Your body is not problem
Repeat after me:
“My body is not the problem.”
Your body isn’t the problem and it never has been. Diet culture may have convinced you otherwise but I promise you, it’s done nothing wrong. It is so normalised within our society to hate your body, to believe that food is the enemy and that the answer to feeling down about your appearance is restriction or excessive exercise. We are taught for our entire lives that loving your own skin is only attainable by changing x, y and z, and that we aren’t enough on our own. That’s how dieting companies make their money, they survive solely on our self loathing. If it wasn’t for you holding these disordered and toxic but seemingly standard beliefs then there’s no way on earth that you’d spend your hard earned money on a tea that makes you shi*t, or on low calorie snacks that taste like cardboard. They know what they’re doing, and it’s working. It’s working on your friends, on your family, your neighbour, your colleagues… and surely if they all subscribe to this way of thinking then it must be right? Why would you be the only person exempt from this cycle of self hatred? And if they’re all falling for these fad diets and weight loss workouts and you choose not to conform to them, what does that say about you? And won’t you be left out? And oh my god, if it’s true and you need to be skinny, then they’ll all be losing weight and you won’t so then what?
It’s all a lie. Diets don’t work, and trying to change your body in pursuit of happiness will only lead to misery. You’ll never be satisfied because they’ll never let you feel good - if they did, then you’d no longer be a source of income to the dieting industry and that’s what they rely on.
Are you angry yet? Because you should be angry. You should be more than a little peed off that people are profiting from your unhappiness, that they’re making you feel bad so that they can line their pockets. You should be angry because it’s that anger that will fuel change. Use that emotion to defy diet culture, to rebel by eating what you want, by only engaging in joyful movement, and by treating your body with kindness instead of resentment.
It’s not your fault that you’ve been sucked in. In our day to day lives we are bombarded with adverts for dieting products, with pictures of slim white women losing however many pounds by ditching food for detox juices, and with supposed dieticians telling us that we need to switch out bread for lettuce or that if we’re not willing to eat an apple then we simply shouldn’t eat at all. They’re constantly trying to make us feel guilty for our choices, because they know that at some point we’re going to crack and that’s when they’ve got us. Not only this but we are told that holding quite obviously disordered attitudes towards food and exercise is a choice we would make for our health.
It is drilled into us that health has a look, and that it is impossible to live a long happy life without shrinking ourselves down to fit it. This is repeated to us in the media, every time we look at the news, open our phones or watch TV. This message runs so deep that it is even forced upon us by some medical professionals who have fallen victim to the institutionalised fat-phobia that results in individuals in larger bodies often receiving a poorer quality of care. But just because it’s everywhere doesn’t make it right.
If you feel uncomfortable in your body it is not an indication that you need to change what you eat or how you exercise. In fact this is the opposite of what you need to do. Sure, for the first few days maybe losing a couple of pounds will feel great, and perhaps it will seem like a confidence boost if your jeans fit a bit better, but it won’t last. This is not real joy. Restricting your intake means restricting your life, because that donut you ate with your friend yesterday was a memory made rather than a moment survived. Maybe then you’re thinking “Sure… I’ll keep up the coffee dates then, but I’ll just eat less when I’m alone at home?”, but that won’t work either. Like I said before, dieting is a trap, and it can quickly become an obsession. Compensating around food or special occasions only leads to you building them up in your head and being disappointed when they don’t meet your expectations. It will leave far less space in your head to think about the important things such as work, or to hold conversations with your friends because your brain will be busy thinking about food. You’ll be hungry and miserable, and feeling this way can become very isolating, very quickly. Disordered eating and Eating Disorders affect so many people across the world, and you are not immune no matter what you might think. You may have survived a diet in the past but that does not mean you’ll survive the next one (It also means it didn’t work so why are you putting your faith in it again!?). Reducing your calorie intake, increasing your exercise regime, or just eating healthier, can quite easily become obsessions, because the people pointing us towards them designed them to be so.
So next time you contemplate defying your body in search of health do this instead:
Remember that your body knows best - You are flattering yourself if you think you know what it needs better than it does. It only wants to keep you safe, so trust it.
Throw out those old clothes that are too small. Your body changes because you change and so does your life, remember that clothes are supposed to fit you, not the other way around.
Check in with how you’re feeling - what is your body craving? Listening to your body does not mean you’re only ever going to want to eat cake, because referring back to my first point, it wants what’s best for you.
Step away from the mirror. Obsessive body checking is not going to make you feel good, ever. Your body is not something to hide and so sure, take a look at it for a couple of seconds before you step in the shower, but don’t waste yourself staring at it because it will only morphe into whatever shape you fear most the longer you stare at it. Bad body image is in your head, so you need to work on changing the way you think about yourself, not how you look.
Consider all the things your body allows you to do, and be grateful to it for that rather than reducing it down to a number.
Research ‘Health at Every Size’ (HAES), and educate yourself on what is a lie and what is the truth. (Spoiler alert: Pretty much everything diet culture has ever told you is false).
Finally, treat yourself with kindness. Run yourself a bath, read a good book, watch your favourite show and just try not to beat yourself up. You’re having a bad day, but it is not your body's fault, and punishing it will only keep you trapped in the cycle for longer.
More from me soon,
Mais // The Recovery Bean <3