The three reasons why I ditched diet culture… getting to a point where I can write this post has been quite the journey. I’m still in the thick of it – learning, changing, growing, forgiving, accepting, loving. But what even got me to this point?
“Well, all of your bloodwork is totally normal… you’re a little low in Vitamin D, but that’s easy to supplement with over-the-counter. You’re a very healthy young lady.”
Me, all 230 lbs of me, who has always been told I need to lose weight, sitting on the exam table:
I managed to stutter out “Oh, okay, awesome” as he continued explaining my blood-work to me: what these numbers mean and what those numbers mean, and why eating fewer eggs might lower your cholesterol but also might not… I was trying desperately to listen thoroughly but also trying not to cry at having heard the word “healthy” used in reference to me.
I’d already had a minimal “fuck it” attitude by the time I went to this doctor’s appointment… I was very tired of (read: exhausted by) Fit Girl-ing and Keto-ing and weighing my food and the costs (both time and money, and usually ignoring the mental cost associated with it) of all of it. I told my husband, “I don’t want to be one of those girls who gets married and then ‘let’s herself go’” (at the time not realizing that this was just another form of fat shaming, but I’ve been on a weight loss journey for forever, so this is an uphill climb with a LOT of learning) but also that I didn’t feel like I could keep living like I was: always hyper-focused on losing weight. We want to have a kid, we’re starting our farming life… we’ve got a lot of things we want to do and 90% of my brain capacity is OWNED by weight loss and weight loss-related things. I just didn’t feel like it was a sustainable (again, still not really taking the mental cost into consideration) way to live.
So I started feverishly googling “intuitive eating” because I’d heard that basically was letting go of a diet (merrrrrr, not necessarily.. Make sure you’re really checking what you’re reading if you take this path!). I learned a lot in those first few days… one of the primary things that I knew I needed to do was to dig into WHY I had been dieting my whole life and WHY I wanted to stop it now. “Why” is always an important question to ask in any situation, and in this situation, it was what freed me from my own self.
Here’s what I came up with:
I’ve been dieting for probably the same reasons a lot of us have:
- I was influenced and often actually TOLD by people close to me and by society that the person I was wasn’t good enough, especially in regard to my weight (and in various other ways too, of course)
- I had this idea that I needed to look a certain way to a) achieve that^ “good enough” status so that I could ever b) be accepted as a “successful” person (because aren’t all successful people completely healthy?!)
- I thought that achieving those 2^ would allow me to experience “happiness”, the elusive “happiness” that certainly only comes when you aren’t fat, right?
I felt a little bit cuckoo (granted, I AM a little bit cuckoo) reading these back to myself. I logically understand that my weight has absolutely nothing to do with my value as a human, with my ability to have a successful career, to be happy, to have a good life.
So then why am I letting it do all of those things to me emotionally?
More tears. So the reasons I ever became obsessed with weight loss in the first place are now the reasons I’m giving it up. I deserve more from myself than to only care about how I look. I have great bloodwork, I move my body and am capable of using it to accomplish both things like yardwork and also hiking 28 miles through the Fort Indiantown Gap, PA mountains, I enjoy cooking and baking and EATING food…. My life is about so much more than what size my jeans are, what society says about whether or not I ‘should’ wear a bikini (spoiler alert: I wear and ROCK a motherfucking bikini). “Diet culture” (a relatively new term) is about a lot more than just stopping dieting, though. Diet culture assigns a morality to thinness – it encourages the belief that if you are fat, you simply aren’t good enough. You aren’t a hard worker or you’d lose weight. You don’t “eat healthy” or you’d lose weight. You’re not exercising correctly/enough/at the gym/at home/with weights/without weights/with running/without running (this list could go on forever) or you’d lose weight. You don’t spend enough time or money doing x, or you’d lose weight.
Diet culture makes EVERYTHING about your weight. It teaches us (all of us, men, women, and children) that unless you’re “thin” (because what does that even mean), you cannot be good enough.
Did you know that as of February 25, 2019, the weight loss industry in the United States alone was worth $72 BILLION dollars. I had no idea.
Seventy. Two. Billion. Dollars.
That’s a whole hell of a lot of money being made from “fat people” (again, because what does that even mean) being taught they aren’t good enough.
According to a study by Dove which interviewed over 10,000 women and girls,
“nearly all women (85%) and girls (79%) [saying they] opt out of important life activities – such as trying out for a team or club, and engaging with family or loved ones – when they don’t feel good about the way they look”Dove Self Esteem Project, 2016
I want to say “WTF!”, but…
I know I’ve done this – straight up not gone to/done something because I don’t feel good about how I look. Or changed my clothes 15 times trying to feel better about how I look before I go to karaoke, go to dinner with friends, go to mow the fucking grass, even.
We aren’t born with that behavior or these ideas – it is learned.
And here we have reached my personal goal – to unlearn it. To change the statistics, to improve my well-being, to wake up each day and choose to love myself, be good to myself, and forgive myself for doing quite the opposite for most of my life.
Some things I’m doing to help myself through this journey:
- Being open and honest about it with myself and others, to the best of my ability. I have SO MUCH to unlearn and with that means that I have to keep learning and adjusting my idea of what is “right” and what was just convincingly taught to me by advertisers (I’m an advertiser, so this is both a slight and just reality, LOL)
- Eating FOOD. Whatever food I want to eat, whenever I want to eat it.
- Forgiving myself for my past. For giving up my love of cooking and baking because it wasn’t “healthy” or “good for me”. For skipping events, for turning down opportunities, for forcing myself to work out, to eat a certain way… for so, so many things.
- Taking in information. I’m currently reading The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner which is filled with information, studies, ideas… some things are enlightening, some things are “meh”, and some thing I think are a stretch (at least for me). But I’m being open to understand that I’ve been fooled, and trying to learn as much as I can so I can help stop the bullshit moving forward.
- Telling you (see #1). Because like anything in life, we don’t need to go through our hard lessons alone.
This blog doesn’t have a good “ending point” because I’ve only just begun, so expect to see/hear more about this subject. I made a few posts about ditching diet culture on Instagram, too, so feel free to follow along if you aren’t already.