I’ve had this post in the works for quite some time (I have a lot of drafts for different blog posts), and with some recent inspiration, I decided to wrap up my thoughts and post it! I have a milieu of thoughts to share in this post, so I will try to make sense..no promises. I would love to see comments on your thoughts too 🙂 First, a DISCLAIMER that I am in no way placing blame on anyone, and I am not looking to point fingers or deny responsibility. The diet industrial complex and diet culture are everywhere you look, and you don’t even have to look very hard. Few of us, especially women, escape from the destructive grip of diet culture, and even fewer avoid it altogether. No one person is to blame; not even one group of people is to blame. We are indoctrinated with diet culture, and most of us unknowingly practice and worship its tenets.
In this post, I hope to reveal how cunning, slick, and deceitful diet culture is by sharing a little bit about my more recent history/my story as a sub-clinical disordered eater/exerciser. I will also add some great resources throughout and at the end; check them out for sure! Bloggers and podcasts have helped me make so many necessary realizations in the hopes of one day leaving diet culture completely behind me.
I had an eating disorder, and for a long time, that disorder was evident. But, here is the thing, you do not have to be that frail image that is widely communicated to us as what it looks like to have an eating disorder in order to be disordered. You do not have to be at death’s door to be suffering and miserable. I guarantee that if you yourself do not have a disordered relationship with food, your body, and/or exercise, someone you know does. It may even be your best friend or sibling. But how can so many people, mainly women, be disordered and most likely also unhealthy, unhappy, and lost? Because we praise and commend disordered behavior around food and bodies, and we hide disordered behaviors under the veil of “healthy” living.
Am I the perfect intuitive eater, exerciser, and “liver?” HECK NO. That is one of my biggest challenges. But I have always been able to hide under the guise of health. People praise my salads, marvel at the miles I run, comment on how great my willpower is, and wonder how I can eat so many veggies. When I lost weight during my disorder, I was praised for that. When someone loses weight, everyone tells him/her how great he/she looks because we equate small bodies with beauty and health. But what if that girl in your class or on your team or your friend or roommate or sister is actually engaging in harmful behaviors in order to be smaller? She is restricting or over exercising, and she is miserable in her new, smaller, praised body. And those praises are like drugs.
Or someone in a larger body is suffering from an eating disorder (which can be very different from just anorexia) or a disordered relationship with food/exercise/body, but he/she is prescribed a diet, shamed for eating a hamburger, gawked at in public places, watched at restaurants, judged in the gym, and this person’s shame around food is only perpetuated, since the disordered behavior is never acknowledged. A thin person may be forced into treatment or therapy immediately, while someone larger continues to suffer.
I am the “healthy” girl who runs and eats “healthy,” but sometimes my rigidity around food and exercise means I miss out on the fun things in life. And we shouldn’t be boxed in like that just to fit into a mold prescribed to us by a society that places worth in physical appearance. We talk about people “letting themselves go,” and we shouldn’t comment on others’ food choices, exercise choices, or bodies. I am guilty of all of those things. I was SO boxed in by diet culture that I failed to see how my way of life was overtaken by the ideas that we should be thin, eat a lot of greens, and work out intensely all of the time. But I recognize my misconceptions now, and I aim to work towards being in a place that allows me to honor my body while also honoring the bodies around me.
I know I have thin privilege, so you may be like Julianne just shut up about all of this, but I have been too enraged by the sacrifices I have made to conform to diet culture not to share my thoughts. But our perceptions are influenced by every aspect of our identities, and part of that identity is body size. And I am not saying I am in a place where I would be comfortable at any body size because I wouldn’t be, and I still have a lot of work to do on myself. But self-compassion is key to making any changes in your life, whether they relate to this topic or not. I believe that I can one day eat and then live intuitively, expanding my life into new territories of discovery and joy as I do so. And I hope to then be an example to others by the way I live. I don’t want to see the people I love so wrapped up in their weight and appearance that they miss out on life and cover up the pieces that make them unique and extraordinary. I don’t want any of us to place our worth in our size.
Lastly, I want to redefine healthy. How is sacrificing sleep to get in a workout healthy? How is living unsatisfied healthy? What makes only eating vegetables and quinoa at the expense of our sanity healthy? How is missing out on a dinner out with friends because you can’t eat an unplanned meal healthy? Why do we equate larger bodies with health issues instead of focusing on behaviors and lifestyles? These are serious questions, and I want to work to redefine my definition of healthy. To me, freedom around food and exercise and unconditional acceptance of my body are the keys to being healthy. Because healthy is much more than my pant size, and, for me, realizing this is the first step to making radical changes in my life.
So, what I am really getting at here, is if you see me eating chicken fingers and fries instead of a salad, because that is what I wanted, then perhaps I am making the healthiest decision I have made in a really long time.