Diet Culture wins once more. Here I am again. Binge eating.
Oh- cookies? I don’t need one or two, I need the whole box. They are here, available, and I’d better eat them all now so I can get back to not eating them again after.
Pasta for dinner? Better cook an extra box. Because why stop when I am full? I haven’t been able to eat until I’m full lately so I’d better make up for lost time!
Peanut Butter cups at the checkout? HECK YEAH! I’ll buy two packs!
I know how I got here. I got new information. Information that I did not take time to process. “Facts” that I did not deconstruct. Headlines that I accepted as truth.
And they terrified me.
So before I even knew what was happening I had restricted my eating again. And it seeped into my family.
It was such a slow and gradual restriction that I was able to fool myself. “This is not restriction. This is just eating healthier. Fueling my body in a way that’s best. It’s good for me and will help me lose weight.”
Wait. What? Lose weight?! I already bagged that mountain. (Read it here). I already reached the summit of acceptance of the role that Diet Culture plays in our culture and my life. How could I possibly have fallen back?!
How am I here again? Trying to lose weight? I know that losing weight makes you fat. (Read it here).
What are you, Fatphobic?
I don’t have a problem with fat. I have a problem with enforcing an idea that harms women and brings the literal opposite result of what they are trying to get. A “desire” that requires hating ourselves, berating ourselves, focusing on things we don’t want to focus on, and stealing our time, energy, and thoughts from the stuff we do want to focus on. Stuff like our family. Creating those earrings. Doing the work to get a promotion.
Instead of burning the midnight oil developing ourselves as people and building the skills we need to reach the next level of whatever it is we are doing, we are counting fucking calories. We are searching for keto recipes, fat bombs, and zero point sides. Not because we love cooking zero point sides, but because we believe it will make us skinnier. And if you are a female living in the US (and many other places) there is almost nothing more important than that.
Mental health isn’t more important than being skinny. Laughing isn’t more important than being skinny. Being smart isn’t more important than being skinny. Playing isn’t more important than being skinny. Fully being ourselves isn’t more important than being skinny. Nourishing our bodies is not more important than being skinny. Being healthy isn’t more important than being skinny. Being skinny consumes most thoughts of most of our lives. It doesn’t matter if we try to pretend this isn’t true for us. If you are a female in the US (and many other places) it’s true.
With so much of our selves being consumed with being skinny, shouldn’t we at least expect the diet we are so invested in this week to provide this result? Spoiler alert: it won’t. Maybe temporarily, but not in the long term. Not statistically. In the long term that diet will make us fatter. Statistically.
(Note: If this is new to you learn about weight set points. Get familiar with the statistics. Learn about Diet Culture. It’s shocking. And deeply disturbing.)
Well What Does Diet Culture Have to Say?
So here I am again. Binge-eating. I must either be:
- a) mentally ill.
- b) A fat lazy slob.
- c) lacking any and all self discipline
- d) pathetic.
- e) unintelligent.
Let me briefly address those letter by letter:
A) Mentally Ill. I mean, disordered eating (AKA dieting) isn’t mentally healthy. But if it’s something forced on me by doctors, nurses, dietitians, those I love, and every bit of media everywhere is it a mental illness or a learned behavior?
B) A Fat Lazy Slob. I am fat. I am neither lazy nor a slob, though. Yep, I‘ve let myself go and if you want to call that slobliness that’s your issue, not mine. Yep. I’ve had some serious mental health stuff in my life that has kept me at home in bed. If that’s the same thing as lazy to you, what a missed opportunity for you to be part of humanity.
C) Lacking Self-Discipline I run a small entrepreneurial business. You can’t do that without self-discipline.
D) Pathetic. I mean… maybe. Definitely. To some people. People with different value systems. People who still think that A, B, C, and E are what cause fatness. And that fatness equals lack of worthiness. The people who still think busy-ness is a sign of being a successful human. The people who don’t take the time to get to know other people based on assumptions built on what they look like.
E) Unintelligent. Absolutely. In some ways. As are we all. However, I know more than most about this topic (and that’s not a lot. It just shows how little we all know).
Why am I Binge Eating Again?
Because I went on another diet. I pretended I wasn’t on a diet. I pretended I wasn’t restricting food. I pretended I was just “adding in good things”. I was on a diet. I got duped. Again.
And as always, as soon as I let my foot off the pedal just a tad, the binge eating began. Just like it does with everyone. Statistically.
Some people never take their foot off the pedal and their legs are exhausted even if they don’t know it. It makes me so sad that their legs are exhausted from defining their worth by the shape of their body instead of running with abandon through life.
Diets don’t work. We know this. Not in the long term, and if you factor in health not even in the short term.
