Since getting a bit of distance between myself and diet culture, I’ve realised how ridiculous, how damaging, and actually how downright horrifying it is.
If you want ridiculous – I remember what set me on the weight cycling track again a few years ago; my jeans were cutting into my waist, causing my stomach to hang over them and leaving a livid red line across my midriff every day. I couldn’t take it any more, so I decided to lose weight. The standard response in our society, yes?
But just for a second let’s put aside the years of indoctrination and look at the logic of this. A bit of fabric that would last a year at the most (but probably more like 4 or 5 months with me) didn’t fit my body, and instead of just buying a bigger bit of fabric that would fit me, I decided to drastically alter the one body I will ever have.
I embarked on years of effort and stress and hating the food I was eating but eating it anyway because it was ‘on plan’ and doing exercise that I hated, in an effort to make myself less. Forcing my body to eat itself smaller, further messing up my metabolism and mental health, to fit this bit of fabric.
Damaging – if I had a pound for every time I’ve thought “I’m too fat to…” I would be a multi-millionaire by now. Too fat to run, to wear this, that or the other, to speak up, to draw attention, to cosplay, to eat that, to eat there, to get that job, to be admired, to feel sexy, to shop there, to try that, to be seen, to be loved. I could go on. For days.
I was bullied all the way through high school, but nothing they ever did or said came close to the level of vitriol I directed at myself. Whatever they said, I had already said it ten different ways before I even got to school that day. If anyone ever spoke to me now the way I used to speak to myself, I would knock them out.
But that’s what I was raised to do. Our entire society is trained to believe to the very core that if we’re not thin, we’re not worthy of basic human decency, even from ourselves.
And horrifying? People are literally getting pieces of themselves removed, shrinking their stomach and risking clinical malnutrition, rickets, even death, just to make their body smaller. I’ve shared before about a colleague being hospitalised, and others joking that at least she had lost weight so it was okay.
Ragen Chastain puts it best when she says diet culture wants us thin or dead, and it doesn’t much care which. If that’s not horrifying then I don’t know what is.
It was so difficult at the beginning to go against everything I had ‘always’ believed, and there are still days where I feel it would be so much easier to just give in to the pressure and try to lose weight again. But the longer I’m out of it, the easier it is to see how much I’m better off being outside of something so toxic, and I will never go back there again.