Step Away From Diet Culture, Love.

I’ve seen this article (link above, read it!) circulating on my Instagram feed. I follow a very curated group of people including Intuitive Eating Nutritionists/Dietitians. Body Positivity and Health at Every Size Influencers. I am grateful that they share such powerful, relatable content. A friend shared it again on FB and I just knew I wanted to do the same.

Stepping away from the brainwashed idea that I have to LOOK GOOD to BE GOOD is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I’ve started to see the diet and beauty industries as leeches. “In order to be loved, worthy, and happy you need to be beautiful,” they say. “AND YOU AREN’T BEAUTIFUL as you are… you aren’t worthy as you are… so you NEED this thing that will change your life!” They sell us foundations, concealers, color correctors, skin lighteners, self-tanners, hair-removal treatments, hair growth serums, cellulite creams, boob/butt/lip implants, liposuction, appetite suppressants, meal replacement shakes, calorie deficient meal plans, push-up bras, Spanx, gym memberships…….

I could go ON AND ON AND ON. I don’t think makeup or skin care products are inherently bad. I love playing with makeup for shows and love using good moisturizers to calm my itchy skin. I like wearing cute, colorful, flirty clothes. But I don’t need it to know I am worthy of love. I don’t need it to be beautiful because I AM beautiful. To be honest, though, my physical body being beautiful is the least important thing about me.

Check out to SEE MORE and BE MORE. Your body is an instrument, not an ornament.

I can go into great detail about my body’s journey. How I had acne that creams, medications, and dermatologists couldn’t clear up. How I decided in college to go makeup-free until I no longer thought about my red spots constantly. How I still have acne but no longer let it define whether I will go out and have fun.

How I grew up naturally thin, and therefore enjoyed thin privilege. How I vowed to never diet because of how I saw it made others miserable. How twin pregnancy changed my body in ways I never imagined. How within a few months, my body became the topic of every. single. conversation. Strangers, friends, family, and myself focused on my growing body. How I can tell you how much I weighed (within 5 lbs) at any point in my life without thinking about it. How my body didn’t “bounce-back” after delivery. How THAT IS SUCH A BOGUS IDEA that our society makes seem totally normal. How I spent years hating, nit-picking, and hiding my body. How I entered the yo-yo dieting world to no avail. How I lied to myself and said it was for my health. How I would gain weight, not lose weight, when embarking on a new exercise and diet regiment. How I endlessly clung to the hope that inches would fall off of my stomach despite the number on the scale inexplicably rising. How I believed that there was a “right way” to have curves and tried to force my body to fit that mold. How I still get asked if I’m pregnant or when I’m due despite not being pregnant. How I spent countless times crying… sobbing to AJ about my body. How I have journaled such self-hate. How I’ve worked with personal trainers. How I kept waiting for the elusive “magic thing” that would make me happy. How diets, body size, and body hate became the focus of most conversations with other women. How somewhere along the way I heard of intuitive eating but didn’t believe it was possible. How I thought I must not have the right willpower or body type to lose weight. How I’ve sobbed in dressing rooms when the sizing scales vary from store to store. How I went on incredibly restrictive calorie diets only to rebound and binge. How I developed a habit of bingeing. How I cried to my doctors. How I’ve been put on restrictive diets to try to find the root cause of why I’m not losing weight. How I’ve cut out food group after food group only to learn it isn’t sustainable. How I felt so weak afterwards. How I must be a failure.

How I’ve taken dozens of “before” pictures because one of these times I knew there would be an “after” to be proud of.

“The diet industry is a virus, and viruses are smart. It has survived all these decades by adapting, but it’s as dangerous as ever. In 2019, dieting presents itself as wellness and clean eating, duping modern feminists to participate under the guise of health. Wellness influencers attract sponsorships and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram by tying before and after selfies to inspiring narratives. Go from sluggish to vibrant, insecure to confident, foggy-brained to cleareyed. But when you have to deprive, punish and isolate yourself to look “good,” it is impossible to feel good.” [from the NYTimes article posted above]

One day I decided that I would no longer diet. That was a scary decision, but I knew it would be best for my long-term physical and mental health.

