June 26, 2016
Oh diet culture. I do so hate you. My thoughts on diet culture are not my own, because I have taken most of them from experienced professionals’ websites and writings. However, I have personally benefitted immensely from their work, and I want to share the message that dieting to be “perfect” and food shame are the absolute worst conceivable mind game to empower the patriarchy and engage women in a futile endeavor to distract them from kicking everyone’s ass.
So, diet culture.
These are the three gospel laws of diet culture: (1) to be thin is to be “beautiful” and important (2) only “beautiful” people are happy, and (3) dying would be a better alternative to not being “beautiful.” (Some of you may believe I tend towards hyperbole, but I assure you that I don’t. I thought about finding some statistics on mortality and eating disorders or depression, but I didn’t to go down that rabbit hole.)
I have dealt with the misconception that I wasn’t thin enough like almost every other woman I have ever known. I doubt if I could name five women I have not heard repeatedly comment negatively on their own bodies or what they ate; my friends, my grandmothers, my aunts, my role models, and my teachers. How could anyone learn a different behavior when it is all they have ever known? However, I would never blame other women, because that is completely against my point. My point is, diet culture is everywhere and it is harmful.
I have told others I could look “better” if I was “______” hundreds of times, and I have told myself I would be loved more if I was “______” even more times in my head. I’ve also blamed the problems in my life on being “______” over and over and over. I finally realized I was done wanting to fight my own mind and body, and that changing my body could never make me more intelligent, more effusive, or more confident. But, for years before this, I constantly worried about my appearance while being naturally petite and young and beautiful. It’s heart breaking.
What’s more, all my beautiful, thin friends worried about being thin. We weren’t starving ourselves, but almost every meal was accompanied by the shadow of a thought that we didn’t deserve what we wanted. What a mindset to give people; that they don’t deserve to be satisfied. Doesn’t it just reek? That is the mind game that we keep playing hoping to win one day.
The truth is, nobody cares what you look like nearly as much as you think. People do care if you are not being yourself, because you’re anxious about eating the chips outside by a pool at a pool party, where nobody cares what you look like. The only thing anyone important will ever care about is you—you’re personality, your muchness.
Now I’ve digressed, my rant is not to say, oh my gosh, feel bad for me, because I, like 91% of the women in the country, have been dissatisfied with the only body I will ever have. No, no, no, no, no. I want you to think about the system. Why does this sell? Like Skinny Pop popcorn. On the bag it says “guilt-free snacking never tasted this delicious.” “Guilt-free” huh? So, if I mugged an elderly person to obtain this popcorn would I be absolved of my crime? Or, what about the person who picked the fruits in my “health” smoothie? Were they paid a fair wage? If they weren’t, that is something to concern my notions of morality.
Ugh. I have so much more to say on this topic, and I will, but it is exhausting, because diet culture is so engrained in us, we don’t hear or see it. Even waiters will nudge you into ordering dessert by saying “it’s the weekend, you can be bad and order chocolate cake and make up for it later.” That’s a pretty innocuous thing to say, but it’s the little things like that the make people grow up attributing morality and self-worth to food and their relationship with food. We all deserve to live with the assumption our bodies are our own to love and value.
Do you have a similar story? If you do and you want to read something to help put the kibosh on food fears and encourage body positivity, try these: (Not in anyway even a little bit affiliated; I just liked them.)
Don’t forget to bottle it up and let it fester until next time.