actively participating in diet culture with the first three points, but were my actions and thoughts oppressing others at the same time? Sounds like it.
Becoming aware of uncomfortable things isn’t easy, but it’s the only path to real inside-out change.
My simplicity journey has taken me places I never imagined. I expected clutter and debt to be on my path but NEVER thought things like quitting alcohol and examining my relationship with food and diet culture would come up.
I’m not on expert on most things (especially this) but by sharing our experiences and having this conversation before I’ve figured it all out, I hope to learn more. I didn’t wait until I was clutter-free to talk about my issues with clutter or until I was debt-free to talk about my debt so I’m not waiting until I have this all figured out either.
Diet culture is one of those things no one was really talking about until recently, and it’s something that may take a while for us to unpack depending on our history with food, weight, dieting and other things.
You Know What Will Really Simplify Your Life? Liking Yourself.
If you are working through this in your own life, be gentle with yourself. Like yourself … not because you lost five pounds or because you made it 30 days without sugar, not because your boss praised your work or because you ate a salad for dinner.
Liking myself because I’m me instead of because of what I weigh or how I think I look (or how others think I look) has become part of my simplicity journey. It was way easier to simplify my kitchen and my closet, but here I am. Like yourself simply because you are you.
And if you have a bad day after getting on the scale or internalizing what someone said about how you look, or because of what you ate, that’s ok too. This isn’t something that changes overnight.
Don’t look for proof outside of yourself that you are worth loving. It’s not out there. It’s in you.