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You know the drill; we all know the drill.
Your old friends or someone you barely know adds you on social media with a before and after photo of their weight loss journey. Look how happy they are now that they are the thin version of themselves! They find an opportunity to message you to plug their program and hopefully sign you up to be the next victim of diet culture.
“Wait, they added me as a friend to pitch a diet? Does this mean they think I’m fat?” Cue the downward spiral.
I don’t say all of this sarcastically, and I am not making fun of anyone trapped in diet culture because I’ve been there, and it’s a painful place to be.
Feeling like we are never enough because of our body size or how much space we take up is a serious and sad problem. But being trapped in toxic diet culture is also not totally our fault. There is a $71 billion dollar industry driving our insecurities—an industry with a 95 percent failure rate in long-term.
In diet culture, we try all of the diets. The newest, next diet is the one. This time, it will be the time that we keep it off forever!
Any internet search on the success of dieters keeping the weight off will tell you that diets are temporary and not lifestyles—as most programs like to promote.
I realized I accidentally ditched diet culture in 2020 when my daughter and I did an art project where we drew the 2020 version of ourselves and wrote all the things that described ourselves now. We also drew the 2010 version of ourselves and wrote all the things that described ourselves then to see our personal growth.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2020 version of me said, “Doesn’t diet,“ and the 2010 version of me said, “Always on a diet.”
I was steeped in diet culture for a good decade. I had tried them all.
The most interesting part of this drawing was that my size was larger then than now.
I was larger when I was yo-yo dieting?
I saw where I had grown, and it was not my body. Somewhere along the way, I accepted my thicker middle-aged body, my more genetic natural size, and my varying daily need for real food—not a diet program food, but any kind of food that I truly wanted.
Let’s all be honest, diet food tastes terrible.
These days, I only leave out foods that don’t agree with me on a health level, but it has nothing to do with dieting. These days, I am proud of my large bones, my sturdy build, and the endurance I have. But I also understand that a taller, smaller, or different-shaped person isn’t any better or worse than me.
We are just different—like trees. None of them are exactly the same, but do we judge them for that?
Our bodies are our business; not our old classmates, coworkers, friends, family, or dieter friends on social media’s business. We don’t all need to be on the same program because we are not in the same bodies.
Letting go of diet culture is a process, and it is not an easy one. It means rewiring our thoughts about how we view our imperfect bodies and how we view the programs that are meant to take our money and sell us as a temporary fix.
Of course, they work while you use them, but can you stay on them?
Ditching diet culture means eating when we are hungry.
It means not weighing ourselves to see how much we’ve gained this week.
It means not giving our hard-earned dollars to the billion-dollar diet industry that plays on our insecurities.
It means being a larger version of ourselves because the small version requires way too much restriction and is not sustainable long-term.
It means learning to eat intuitively and listen to our bodies—this can take some time.
It means trusting your body with what it tells you. It means not commenting on people’s body sizes (for example, “You look great; you’ve lost so much weight!”)
It means letting go of all the preoccupation with sizes and numbers and with how much space we take up.
It means being aware of ads that promote unrealistic bodies.
It may mean finding a support group for eating disorders. There are many online resources for eating disorder help. Also, we don’t have to be thin to have an eating disorder.
It means recognizing that we are more than a size or a number on a scale. We are beautiful people with beautiful bodies that are wonderful and unique.
Can we ever be truly free from this degrading culture? We can be aware of it, and make a commitment to not participating anymore. Then, we can begin the journey of body acceptance and seeking happiness in our skin—a positive focus on what all our bodies do for us, instead of picking apart how they look.
Being the healthiest versions of ourselves: that is the goal. Intuitive eating: that is the goal. Moving our bodies more in fun ways more often: that is the goal.
Paying attention to what our bodies need and listening to them is the goal because some days we need more than others. Our bodies are designed to handle different amounts of food.
I promise you that no one will discuss your size in your eulogy. I promise you that being free from this obsession is worth some extra weight—that just isn’t what matters in this life.
There are many online resources these days for starving the billion-dollar diet culture beast. They can be found on social media under, “#dietculture.”
Throw the scale away, get in tune with your body, and listen to what it wants, but mostly, learn to trust it. Being friends with our bodies is a wonderful thing to do. Pay no mind to charts like the body mass index that is a dated formula created by a man nearly 200 years ago who studied mathematics—he was not a physician and never studied medicine.
There are many online resources for encouragement along the way. You’d be surprised how freeing it is, and it’s amazing how our minds and bodies will surprise us once we begin to honor them. Ditching shame and guilt about what we eat is necessary because no food should be labeled as “bad.”
I still struggle with a few of these habits, like weighing myself after a vacation or feeling guilty about eating a certain food. I gently remind myself that I am no longer under the old conditioning and rules. I am free of guilt and free of numbers dictating my mood toward my body. It is a process, and a long one, but it’s so worth it.
I encourage you to take a serious weight off of your heart and mind, and most likely even your body, and join me in this. Let’s starve the diet culture!