And I put myself on one again. Because of a stupid headline. Because I let my guard down and let stupidity and evil in. Again. I’ve been a victim of Diet Culture again.
The Body’s Natural Response is to Binge After Starving it. It’s a Survival Mechanism.
I know from overcoming disordered eating before that the only way through this I to binge until I don’t want to binge anymore. It’s not that I don’t think it matters what I eat. It’s that I know how and why I eat matters.
Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store and drooling over candy that I “can’t” have is not normal. It’s not healthy. It means I’m at war with my Self. This is what happens when I am dieting.
Standing at the checkout line and not even noticing the candy because I know I can have any and all of it is normal. It is healthy.
Standing at the checkout line and seeing a candy bar that looks yummy and like something I want to eat and buying it and eating it without a ton of thought, just because I feel like it is normal. It is healthy.
It’s not that I think eating that candy bar provides the same exact nutrition as an açaí bowl, it’s that I know if I pass on that candy bar when I want it I am going to put myself back at war with the body I live in.
I know that, ultimately, Diet Culture will win and I will be back to bingeing 5 candy bars in a sitting. Then starving myself. Or exercising for hours to “make up for my very awful sin“.
C’mon. Do you Really Think A Candy Bar is as Good for You as an Apple?!
So while it’s not that I value the nutritional content of all food equally, I understand on all levels that eating what I want when I want is healthier for me. It stops me from obsessing about food. It stops the cycle of starving myself > binge eating > starving myself > binge eating with lots of physical punishment in the form of pretending it’s exercise thrown in regularly.
It’s not that I don’t believe in cholesterol levels potentially (new info is coming in that makes this less “certain”) being predictors of problems down the road, it’s that I know now intellectually, practically, and experientially, that the cycle of starving myself and binge eating is dangerous to my health. I also know that eating normally -eating whatever I want whenever I want- is healthy.
This does not mean I am binge eating for the rest of my life. It means that once again, once this cycle of binge eating is over, I will go back to eating normally. French fries will remain on my plate when I am done eating. I’ll pass the ice cream stand without wanting one. If I do want one I will stop and eat one.
I’ll grab an apple instead of a cookie and think nothing of it- I won’t pat myself on the back or commend myself in any way. I’ll check out at the grocery store and not even notice the candy bars. Unless they look good and then I will buy one and eat it- with enjoyment and without berating myself or attaching some morality to it.
I’ve Gained Weight. As Predicted. It’s How Diet Culture Works.
I’ve put on weight again during this binge. I don’t know how much. I ditched my scale when my kids were born. I can feel it in my clothes though. In the way I move. I’m spending lots of time and mental energy practicing positive self-talk an self-compassion over that. I don’t think the conditioning that says I am less worthy because of my weight will ever truly leave. I will have to be vigilant. It’s exhausting. It’s also necessary.
I’m mad that I have to be vigilant. I’m sad for all of us that our lives are ruled by such unimportant things. I’m deeply disheartened about how much the world has lost by we women being consumed by calories, keto, cabbage, and numbers on a scale or tag. We will never recover all that we have lost. We will not get back all that was violently stolen from us; ideas, books, inventions, solutions, thoughts, recipes, relationships…
Oh Diet Culture, Where Do We Go From Here?
What we can do though -for ourselves and for our daughters- is get real about health. We can begin to understand that real health involves our whole entire person. Pretending health is about the food we eat and artificially moving our bodies comes from Diet Culture. Diet culture exists to oppress us. It has nothing to do with our health. Nothing.
We can go forward practicing loving ourselves. Eating the things that we want to eat. Wearing the things we want to wear. Basking in the truth that we are worthy, beautiful, and wanted exactly as we are- that we do not need to change the shape of our body, the size on the tag, or the way our belly looks in that shirt in order to have our lives matter.
We can think only of what we want to do while on this Earth. Whether it’s leading a global company, mothering a child or 10 full time, saving animals with a sanctuary, or writing our thoughts and sharing them, think of how much time we have to do these things when we are not obsessed with our weight.
Really. Think about that.
Well, it seems I need to write a book. Every time I think I am coming to an end for this post, something else comes out. There is so much more to be said. So much more I want to say.
For now, I hope you will think about the things I have shared. Explore them. Think about them. Get curious about why you feel you need to be on a diet or why you are working out as you are. Wonder about what your life would look like if Diet Culture did not exist.
And once you get it, I hope you too will share it with the world in whatever way is comfortable for you. Let’s bring as many women as we can along to live a life filled with love, accomplishments, and self-worth.
The shackles of Diet Culture need to be broken. Let’s break them.
If you’d like to hear more about my initial journey out of Diet Culture and discovering what real Self-Care looks like you can listen here:
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