Tis the season for diet tips, but we don’t have to engage with diet culture. I want to share a recent experience with you…
Beyond the bumping of mixing paint cans, I could hear a faint news-y conversation in the background. There, behind me, was a little TV in the paint store where two morning news anchors were doing a segment about “quitting sugar.” “Tis the season,” I thought.
Before a wave of nausea completely overtook me, I turned away and focused back on the store clerk. “Paint. I’m buying paint,” I reminded myself. “White eggshell and white semi-gloss. Hold the anger about diet news until after your vacation.”
Obviously, something about the news got to me because here I am writing about it. In fact, something that tripped my wires was a memory of sitting in my grandmother’s den in Delaware, the cold outside making it much nicer to snuggle up to the Today Show. In addition to the holiday parade coverage, I watched story after story about the next big diet and the harms of adding nearly five pounds of Christmas weight per year.
At the time, I was reaching puberty. I didn’t know that my bigger belly and rounder face were normal aspects of growth for people getting ready to start their first period and develop breasts. I wish I’d known that then instead of judging my body based on the fat phobic news commentary.
Invariably, this memory and similar client stories made up the nausea hitting my stomach. Well, that combined with the righteous anger I feel about the time, money and energy taken from us by diet culture.
You see, news stories about sugar, keto, intermittent fasting, the harms of eating holiday foods (blah, blah, blah) are just that: stories that hook us. They’re aired because we have a cultural conundrum going on at the holidays and news stations know they’ve got our attention as we rest in front of the TV during vacation.
In essence, our cultural conundrum is this: we receive messages that productivity is a measure of our worth and there is an assumption that thin bodies are healthiest. At its most obnoxious, the message sounds like this: “Run yourself ragged, do all the things, and make sure you go to the gym!”
On the other hand, we also hear that holidays are a time to take a break, indulge, and rest. The message sounds like this: “Eat the food, watch the TV, and buy all the things! (And then make up for your “sins” (lack of productivity, sleep, and any possible weight gain) after the holidays).”
What happens when we hear these conflicting messages is they make us begin to doubt ourselves and our worth. In addition, they tap into existing shame, blame and trauma we may already carry around.
Said differently, if you’re already not feeling good about yourself, the messages about not being good enough can sink in a little deeper.
There’s nothing more potent than a mixture of taking time off, holiday gatherings with family, and rich foods to make us question our worth. (And that’s coming from a place of “having”…consider how those messages reinforce “not enough-ness” if you don’t have family, time to spare, or food insecurity).
As I reflect on this experience at the paint store, I’m wondering what I actually want to say to you, reader. I think it’s this:
I hope you can drown out the television and the cultural messages about not being good enough.
Start the year without a resolution about your body because it’s already good enough just by existing.
Learn to accept yourself because that’s the most radical action we can take in a world that profits off self-hatred.
Besides my hopes for you, I want you to reflect on your own experiences of diet culture. How has it helped or hurt you?
Also, ask yourself how these news stories and diet culture have profited from your self-doubt.
Finally, get angry and sad. Next, use those transformative emotions to shirk the shame and create a bond with yourself. Because at the end of the day, the most powerful thing is knowing you’re good enough just as you are.
As for my own experience, I left the paint store and forgot about the news until I went back out and heard another story. Instead of restricting or over exercising in response (as I would have before recovery), I’m continuing to give myself rest, good food, and acceptance.
Well, let’s be real, I also got mad about diet culture and am writing to you. I’m also fueling my diet resistance with Star Wars movies and new anti-diet books. You know, just living out my dreams of being Rey and fighting the Final Order of Diet Culture with a laptop instead of a light saber.
If you need help finding your own resistant spirit this year, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you make the radical shift from dieting and doubt to self-acceptance.