Diet culture is like social media. It grabs your attention, feeds you a fantasy, and leaves you longing for connection when you’ve decided to kick it to the curb. But by removing yourself (even for a little while) you allow yourself to get clear.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I took a social media sabbatical for about four days. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but it definitely made a difference in my wellbeing. I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person that gets sucked into Instagram and Facebook when I’m bored, want a distraction from uncomfortable feelings, or feel lonely. I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of scrolling through Instagram before bed. And I know this is bad for me not only because the research says so, but because my legs start to get restless. My nervous system is literally sending messages to me that I need to get the fuck off my phone and go to sleep. And then trying to go to sleep is hard with restless legs and social media FOMO.
Deleting the apps was the only way to go. No nanny apps. No setting a timer on usage.
I felt so. much. better. after removing them. By the following week, I had major hesitation about getting back on. I realized how much my world has become a series of liking, reposting, and creating memes “to get the word out” (but, let’s be real, most of us also like getting attention). Instagram (and by default, Facebook) likes when you get attention. Most of all, it likes when you use their app because you’re habituated to wanting attention and seeking interaction with other people who want attention. (We call it “connection,” but seriously, folks, who are we kidding? This shit feeds heavily into our egos and behaviors).
I realized that Instagram attention is kind of like the attention you get on a diet. We engage with this service that sells us on having a better life through technology. We engage because, for business owners and personal use, we feel like we need to use it for folks to hear what we have to say (because, obviously, what we have to say is important, unique and more special than anyone else out there *sarcasm*). What we have to say may also fuel our livelihoods.
For folks who use social media for personal things, it can mean connection, likes, compliments, information sharing, voyeurism…and the dark side of those things like bullying, stalking, and catfishing.
Diet and lifestyle plans are the same way. They sell us a service. A fantasy. A belief that if we follow and like and use their service, then our lives will be better. We’ll get more likes in return (if we lose weight or show how much we’re efforting to get there). We’ll be able to connect with other people on a diet who can hear our struggles so we don’t feel so alone and feel accountable to our goals (and if not our goals, then at least to other people).
The shitty thing about diets and social media is that they can be addicting and toxic. The connection they offer is based on conditions. If you stop using them, or they aren’t working for you anymore, then the number of followers and likes you get decreases. In the case of social media, not using means the algorithms that direct folks to your page get all fucked up and people won’t find and like you. When a diet doesn’t work, you get labeled as a failure or non-compliant, and the accountability buddies you started with disappear.
It’s really hard to sell folks on the idea of quitting social media and diet programs. They’ve both become engrained in our culture. In fact, the more you follow fitspo and diet pals, the more you see ads for diets in your feed. It becomes really hard to remove that imagery and marketing from your brain space.
What’s paradoxical here is that the reason we got into these things (for a lot of us anyway) is that we wanted to belong. We want to be liked and connect and feel seen/heard. We are hard wired for this type of connection and the internet provides a flimsy version of it that feels good enough to most because most of us actually aren’t getting genuine connection in the first place.
What happens when you back off from social media and diet culture (and really any aspect of our culture that’s considered “the norm”) is that you back away from the popular, collective notion that things are great and rosy in this flimsy connected space. Backing away looks like self-imposed isolation and the most flimsy folks are the first ones to abandon connection with you.
But this other amazing thing happens. By removing yourself (even for a little while), you allow yourself to get clear (outside of the bullshit sphere of the internet and a culture that normalizes internalized violence on our bodies in the form of diets) about what it actually means to seek out people who offer real, genuine, nourishing, substantive relationships.
You’ve heard the quote: “You’ll be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people.” (attributing to Glennon Doyle though I’ve heard a lot of folks use it)
It can be fucking scary to leave the things you’re used to even if they’re draining: family or friends that empty your bucket, situations that once felt good but now feel toxic…eating disorders and diet culture that tell you you’re not good enough but sell you on the idea that your enoughness is based on your weight. BUT THOSE AREN’T YOUR PEOPLE (OR THINGS).
When you take time to face the fear. To try something new. To let go of the idea that your enoughness is based in something that it’s not. You have the opportunity to deep dive into a whole new world that makes your life so much better.
Blame the diets. Blame social media. Get mad about the fact that these things literally rewire our brains towards anxiety and negative thinking! And take a break for God’s sake. (And if not for her, then for your mental health!). You are worth so much more than likes on the internet.