* Warning: If you struggle with an eating disorder, this content may trigger you.
It’s that time of the year where my timeline is overflowing with posts about your new year’s resolution diet not going quite to plan while on the other hand, it has several posts about how you lost all that weight in just 4 weeks. Last year, I would have probably messaged you, out of general interest in what you’re trying, with the willingness to try just about anything too. But this year, quite frankly, I wish that you’d realize the impact that your diet talk has.
I have vaguely mentioned that I have been trying different diet pills and “the next best” diet since I was about 7 years old. I remember the house that we lived in at the time, and could still tell you the address if you asked. But the real reason for me remembering all these insignificant details about the first time I took a diet pill, is simply because I was too little and actually gagged on the tablet.
This was the first of many tablets I would try. From Chinese herbal remedies to prescribed pills like Duromine, and at one stage, I even tried Ritalin because someone mentioned to me that it suppressed their appetite. (They also neglected to mention how bad the shakes would be or the fact that I felt like I could never drink enough water, even if I tried.) My body was my worst enemy and depriving it from nutrition, seemed like the only way that I could lose weight.
I haven’t touched a diet pill in about a year or so, but clung onto a box filled with them until the day that I peed on a stick and found out about my miracle child. The box was always there, at the back of my mind filled with fat burning drops to add to your water, appetite suppressors, fat burning tablets and so much more. Every time I had an “I feel and look fat” sort of day, I would think that come Monday, I will start with the tablets and the meal replacements again. I never did start again, but I was in a fragile state and will admit that those first weeks (of what I now know was my pregnancy), I was on a constant edge of wanting to go back but fighting a war, knowing that it can’t possibly be good for me.
For the last 6 or so months, I have emerged myself in the body positive community. I have unfollowed accounts that promote diet culture, unfollowed most celebrities and joined groups who are on the same journey as me. I don’t think of myself as an activist in any way. In fact, I was actually resistant to writing this blog post because I know that there are so many helpful resources available to us, and they are much more eloquently written and aim to educate. But I keep coming across this strong sense of diet culture on my timeline and wanted to share my experience.
According to a post by the Social Justice League, Diet Culture is defined as, “a system of thought in which food is an issue of public morality, where eating whatever you want is a grave sin and abstaining from “bad” food – which could be fatty food, sweet food, or carby food, depending on the month – is seen as virtuous.” The post goes on to say, “Diet culture is awful for everyone. It can take the average, mentally healthy adult human and totally fuck up how that human decides how to feed themselves.” But the more alerting worry is that, “Diet culture is even more toxic for people who struggle with mental illnesses, in particular eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and OCD, and/or are generally predisposed to disordered behavior around food.” I strongly urge you to read the rest of the post, over here.
In January, I received 3 or 4 separate offers from people who don’t quite know my story or my obsession with trying new diets and pills. All of them knew that I am currently pregnant but still asked if I wanted to sign up to their weight loss challenges, 28-day fat burning plan or wanted to try some new miracle milkshake or tablet. All of these diets were promoting a culture I have learnt to turn my back toward, but here it was confronting me and had it not been for everything that I have learnt leading up to this, I would have said yes. It is shameful. It is scary. And it could very well have put me and my child at risk.
I am ashamed of my past, and my obsession with unhealthy diets that promote extreme measures including pills, excluding food groups, or cutting out meals altogether. But I am SO proud of the tiny bit of progress that I have made.
You see, when I first started my body positive journey, I went through this stage of binge eating – I have read that it is quite common and most people go through it. One day, I was looking for the junk food that I had just bought and realized that I was basically inhaling chocolates, without even tasting or enjoying them. I became aware of my anxiety when leaving a shop without having tossed copious amounts of junkfood in the trolley at check out, knowing that I didn’t really feel like it, but I just had to have it. I guess that I figured that it would be an overnight change – one day I hated my body and the next I would accept it, which meant that I could eat what I want and how much I wanted, right? I’d lost all sense of control and would just binge day in and day out.
In the last month, I started noticing how without even trying, I have stopped binge eating. I let my binging run its course and without realizing it, have naturally transitioned to listening to my body. I don’t always finish my meals – not because I am trying to lose weight but because I have learnt that food is food, it will always be there, and I can have a healthy, balanced relationship with it. When I feel like a chocolate, I eat one without feeling any guilt. Most times, I don’t even finish a whole chocolate, because I eat a block or two and hear my body saying, meh, that was great! But I have had enough. I have learnt to translate what my body wants and needs, and it is the best thing that I have ever experienced. The feeling is euphoric. Some nights, at 9pm, I am up making a green salad because that’s what I feel like and other nights, I am eating a slice of white bread with Nutella thickly spread over it.
I don’t believe I am at the end of my journey – I have said it before and I will say it again – every day, I discover and learn something new about myself and I am proud of how far I have come and no longer focus on how far I have to go. I acknowledge my small victories because after years of doing extreme diets, I can finally say that I am in this wonderful place where I hear warning bells when someone wants to chat about their hot new diet. I have learnt to be respective of people’s journies with their own bodies, while still respecting my own mental health. I no longer feel that pull to try out a hyped up diet that everybody is talking about. In fact, now that I think about it, it is NOT a small victory, it is something that I never thought I’d achieve on my own.
My biggest reason for writing this post is to make you aware of how without even knowing it, you may be influencing someone’s eating habits, someone who is, in fact, struggling with an eating disorder or trying their hardest to overcome it.
Be considerate of your words and remember that there is always someone listening to those negative words – little ears hear EVERYTHING and I am a prime example of this. My mom, aunts, and cousins all struggled with their weight and appearance which resulted in me having the same self-confidence issues and made me willing to try any and every diet. Even if you don’t have littles around you, be considerate of what you’re saying to yourself – stop being so cruel! There is that example of a teacher who spoke only bad things to one plant, and only good things to another, and how the one with positive affirmations blossomed but the other died. Don’t kill your own self-esteem by feeding into negativity. Learn to love yourself, it’s not about your body, but yourself!
Lastly, I was approached by a sports and nutritional company to work with them and promote their range of products. They did acknowledge my pregnancy and said that they understood that I wouldn’t be able to provide a review, but suggested that I run a giveaway. Immediately, I felt uneasy, knowing that by promoting their brand on my platform, I am promoting diet culture. It wasn’t just an ethical concern, but a personal stuggle too and after chatting it over, I decided against it. That being said, going forward, I will continue to do my part in not promoting diet culture – I hope that you understand that I’d rather be part of the solution than continue telling women that they aren’t worth anything until they fit a certain size, reach a new goal weight or meet crazy beauty standards portrayed by the media.