I feel pretty confident in my stance against Diet Culture. It took several years to untangle from it, but I am happy to be free of it.
However, the truth is that diet culture and fat phobia permeate our society. It’s impossible not to be bombarded by messages about how to transform your body, to burn calories, or the “benefits” of this diet or that diet in the name of “health”. It’s not our fault we think we have to diet. Or feel like we need to change our bodies; or just plain don’t ever feel like we are “good” enough or “healthy” enough. The influence it has in our society is maddening.
When diet culture is the norm
Most people will never be able to understand the toxicity because it’s such a “normal” and accepted way of life. Even most medical professionals who are personally submerged in its dogma will diagnose patients in larger bodies from a place of fat bias and phobia. How is it that all medical professionals are not REQUIRED to learn in depth about the dangers of eating disorders? And to use a more diversified approach to treating their patients?
When Diet Culture’s voice creeps into my head, here is what reminds me not to listen.
A major factor that keeps me in check, is that fat bias and phobia is a social justice issue. This society is not designed to accommodate people in larger bodies. This society oppresses people in larger bodies. This society puts moral value not just on food, but on the size of a person’s body. I began to extract myself from diet culture’s depths and acknowledge my implicit biases.
I realized that I couldn’t claim to be anti-racist or claim that I believed in equity for all people, if I carried these internalized beliefs about fatness and people in larger bodies.
In fact I recognize that not only do I have white privilege, but the privilege of existing in a smaller body. I’ll never have to worry about whether or not I will be able to sit comfortably in a restaurant. I don’t have to worry about not fitting in a seat on an airplane. I have never had symptoms overlooked in a doctor’s office because a doctor prematurely prescribed weight loss as the primary action to achieve “health”.
These are daily obstacles and oppressions that fat people face and it’s the stigma and its effects on mental health that are more likely to cause health problems.
Ultimately, my daughter’s personal journey through an eating disorder from the lowest low to recovery is what truly opened my eyes to all of this. When I realized what triggers and obstacles she was facing daily in this society, in order to recover, I woke up.
I looked REALLY hard at myself.
What kind of example did I want to set for her?
So, I now find myself in the anti-diet community, and the eating disorder recovery community.
And I feel like I am free.