In the past year and a half, I’ve joined two Intuitive Eating groups. Each titled something like, “Eat Cake AND Lose Weight!” These groups were a step in the right direction but ultimately fell short. In these groups I learned to journal about my relationship with food and my body. I learned to listen more intently to my hunger and fullness cues. I learned to not vilify foods by labelling them good vs bad. But these groups were also weight-centric. Each facilitator was someone who had lost 50-100 lbs by intuitively eating (which is fine, seeing as that’s how their body normalized). They talked about their experience and promised the same. We could lose weight and be happy in our body and be able to eat what we wanted and be able to exercise intuitively. I left the first group because of how focused it was on losing weight. I wasn’t losing weight. I was still gaining weight even though I didn’t “need” to. It was demoralizing.

A few months later (January 2019) I joined the second group and experienced the same thing. By this time I had begun to shift my focus to being weight-neutral. At the end of the 3-month program, the facilitator acknowledged that her approach was wrong. I had wanted to preach to her some of the things I’d been learning via Instagram and books about REAL intuitive eating, but I didn’t know how to do that without offending her work. She beat me to the punch. I cannot tell you how good it felt to talk together in a weight-neutral way. I love her for being vulnerable and humble enough to change.

At this point, I am still in the baby steps of intuitive eating. I am learning, slowly but surely, how to listen to my body. I am learning to focus on what my body can DO vs how my body LOOKS. I am learning to make decisions based on gentle love for myself.

I am also learning how HARD this is. I am realizing that diet-culture promises us instant fixes, whereas intuitive eating is the long-game. I am learning to celebrate the fact that I fall into the diet-mentality traps less often. I am proud of myself when I steer the conversation away from body shaming and towards something else. I am happy when I wear what I want to, regardless of how “flattering” it is for my body type. I am  consciously uncoupling 27 years of culture that brainwashed me into believing that I couldn’t possibly be happy with my natural self.

I’M SO OVER THAT GAME. You can find me living my life instead.

[Below are some incredible, life-changing messages I’ve saved from some of the Instagram accounts I follow. Each of these messages have required me to think in different ways. I encourage you to take some time journaling/thinking on these topics. What resonates most with you?

I will openly acknowledge that many of these accounts are people who “weigh less” than me. BUT that’s okay. That is how their body normalized after learning to ditch the diet culture. Also, many of them are recovering from eating disorders… so they will likely “gain weight” over time as their body continues to normalize. BUT the message is the same.

@rileylaster_RD @kristamurias @bodyposipanda @i_weigh @evelyntribole @drjoshuawolrich @chessiekingg @rachaelhartleyrd @thedietboycott @jessijeannn @ownitbabe @nude_nutritionist @dietitiananna @thefashionfitnessfoodie @beautyredefined

SO… If you are wanting to take a step back from diet culture… learn how to love your body (Eat like you love yourself, Move like you love yourself, Talk like you love yourself)… check out some of these amazing Insta accounts! SO WORTH IT.]

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I remember thinking about this concept in regards to body hair. If I grew up on an island with no media influence, would I have EVER considered that leg hair made me gross or disgusting? No. It would never have crossed my mind because it doesn’t affect my ability to be a good human in any way (though I do still minimize leg hair for sensitive skin reasons and because it is my body so I can decide). It related perfectly to other body image issues. If you grew up on an island would you EVER consider that ____insert beauty standard here____  is key to your happiness? Most likely: NO.
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This is such an incredibly difficult stumbling block for me and most people. This is the main thing that catches me up now, but I’m working on it. Also, see the quote below.
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This question prompted A LOT OF JOURNALING. Another way this idea was posed to me was, “If you weren’t afraid of gaining weight, how would you eat and move?” 
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I love this. Another way I heard about this was: “If all the people [specifically women] in the world shifted their focus from their body image to the real issues our world faces, think of how quickly things would change!” Imagine it! All the money that we could use to become debt-free or donate instead of buying body-altering products. All the time and mental energy that we could devote to charities, causes, families, our work, and individual people. I long for that world. 
For real. Google it. I know so many people who eat 1,200 calories per day and exercise… which makes their daily fueling calories under 1,000. And they think this is perfectly healthy and the best way to lose weight and maintain control of their bodies. Spoiler alert: It’s not! Toddlers need 1,200 calories per day. Adults need more. 
And lastly:
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