As I continue to speak out as an advocate against diet culture it’s clear to me that it may be helpful to simply list the signs of its effects so we can all better identify its existence in our lives. In order for us to truly change what’s acceptable in our society we have to first see what’s woven into our shared beliefs and understand how it effects our behaviors.
Every single one of us has experience in suffering from diet culture. To know this for yourself, please read through this list. If you have ever done, said, shared, repeated, believed, written, posted, or even thought any of the following about yourself or others you have suffered from diet culture:
- Gone on any diet NOT due to medical reasons or advised by a physician, dietitian, or nutritionist
- Been a serial or yo-yo dieter
- Counted calories, carbs, fat grams, etc.
- Valued your weight over yourself as a person
- Joked about your eating habits
- Joked about your food choices
- Joked about your body shape
- Joked about your fatness or skinniness
- Joked about your “body rolls” or “chicken legs,” etc.
- Deprived yourself from foods or drinks you enjoy
- Consumed foods or drinks that you didn’t enjoy
- Valued the numbers over how you feel (pounds, inches, clothing sizes etc.)
- Hid from taking pictures
- Hid from being seen at all
- Judged yourself for eating or drinking anything
- Skipped a meal or worked out to make up for a previous or future indulgence
- Worked out to lose weight rather than to feel good or have fun
- Felt ashamed by how you look or how you eat
- Preferred to eat alone so no one else sees the choices you make
- Denied yourself a social outing because you didn’t trust your ability to make choices based on your food restrictions and rules
- Felt like the size of clothing you wear matters
- Believed that you are not good enough or capable of something unless you lose weight or change your body first
As I stare at this list I know there are many more that could be added but I will leave it there and hope that the message has come through loud and clear. The thing about this list is that it is mine. It is a list of the debilitating thoughts and behaviors that impaired my quality of life for so many years. And even if any of the above hasn’t been part of your own life’s experience, if you have agreed with or laughed along with someone who did think or behave this way you have, along with all of us, supported and perpetuated this painful culture of dieting.
What we can do now that we’ve called ourselves out for our own habits is to just begin noticing them in action. If you can find that extra breath and pause when you hear or see it come up, make the choice to no longer support them.
So many of us think that we need something big to happen to change our lives. We feel like some grand gesture is the only way to be our best self, or experience growth or enlightenment. We feel like if we can only achieve that peak posture or float in our yoga practice, or wear that size 2 dress again, or get that job instead of this one, or be in that kind of relationship, or have that person, or have that kind of money, or drop 50 lbs, or look good naked, and on and on, only then are we worth this kind of love and attention.
Brahmacharya is considered to be the conservation of or the “right use of” one’s energy to maintain one’s path towards God or enlightenment. We waste so much of our energy on worry, judgement, fear, and anxiety that we hold on to beliefs that do not serve our path towards living our best lives. In truth, it is the small habits, the minor, over-looked uses of our energy and focus that matter the most. It is the work and effort towards those achievements we reach for that matters more than what we think it “should look like” in the end. It is the moment to moment practice that you invest your time and attention on every single day that creates real change.
We may all be victims of diet culture, but together we can help end it. We start with ourselves with every word we speak, every single use of our energy, every thought and belief brought to the surface. Then we listen. We listen to each other as we learn to listen to ourselves and we actively, consciously, and diligently change the narrative between us. It is time. We deserve it.