I really love this article. I blogged about it a few days ago, but I have more thoughts.
In case the linked text above doesn’t work, here it is to copy and paste: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/opinion/sunday/women-dieting-wellness.html?fbclid=IwAR0EpMQf49Sw2AVSfuskVKiJVkDSqGgNALDnwV_ejU_dbAmJiHfnVUwOp-w
“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.”
I absolutely agree that “wellness culture” has disguised being healthy as losing weight. And we (especially as women) go to extreme lengths to be the culturally acceptable “healthy.”
This sentence from the article really hit me: “I might have sought [intuitive eating] out sooner if not for the part where you learn to accept how your body looks once you stop restricting food, even if that version of your body is larger than you would like.”
Since dieting, heavy exercise, and white-knuckling determination dominate the “health and wellness” fields these days, it is so hard to let go of that and ease into an intuitive lifestyle. I am working on intuitive eating. It is so hard. I constantly fight the desire to give up entire food groups because “surely they are bad for me.” They aren’t. I also fight the desire to restrict calories even though I am hungry…. which eventually leads to a binge. Honoring my body’s hunger and fullness cues is hard. Honoring my body’s true hunger (I think a cookie sounds tasty) while engaging in gentle nutrition (a pillar of intuitive eating that is learned after you’ve fully restored your mental/physical cues for eating) is hard in a society where we are taught that foods are ALL GOOD or ALL BAD. [but even within wellness culture there are so many conflicting messages about what is “healthy and unhealthy” that it is all convoluted anyways]
Honoring my body to take care of me is hard. It is so hard to let go of the idea that I can “get back to my pre-pregnancy weight” or “just go down a few sizes” or “get rid of the muffin top.” It is hard to fundamentally change how you view your body.
Our society is so obsessed with thinness. It is unreal! And not just thinness… but extreme thinness. Like you have to have a perfectly flat stomach type thinness. Like thigh-gap thinness. Like the kind of thinness that alienates most people. MOST PEOPLE. And that is ridiculous. Like the kind of thinness that makes thin people feel like they aren’t thin enough type thinness. And if thin people can’t even fit the “ideal” standard of thinness… the rest of us are toast. Like the kind of thinness that has millions (billions, internationally) of women/people fixated… obsessed… clinging to anything they can get their hands on that will promise them this kind of thinness.
Another quote that stuck out to me is, “Intuitive eating has been around for decades, but it’s suddenly receiving a lot of attention. Perhaps it’s because women are finally starting to interrogate the systems that hurt and exploit us.”
Think about how much mental energy goes in to our physical appearance. Think about what our world would look like if all people used that mental energy towards things that really mattered… instead of constantly focusing on calories, restricting, do I look good, what are other people thinking about me, gosh I must look terrible in these jeans, etc. Think about all the money that goes into diets… then think about all the money we could donate to charities and use towards solving the world’s problems if we voted with our dollars and said, “I’ve had enough of this.” Think about all the pain we’ve experienced… the disappointment… the self-hate and shame we’ve felt when we “failed at yet another diet” or we “still don’t look good enough” or we “don’t know what else I could do.” What if we were able to instead focus on how our body is an instrument, not an ornament… and instead live life without all of that emotional energy wasted. We would have so much more love and service to give.
And lastly, because it is something mentioned in the article, without specifically being mentioned in the article. Intuitive eating TAKES TIME. Diet culture, the wellness culture, and fitness culture THRIVE on quick fixes. Think of all the marketing strategies out there that tell you that you can get your perfect body in just a few short months!!!
It is a lie. Sure, you can restrict and exercise all the time and hate every second of it. But the diet and fitness culture play such a twisted psychological game: they preach “I know you hate it but really you love it because think of how you will feel when you reach your goal.” When in reality, you really do hate it because you ARE NOT MEANT TO LIVE A LIFE OF RESTRICTION AND PUNISHMENT.
If you intuitively ate and intuitively exercised… your body would come to a comfortable size for YOUR body. Some people will be thinner than you (big whoop) and some people will be fatter than you (big whoop). Being thin or being fat is just a way to describe your body size. Being thin doesn’t make you more worthy than anyone else. Being fat doesn’t make you less worthy than anyone else. And the fact that our appearance-based society has made the message that “thinness=worthiness” so brainwashingly fundamental is messed up.
I’ve realized recently that I am pretty passionate about this topic. And I am sitting here begging us all to play the long game. Forget all the “get thin quick” schemes that involve restricting, self-hate, and energy sucking tactics. Because SPOILER ALERT: Diets don’t work. ALL of weight lost by dieting is gained back AND MORE by the majority of dieters. Don’t fall for their lies.
Play the long game. The life-long game. Learn to eat and exercise intuitively. If you struggle to know what that looks like (that’s normal), seek out help. Search “Anti-diet dietitians” and maybe work with one as you transition away from diet culture. Search “food freedom.” Read the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole. Immerse yourself in Body Positivity. Unfollow people (whether online or in real life) who consistently make you feel bad about your body and your life. Surround yourself with uplifting, nourishing humans.
You can do it.