There have been some great discussions in the journals lately. I want to thank Sarah for making me think with recent comments like ďI hate diet cultureĒ or ďdiet culture sucks.Ē I donít feel that way but I couldnít decide why. Then it hit me.
I *am* diet culture, or I was.
Itís not some vast faceless enemy. Itís my own past. I was the one obsessed with food and weight. I bought all the new diet books, and tried all the new workouts. I preached my diet and fitness dogma to anyone who would listen. I judged myself and others. Everyoneís body and food choices were up for discussion. I was obsessed with celebrity fitness, or lack thereof. I couldnít get enough of ďbefore and afterĒ photos and stories. I was under the mistaken impression that other peopleís size and health were my business (and mine was theirs!). I sincerely wanted to help. I think most people in the diet and fitness industry do, but weíre all blinded by our own issues.
Itís a bit like fish in a pond. Theyíve been surrounded by water their whole lives, so much water they donít even notice or question it. Diet thinking is like water. Itís all around you. Itís normal. Itís a given. Non-dieting is like the one weird little amphibian who crawls out of the water, realizes thereís a bright, amazing new world, and looks back at the muddy pond like, ďWhat the heck was all that?!Ē
Diet thinking is very real and important to the people still in it. Even if youíve jumped out, itís hard to get the stuff off of you. Itís hard not to jump back into what youíve always known. So now, when a relative is going on about their horrible new starvation cleanse, or a coworker wonít shut up about weight loss, or the media is hyping the latest study about what we all need to eat or avoid, I donít perceive it as a threat anymore, or even as something separate from myself. That was my story when I was confused and hurting. I understand that the people spreading those messages are confused and hurting too. Theyíre me. I had to be that before I could be this.
Itís all about compassion in a way. Instead of a war with diet culture, which only makes everyone muddy and mad, itís more like greeting and helping the ones who flop out of the diet pond, or maybe greeting and helping ourselves if we accidentally fall back in.
Thoughts? Am I crazy? Too much egg nog? :-)
What is your experience with being immersed in diet culture and with getting out?
It's so true that even after you've jumped out of "the pond" of diet culture that it's hard to stay out. It's not just hard to get the stuff off you, but it's hard to stay out of the pond! Even though life outside of the pond is exciting and new and free, it's also unknown and unpredictable.
I've never been super public about being part of diet culture. It was an embarrassment that my mom started me dieting at age 9 because I was too fat. I didn't enter the pond willingly. I was thrown in and learned to live there as a matter of survival. But once I knew my way around the pond, it became my home. I was the girl family members came to to ask for weight loss advice.
And then when I made my first exit from diet culture when I was recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea it was like I had become a foreign species to my friends and family. My whole identity seemed tangled up in diet and exercise. I gave both of those up and people didn't know who I was any more, including myself.
It's been very difficult staying out of the pond for me. It's not just for lack of support either. It's more for the fear of the unknown.
"Instead of a war with diet culture, which only makes everyone muddy and mad, itís more like greeting and helping the ones who flop out of the diet pond, or maybe greeting and helping ourselves if we accidentally fall back in."
Yes!! Helping those who have flopped out of the pond and are still finding their way is key! I'm not even close to the level of zen with my eating as you are Skwigg, but when I hear someone I know even mention being done with deiting/diet culture I'm right there ready to support them and keep them out of it. Because I know how difficult it is to get out and stay out and not be tempted to go back to what you know and what feels comfortable.
Oops....didnít realize I was being so noticeably negative. 🙄
For me diet culture has always been caught up with disordered eating, which has been my fall back during anxious and uncertain times in my life. Iíve also gone through long long periods of happy eating. When I think about why itís usually been times Iíve been happy in general or have more important things to focus on than just myself. But all the ďunhappy eatingĒ periods started with a diet, thinking that would solve my problems. Something about being in control is comforting. But then discovering that trying to be in control all-the-time is tiring and the opposite of self care. Itís that struggle to let go of the control, which isnít sustainable anyway, in the face of all the diet culture messages thatís really hard. So I just end up sucking at being in control and then feeling bad about myself. Viscous cycle!
So yeah, compassion for ourselves and others is key.
No, it's a really great thought! I'm glad you shared exactly what you were feeling. Negativity means there are painful thoughts to be questioned, and I'm all over that lately.
I like the quote, "Control is the opposite of trust." We control because we fear the alternative, not because control is so much fun. Choosing feels very different than controlling. It means we have options. We're doing whatever we do freely, not because we have to or else. It's a lot more empowering. Control is stressful. We begin to resent the effort involved. Doing the exact opposite starts looking pretty good. Then when we lose all control, we feel compelled to get it again. It is a vicious cycle. The only way out for me was embracing the idea of free choice, and choosing in line with my values most of time.
While I think most who fall prey to and/or promote the diet mindset are just misguided, there are those - not a lot, but still a few - who have no compunction about those around them, and have little issue with manipulating their feelings, and giving them as information. Compassion will never help those people. But self-compassion can help ward off the negativity, and give us more self-esteem to fight it off.
Iím not surrounded by people in real life who are hung up on diet. So thankful for that. But a lot of my online life was consumed by diet talk, so stepping away from the phone and screen has greatly helped me.
This is a great discussion! I agree skwigg, control is absolutely the opposite of trust. For me control has worked for me because I was very good at it. Lol. But something has to give and now it just makes me weary. So I need to work on trusting my choices. I think Iím just starting to understand this dynamic. Up to now I think my happy eating hinged on getting that control back. Like I was really good at restricting calories in general, or sweets or whatever. Like others, Iím really good at making anything a rule. So I was going to get really good at happy eating, like it was a rule system. But now I see it ainít gonna happen that way. :) True choices arenít going to necessarily look the same day to day.
