This post has probably been a long time in the making – ever since I put myself on my first diet in the fifth grade at the tender age of 11. I’ll never forget the homemade zucchini parmesean that my grandma made after Christmas – a recipe she and my mother developed after tasting something similar at the local Italian restaurant – and the pink butterfly sweatshirt I was wearing, a souvenir from Emerald Isle, North Carolina where my family went on a beach vacation every summer. Those details stuck out to me as I remember eating only a few bites of the zucchini parm, measuring out precisely in my head where the halfway mark was on the slice and how I would only eat until that invisible line – no matter how hungry I still was. I remember being proud of that accomplishment, my first meal of restriction, fueled by comments from “well-meaning” family members on my body a few months later. I was 11, and people were already commenting on my body.
That was the start of a difficult relationship with food, which culminates in the journey I’m on today to true food freedom and body positivity. No more restriction, no more diets, no more diet culture disguised as the “health and wellness” lifestyle. I’m saying goodbyes to Whole 30s, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, exercising for punishment. No more declining social events because there would be food I “couldn’t eat,” no more packing my own food to places, no more starving myself on a 500 calorie/day HCG protocol. I’m done with that shit. I’m going to love and accept my body, eat foods that nourish me from the inside out AND foods that I enjoy (which includes pizza and ice cream because YUM) without restrictions, ever. My mental, emotional, and social healthy is just as important as my physical health. I’m breaking up with the diet cycle–for good this time.
I just recently unsubscribed from a blog that I used to get bi-weekly updates from all the time. He was a dating advice columnist, and I always appreciated his honesty and insight. But there was one thing that always used to make me feel bad whenever I would read a post from him – his not-so-sublte judgment of people who he deemed were “unhealthy” or overweight. He would basically tell people that they needed to lose weight in order to find better romantic partners, and that if they didn’t, they were lazy and unattractive. Today, I took another step forward on this journey and unsubscribed – but not before sending him an email (which I know he reads) first. See below for the text of that email:
I’ve been a long time reader, but lately, have been put off by your messages about women’s bodies and the idea that “weight loss is so easy.” Your brash and sweeping assumptions show little compassion for people who struggle to conform to a culture so focused around diet and weight – though of course, being out in LA, I’m not surprised; I lived there myself for almost 10 years and see how the obsession with looks permeates every aspect of society. Even your “lush green manicured lawns” are fake!
Do you realize that there is such a thing as a genetic body type? Probably not, because you’ve been blessed to be born with thin, socially-acceptable proportions and a fast metabolism; because “thin is in” and there are more thin people represented in the media – and because it’s easy for you to be thin or lose a few pounds – you assume that everyone else can “easily” do it too. Your assumptions that people should lose weight in order to find a better pool of partners perpetuates a culture of shame that overweight people face on a daily basis – and not just from outsiders, either; it’s a struggle that’s been internalized into a form of self-loathing as well, which just perpetuates the shame cycle. And for no reason, other than the fact that since birth we’ve been socialized to view thin bodies as more conventionally attractive, especially women. The preferential treatment of thinness is a social construct.
You may know a lot about dating, and I give you credit for that – but you are not a health practitioner, nor are you aware of the concept that there is health at every size. You make it seem so easy – and maybe for someone with your genetic disposition, it is. But did you know that 95% of diets FAIL? The statistics seem to suggest that, rather than having 95% of men and women who attempt to diet be classified as failures, perhaps it’s the diets that fail….because dieting doesn’t work, and because we’re not all supposed to look the same. That’s why there’s biodiversity just as much as there is ethnodiversity. When I go to the dog park with my chihuahua, I don’t look at all of the other dogs and go “why isn’t that dog fluffier? Why is that dog so big? That’s not a proper dog, his hair is too long, he needs to be shorter.” I recognize that all dogs are different and appreciate them for what they are. Their differences don’t make them any less of a dog. Sure, there are preferences (I like smaller dogs – my boyfriend likes big dogs), but your statements like “Everyone in the world knows how to lose weight – eat more vegetables and lean meats, cut out sugars and starches, consume smaller portions” are harmful and, at their core, wrong. If what you suggest everyone should do actually worked, then everyone would be the same size, and there would be no more need for the perpetuation of the diet culture we see all around us in every aspect of our life.
I have respected your dating advice for years, but am just now realizing how harmful it is to internalize the messages that you are promoting, so I will be unsubscribing.
With warmest wishes and much love,
Your former reader,
I never really talked about this struggle with anyone before because I was ashamed of it – why is this such a struggle for me? Why am I unable to fit into a smaller size? Why is my friend a size 6 and eats literal garbage (well…okay, not literal lol) all day long and I starve myself on lettuce for 6 weeks and am still the SAME size as when I started? To say it’s frustrating is an understatement. That’s why I’m letting it go. I’m not ashamed of it anymore – this is who I am, and the only way I’ll truly be able to live an aligned life of purpose is if I stand up for who I truly am at my core.
If you, too, are struggling with Body Image, society’s over-glorification of weight loss (seriously…you were NOT put on this earth to lose weight and make yourself smaller), and how to eat “normally” without disordered eating patterns and putting yourself through the binge/restrict cycle, here are some resources that I’ve found to be SO HELPFUL in my journey.
I actually discovered Dana while doing one of my Whole30’s because she has AMAZING recipes – she is seriously so talented in the kitchen and my go-to recipe blog! Interesting enough, Dana had a COMPLETE re-branding and has actually parted ways with Whole30 because she believes that elimination diets (or any diet, really) promotes – whether intentionally or not – disordered eating. She is now a Body Image coach and registered dietitian who helps people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. Her podcast is AMAZING and seriously life-changing. If you haven’t checked her out yet, make your way over stat!
I discovered Cristina because she was a guest on one of Dana’s podcasts. Her compassion, empathy, and advocacy make a positive impact in my life every day. I love following her Instagram account and reading her blog – her IG stories especially are a daily reminder of what’s important in life (hint: it’s not weight loss or diet culture). I am actually a part of a beta test group for a new course that Dana and Cristina are running together called Break the Diet Cycle. I’m currently in week 4 of 8 so I could happily write a review of that course when I’m done if it’s something you guys would be interested in. Click HERE for link to a podcast that Dana/Cristina did together a couple of months ago that really acted as a catalyst for my journey:
Kara Loewentheil is a feminist former lawyer and Harvard Law graduate who teaches women how to work through social conditioning and self-critical talk so we can just “enjoy our damn lives.” Kara is body positive and teaches women how to genuinely be confident in their own skin by teaching them how to rewire their brains and manage their thoughts. As a life coach, Kara offers one on one coaching, but she also offers a TON of amazing free resources on her website, as well as an awesome podcast that works well in conjunction with all of the other resources.
I actually disagree with Brooke’s core thoughts on weight loss (she actually started out as a weight loss coach, but I discovered her through her other, non-weight-focused work), so I would actually advise you NOT to listen to her podcasts on weight as it might trigger thoughts of disordered eating. However, I believe that her insight on our thoughts, the workings of the mind, and how to literally retrain our brains to think new, constructive, empowering thoughts is ESSENTIAL to living a happy life. Her podcast The Life Coach School is one of the best resources I’ve found and it contains what I believe is truly the key to finding lasting success and happiness, if applied.
In a previous post I also mentioned The Power of Now as being one of the most impacting books I’ve read, and I believe a lot of the same thought work applies. And I’ve just picked up The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, which I can’t WAIT to dive into – more on thought once I finish it.