The Major Crack in Diet Culture Logic
Yes, really. Tighten your bra straps, ladies. Because we are getting IN IT today.
THE FATAL FLAW
Weight loss is sold to us dressed as many things. Sometimes it’s in the name of ‘health’: Be your healthiest self this summer! *cue picture of supermodel in bikini, kale in hand. Smile so big you’d think she farted in a crowd and got away with it.*
Sometimes its sold as guilt, happiness, and—my personal favorite— love: Finally make his head turn. Try our shakes today! (I just love the blatant honesty in these ones. They’re preying on women's’ biggest insecurity of not being lovable and they have no shame….I can at least appreciate their candor).
Whatever way it is sold to you--and trust me, they’re selling you SOMETHING--they all have a common thread: You need US to plan your meals and tell you exactly what and how much to eat because YOU cant be trusted to do that. You need enforced restriction, deprivation, and control in order to achieve body peace.
This main thought process diet ads take you through, however, is a fundamentally broken one. It is this: the idea that restriction, self punishment, and everything on the opposite side of self acceptance is required, nay, ENCOURAGED, as necessary to achieve happiness, love, and acceptance (a.k.a. a certain body, look, or beauty element). You are using oppositional tools to achieve a set goal. Happiness and love are on the other side of restriction and shame.
Do you see how that’s a bit misleading?
Here you are, chasing self acceptance: Ill love myself when I am this weight, Ill start dating again when I look like this. When I FINALLY am a size * I can start living my life. Be seen. Be known. The problem with this line of thinking—one of many—is that you are using harsh/unloving methodology to try and get to a loving place. We are being taught that YES, we CAN have the body of our dreams and finally be confident and love ourselves, but we must hate ourselves in order to get there.
Woah, jess, hate is a strong word…
Yes. Yes it is. I don't mean you necessarily despise your existence (although, it is that extreme for a lot of people), I mean the underlying insidious ways we show our body we hate and distrust it. We do this with overexercising, denying our body what it needs, and seeing it as an enemy not to be trusted and therefore needing to be controlled. So we count, we measure our chicken breast, we go to bed hungry, we revel in the long hours on the elliptical because, as we all know, "sweat is your fat cells crying" (brb, doing an hour long eye roll).
Or maybe it isn’t that extreme for you. Maybe it looks like ‘eating clean’, chasing the newest health fad because THIS is the one that will let you eat endlessly and never gain weight. This diet will be the diet to end all diets and give you clear skin, effortlessly manageable weight, and that healthful ‘glow’. Veganism? Vegetarianism? Keto? (done em, and don't listen to them…. you CAN gain weight on all of them.) It may look like Paleoing HARD, often going too low carb because "insulin is the devil," and doing crossfit 5x a week because “that’s the way the cavemen did it”.
My point is, you can take ANY way of eating and use it as a weapon for shame, self punishment, and restriction. Women are smart like that, and we can find a way always. However, I implore you to recognize that if you use punishment and shame as the vehicle, don’t expect to find acceptance and happiness as the destination.
THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD TO….NOTHING?
What ends up happening when you use self abusive techniques to end up in a place of self love is… well, it doesn’t work. No really, hear me out. I know you REALLY believe you will accept yourself when you change…but isn’t that the opposite of acceptance? Putting conditions on the love you have for yourself is not acceptance, it’s a contract. Okay body, stay this size or else were going on that 6 day juice cleanse again. DON’T TEST ME.
If you always have conditions on your self love, one of the natural by products is you never feel worthy of unconditional love—from yourself or others. I see this so much its *almost funny. This often looks like 2 scenarios. Either 1. Because you don’t see yourself as loveable UNTIL a, b, or c, it is incredibly difficult for you to accept love from ANYONE until you get to that place where you will deem yourself loveable. Often, women won’t date, they push people away, and their life forever feels like its in a waiting game of transformation. You put a hold on your life and forfeit so much precious time because you don’t feel ready. And then, scenario 2,you finally GET THERE (wherever ‘there’ is for you) and feel like an imposter. You easily dismiss others love for you as shallow, wrong, or ill-informed, hearing ‘if only they knew the real you’ in the back of your mind. You wear skinny like a dress, one that is enjoyable on the surface but doesn’t actually fix the brokenness inside. So, you hide. And you feel as though you are keeping up an act, because who you think you REALLY are was 30 pounds ago, but you suppressed her so far down with rules and restriction, and now spend your life managing it to make sure she never comes back.
In order to get here the diet culture way, you had to DIS-EMBODY. You had to remove trust from your body and instead see it as an enemy, and live in fear of it ‘getting out of control’. You’re afraid when you’re dieting, and if you actually lose weight, you’re afraid its going to come back (which, newsflash, it always does. The scientific literature and millions of women's testimonies say so).
The way we are told to do things forces us to stop viewing ourselves as a WHOLE human. Diet culture’s flawed logic of using shame to achieve acceptance creates a dichotomy of self: You versus your body. It is the epidemic I formed my entire business around healing. We are not disjointed humans, we are whole and will not find healing (or steady weight) until we begin to see ourselves that way.
FILLING IN THE CRACKS
ALRIGHT. SOLUTION TIME MY FAVORITE.
Here is the biggest piece of advice I give to women and swear by:
Start seeing your body as working FOR you, not against you.
Yes, it's that simple.
Yes, it's that hard.
Your body is NOT out to get you. I know its easy to think that: we break out, we gain weight, we bleed for a week straight every single month…sometimes it can feel like our body is just plotting ways to make life more difficult. But THAT’S NOT TRUE. In actuality, physiologically speaking, your body’s ONE job and motivation for why it does everything is to KEEP YOU ALIVE. That’s all it cares about—not having this breast size, or being cellulite free, but SURVIVIAL. It is the complete opposite of what we’re told. Our body, turns out, is actually not an enemy to be controlled, but rather an incredibly brilliant feedback system designed to tell you whats up and keep you alive and kickin.
This seemingly small shift in mindset changes everything.
You no longer see your knee pain at the gym as your body getting in the way of your weight loss, but rather saying ‘hey girl, something’s not right in here. I don’t think squatting is for us today’. And you know what? YOU’LL LISTEN. Because when you view your body as a protector and fighter for your wellbeing, you respect when it tells you to take it easy, or eat a little more, or maybe stop with that bag of chips because she’s getting queasy.
I encourage you to practice seeing everything as a way your body is working FOR you, not against you. Break out right before a big meeting? Well, maybe it’s a sign that your hormones are going a little whacky and it’s time to do some digging or focus on stress relief. Stomach ache after pizza? No, your body isn’t trying to steal your fun, it’s just letting you know that slice isn’t helping you function at your best.
This mindset shift leads to genuine health, because your body feels and runs better on whole foods, rest, less stress, and movement that makes you happy. And when you tune into what she’s saying, you can hear that. No more shutting her out with distrust, no more questioning her motives. Only you and your body getting cozy and integrated, supporting each other, listening to each other. Before you know it, you’ll be so close it’s like you’re ONE. One. Whole. Human.
How have you been directly affected by diet culture and media's messages about beauty? What have you learned? What words of wisdom do you carry about undoing these messages? Let me know in the comments!