Yesterday in the comments Linda said “I recently saw an ad for veggies that said something like ‘not all 100 calories are the same, go big’. The presentation of veggies as a diet food make them more unappealing to me. Anybody else have that reaction?”
Yes, yes I do. I was recently at the store trying to buy some baby carrots for a recipe, and the only bag that they had was Biggest Loser endorsed. What the Actual Eff? First they fill the airwaves with a show that mentally and physically abuses fat people for entertainment, then they try to pass it off as “inspiration,” then they take over the baby carrots? What fresh vegetable hell is this?
It’s not just the carrots, I know for me and lots of of recovered dieters I have heard from, we were really messed up from a lifetime of being told that everything we do – what we eat, what movement we participate in etc. – should be done for the express purpose of being thin and that if these things didn’t make us thin we are failures who aren’t doing it right, or liars who lied about doing it at all etc. Dieting messages like “If you’re still hungry try eating salad with lemon juice” or “if you’re not losing weight you aren’t working out enough etc. repeated ad nauseam for decades (without success, as we would expect from the research) can damage our relationships with food and movement, and we can start to actually rebel against not just the messages, but the food and movement as well. When we give up dieting, can end up giving up things that we associate with dieting along with it. Or the aggressive marketing of things as “diet” can turn us off from them.
To be clear, nobody is obligated to eat vegetables, or to exercise, or to prioritize their health a certain way or choose any specific path to get there. Lots of people choose not to eat vegetables or exercise (or whatever else we’re told that we “should” do for our health) for lots of reasons and all of those choices are valid. The public health issue is about access to options, not about making personal health decisions the public’s business. Health is not entirely within our control and decisions about health are intensely personal. I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live or to cast judgment on anybody’s decisions. What I am interested in doing is looking at how a culture that abuses and shames us “for our own good” affects our ability to care for ourselves.
The phrase “just eat less and exercise more” activates my face punch reflex, but there have been many much more subtle issues as I’ve left the weight loss world behind. Years of being told that if I’m hungry I should eat a salad (with lemon juice for dressing and no carrots because they have too much sugar) made me hate the idea of salad. Years of using the gym to punish myself for being fat made me forget the things that I loved about movement and working out. In what is a completely natural reaction to being harmed the way that weight loss culture harms us, I rebelled, choosing not to do things that diets told me to do just because diets told me to do them, whether I liked them, or they supported my health or not.
For me finding peace with myself and choosing my prioritization and path to health involved making peace with my dieting past and realizing that I had been negatively impacted in a lot of ways and that I wanted to tease apart the diet industry that had abused me for profit from the behaviors and foods that they had used as tools to do so.
I made a project out of trying every food (that I’m not allergic to) again as if I had never had it to see what I actually liked. I ended up being really surprised by the results. Then I did the same thing with working out – doing a bunch of different workouts and classes to see what I really enjoyed doing and what I didn’t.
Sometimes people get confused and think that they should use this as a matrix to tell me what choices I need to make (ie: You shouldn’t have done a marathon because you hate distance walking, or you should have bought those baby carrots because you like them even if they were Biggest Loser brand.)
Neither the process of looking at ways that weight loss culture affected me, nor my choice to practice Health at Every Size locks me into certain choices. On the contrary, they allow me to make choices from a much more authentic place. I don’t buy products that advertise themselves as “diet” whether I like them or not. I think that social change requires sacrifice and I’m not willing to give my money to the companies who did so much harm to me and are currently hurting others – so I’ll find another brand of baby carrots or I’ll go without. I hate distance work but I wanted to do a marathon so I did it, even though there was very little of the training or the marathon that I actually enjoyed, and I was astoundingly bad at it.
In the end, for me, it came down to a decision that I didn’t want the diet industry to harm me any more than it already had, and part of that was making sure that I wasn’t hurting myself by rebelling against them.
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