Thankfully Iíve been surrounding myself lately with communities that arenít hung up on dieting. On social media Iíve never followed the fitspo types. My ultra running and trail running community is where it can get whacky. Lots of talk about race weight and such. I definitely fell for that in the past. But Iím taking myself a lot less seriously now AND also have lost the desire to be skinny (would just like to lose the tire around my middle). So as I get back to the running Iíll see how that goes...
Speaking of diet culture, I noticed a lot of "please take these because I don't want them in my house" this holiday season. I hesitate to say anything because it's so prolific, I'm sure some reading do it/said it, too. I mean, I think I heard it at every house I went to this season. It's interesting because that's when I really notice diet culture the most. I don't have contact with a ton of people who diet or talk about dieting, so this phrase was the only one that made me really take note about dieting. Anyway, I have never uttered those words, which I think might be monumental. I trust myself :) I can have them at my house and eat them sanely, and even if I don't at one point or the other, it's simply because I under ate and/or overexercised. That's the only thing that causes me to do/eat/over eat things I normally wouldn't. And that can happen (and has!) when there's zero sweets in the house because this is America and I can go get whatever I want to overeat at any time at all. Or I"ll do it with almond butter, chips, even chicken has happened. It's been years since I've done any sort of compensatory eating during which I've been totally not in control and my primal need to survive has taken over. I don't under eat so that's how. Simple!
Also I'm not even sure there's such thing as overexercising for me. I don't run marathons or train for extreme events, so really it boils down for me to not fueling workouts, not necessarily working out too much. I spent years perplexed by how I could be overexercising myself so much on relatively sane workouts. Duh. Food, girl.
Great thread. I enjoyed all your comments. "It's all about compassion." Yes it is. And we should also be compassionate towards ourselves.
I am diet culture too. I still buy, consume and read diet stuff even thought it's more out of curiosity now..I love myself a good ol'' Beachbody informercial on a holiday coach potato afternoon. And I still dream of that beach body 6 pack but now I love my current lifestyle too much to jump into a new program. But again it's about being respectful of everyone's journey.
That's such a good point about overtraining. I think some of that definitely went on with me, but much of what I thought was overtraining was doing a normal amount of exercise on WAY too little food/sleep. Being well fueled and well rested makes a monumental difference in workout performance, mood, and quality of life.
I was one of those people who had to get the food out of my house. Treats are scary when you're relying on willpower. Plus, there's that whole diet notion of starting over. You either eat them all and start over, or you give them away and start over. Either way, they have to go, because it's not like you're going to forget about them, or eat them casually when hungry. Oh, wait. That's exactly what I do now. :-) The restrict-o-control mindset had to go first. Also, I had to learn about the freezer. The freezer is my friend. Even after I untangled myself from restriction, the idea of wasting food bugged me. Sometimes I would eat it all because it was too good to throw away, but stuffing myself like a garbage can is throwing it away, sooo...
I am conflicted on this one. There is diet culture, and there is culture of overeating. Culture of glamorizing food. I find it hard not to be judgemental to a family member with obesity and detreating health. Itís getting worse, year after year with asthma, debates, fatty liver, sleeping apnoea, cancer. We had few meals out, and I would love to see her making reasonable choice Ė at least once, but without a fail she always orderís the heaviest most calorific option. Doesnít miss the bread and butter, deep fried cheese for starter Ė the only deep fried option on the menu, steak with all the trimmings Ė with fries on the side, offered to sub potatoes to fries, she declined. Cheesecake, plus sampling of other desserts and mince pies. What will happened to her? I hate myself for being judgemental, but we had two meals in last few weeks and she always and she is just recovering from one illness and they keep finding something else and she is looking heavier and I am so worried that I donít see a change in her behaviour or eating habits and the change in her weight is not good. And it's hearbreaking as she is such kind soul. :(. I want her to get well, she has been off work for the best part of the year - do her doctors not speak up about it???
My husband bought so many sweets for our son, and he got so many from other family! There are debates from early in the morning when can I have treats, and he doesnít want to eat normal food. It isnít healthy for a 10 year old to eat chocolate for breakfast for few weeks, but he had advent calendar and has been having a small chocolate for a month to bring me to a point that now we have mini chocolate factory! If I bin them, he will be upset. If I leave them, the debates will continue until they are gone!
Also, there was so much food bought for Christmas, and a lot of left over food that I didnít want in the house. Example Ė Christmas pudding. People loved my trifle and that was gone, but there was half a Christmas pudding left, a lot of snack foods that I donít normally buy or interested in eating. If they are left home, I will stress out to not make waste I donít have space in my fridge for normal foods and I really donít want to eat week of leftovers. Binning it allowed me to focus on meals I actually want to eat, no on finishing off food that is there.
We had the main meal in my in laws, and it was good but much bigger meal and not a meal I eat often, and last night we had drinks and snacks Ė way too many of both. I canít wait to eat my normal foods today and go for a swim. For me, getting rid of some of the food makes my yesterday and Christmas day ok Ė as I enjoyed it but moved on to more sustainable and enjoyable eating. Leaving the food for days after will make me regret even on Christmas day treats. I plan meals in my favorite Italian, fun days outs, and other meal out in the next 5 days and I plan to enjoy them Ė but the food I choose to enjoy. Not finishing off already opened crisps, pudding I don't like and chocolate I don't care for.