Why I will always advocate for anti diet culture
This is the first time in my life I can truly say I do not have any food restrictions. I do not have any naughty or forbidden foods, I do not turn stuff down on account of “trying to be good” and I do not have any rules about food and eating. It may sound like I’m completely neglecting myself, but truth be told, this is the healthiest I’ve ever been. No, it’s not the skinniest I’ve ever been and it’s not the cleanest I’ve ever eaten, but it’s the strongest I’ve ever felt, and it’s the freest I’ve ever felt. I do not agonise over my food choices, I do not berate myself for anything I consume and I am free of the damaging cycle of restrict-binge-purge (exercise).
The majority of my teenage years and early twenties, however, were spent dieting. I have followed diets where there was an entire day of fasting, I’ve followed diets where you can only eat greens, when you only eat soup, where you have a day just of protein shakes, I’ve done the 5-2 diet, I’ve done basically pretty much every diet under the sun. Each one was different, but also completely the same. I would start off feeling so excited about all the weight I was going to lose. I would be strict and stick to it meticulously. I would lose weight. Then I would start looking at other people eating what they wanted and get angry. I would see nothing but food all around me that I couldn’t eat and get angry. I would be in a social situation where people would try to get me to eat, and I couldn’t, and I would get angry. Until eventually I caved, ate everything in sight and put all the weight back on again.
Then I stopped and thought look at me, I don’t diet anymore, I’m so progressive. What I didn’t understand is that dieting is a culture, and even though I wasn’t following a prescribed diet, I still had a diet mentality. If I ate a “forbidden” food I would go without a meal to make up for it. If I ate what I considered to be too much or the wrong food, I would start exercising obsessively to somehow undo what I had eaten. I would still tell myself there were certain things I couldn’t eat, and I had to be good, which led to self-loathing, binging and a sense of complete failure.
The thing is, even with a huge proportion of the population constantly on some form of diet, there are not tons of thin people out there. What you will find is tons of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, fat-shaming, body-hating and very toxic relationships with food.
Everyone wants to talk about how you should just eat more nourishing foods, move a little and be happy with yourself and body positive but the truth is, this will never happen until we destigmatize fat-ness. If someone is larger, they eat nourishing foods, move a little (or a lot) and are happy with their bodies, society tells them they are obese and lazy and lack willpower, that they are a bad example to their children. But remember everyone #selflove. Be happy with where you are but also, don’t be fat.
I think I would struggle to find one female I know who has never been on some form of diet in their lifetime. It used to be a conversation centrepiece. If you accepted a piece of cake you were weird, but if you did it without even pulling a face and saying “I really shouldn’t” or “I’m being naughty” then there was definitely something wrong with you.
I’ve written before about my history with disordered eating so I’m no stranger to the allure of the diet industry and the devastation of yet another failed diet, but no amount of dieting ever even got me close to the level of freedom I achieved when I stopped restricting my food. When I finally decided that no food was off the table, that no food was bad or forbidden or not allowed, that if someone offered me something and I wanted it, I would say yes unapologetically and that nothing was off limits, I found myself moving more and more into balance.
Yes, I still overeat sometimes but it is not followed by the crippling guilt and skipping of meals. When I eat an “indulgent” food, I truly enjoy it instead of wolfing it down like it’s some dirty secret and not really being able to taste it through my own self-disgust. Because I know I can have whatever food I want whenever I want it, there is no frenzy, no FOMO, no rebellion and I am able more often to say no when I’m full. I have the freedom to enjoy food and enjoy the act of eating, and the freedom to focus on other things when I’m not eating instead of being consumed by food thoughts. I am free to live my life. That is the power of anti diet culture. And I’m 100% here for it.
Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you are a serial dieter, ask yourself if this is you. I can assure you it is, because if dieting worked, you wouldn’t need to be a serial dieter. You would do it once, lose your weight, keep it off and live happily ever after. So now we’ve established we’re all insane, I encourage you, challenge you and implore you to unshackle yourself from the diet delusion and live your damn life. Yes it’s scary, yes it’s hard, and yes, it is most definitely worth it.