“We need to be vigilant about the messaging to the women in our country. We need more empowerment and less ‘not good enough yet.’ And we won’t get there unless we genuinely, and transparently, face up to the ramifications of diet culture and talk about it. So here we are, talking.” –Hannah Meier
Someone on Instagram recently asked what it means when I say I am “anti diet-culture.” It sparked a great conversation and I figured I would elaborate here for anyone who may be interested in getting a deeper understanding of my values.
It’s no surprise when someone thinks of the word “diet” they automatically have visions of boring salads, bland rice cakes, meal replacement shakes, and punishing workouts. That’s what diet culture and the diet industry has programmed us to believe. And then what? We go on these diets, drink the shakes (or whatever the diet tells us to do), hopefully lose the weight; CELEBRATE! You stop drinking the shakes (or whatever the diet tells us to do), go back to your normal routine and gain it back… and maybe then some. And the cycle continues.
WHY do we continue to do this to ourselves?
“…who wins when you repeat this pattern over and over and over again? The diet industry. The beauty industry. The fashion and cosmetic surgery industry. Media and advertising. All of the people who convinced you that your body was wrong in the first place are the ones profiting off of that low self-esteem.
We’ve been socialized since birth to believe that the way our bodies look will tie directly into how we experience our lives. We think we’re unhappy because we don’t look good. But the truth is that we’re unhappy because consumerism needs us to be.” (excerpt from Melissa Fabello)
When I worked in a residential children’s home, the kids I worked with would ask, “Are you on a diet?” because I would bring my own food everyday. I didn’t get into the subject of my weight loss surgery, as it is a personal matter that I didn’t want or need to explain… over… and over… and over again. So, I would constantly have to tell them, “No. I’m not on a diet; this is just my diet. It’s the way I eat.” It was sad to think that these kids who were no older than 12, were thinking that my healthy eating choices were the result of me wanting to lose weight. It’s been difficult to shift my mindset from weightloss to maintenance. There’s no question about that. I’ve struggled with binge eating, food restriction and body dysmorphia even after reaching my “goal weight”. It’s only been within the last 6 months or so that I’ve become comfortable with my weight gain, which in turn, has helped me maintain. It hasn’t been easy. How is it that at 5’7″ – 175lbs – size 6 according to my BMI chart… I’m overweight? At my lowest I was 135lbs – and a size 2 – BMI: “healthy”. My AHA! moment was when I finally shed the notion of BMI and said, “Fuck that noise. I am in no way overweight. Its the system that’s shit, not me.”
The diet industry and diet culture has helped first hand to enable my disordered eating, and I finally feel as though I’ve begun to break free of its toxic hold. Instead of focusing on the number on my scale (which actually has stayed stable for the last 8 months or more), I focus on how my diet, the foods I choose to eat, make me feel. I move in ways that I enjoy. I don’t work out as a way to punish myself for eating too much of something-or-other the day before… anymore. I don’t restrict or deny myself of certain foods like muffins or cupcakes, breads or pasta… anymore. When I do eat muffins, cupcakes, bread and pasta, I take care to read the ingredients. Diet culture wants us to view certain foods as good or bad; but food is food. What makes the difference is what its made of. I won’t get into a rant about artificial ingredients here, maybe in another post…
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s OK to reject the idea of going on a diet. In fact, I encourage it. Losing weight, wanting to lose weight or needing to lose weight is a personal decision. I am obviously not against it! What I want people to understand is that its our day to day lives, not just the ten-day-quick-fix-or-whatever that will help us to get healthy. We need to stay healthy. We need to eat better for life, not just for a flatter tummy.