Finding food freedom is a pretty magical thing. I’ve heard people describe it feeling like a sigh of relief. Although the process of making peace with food is often scary and exhausting and looks very much like a wavy line that gradually trends upwards, rather than the straight upwards progression that we expect, when you’re in a place where you’re no longer beholden to diet culture, it feels pretty damn good.
Except for one thing: diet culture becomes hella annoying.
When a colleague tells you all the details about their new raw vegan locavore diet it makes you want to pluck out your eyelashes one by one. A high school friend shares an article on facebook about how gluten is the devil, and you resist the urge to hop on a plane, fly to your hometown and beat her over the head with a French baguette. You find yourself giving Kim Kardashian the finger every time she comes on TV (which is quite frequently) because you cannot forgive her for trying to sell you one of the world’s dumbest diet tools - appetite suppressing lollipops.
Sometimes that frustration with dieters leads to frustration with, well, yourself - for still feeling a bit of intrigue, even when your eyes have been opened to the ineffectiveness of dieting, and the harm caused by diet culture. I think that’s a really normal thing. I mean, there’s a reason marketing firms make big bucks working for the diet industry.
I think it was on the podcast Love, Food (which you MUST listen to) that I first heard the phrase "living in a culture with it's own eating disorder." Truth. Our culture is so obsessed with thinness and dieting that it's become such a normalized thing to talk about. Diet culture permeates almost every aspect of our life, whether we see it or not.
Deciding to live a life in which you no longer participate in diet culture and all it's B.S. shifts your perspective drastically. It makes you want to smack dieters over the head to knock some sense into them. WHY DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?! Or as Glenys Oyston says, "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CREAM AND SUGAR LACED COFFEE!"
It’s tough though, because I think all of us have people we love who are active participants in diet culture. Who gleefully share details of their latest diet. Who make money selling weight loss, as doctors, trainers, dietitians, or selling products. Who make negative comments about their own body - or others. And I think anyone who has tried to explain Health at Every Size or intuitive eating to someone who isn’t ready for it knows how futile that task can be. How do you continue to live, work, love, or just communicate with someone whose beliefs, words and actions are causing harm? How do you survive in a diet obsessed world?
Two things I’ve found to be helpful? First, anger. Anger at a really f-ed up system that’s making a massive amount of money by demanding that we spend our valuable time and energy trying to make our bodies smaller, and harming those who are unable to, or chose not to participate in their game. Take that anger that you’ve directed internally, for not having the “willpower” to stick to a diet, and point it towards those who deserve your ire.
Second is compassion. Compassion for those who are victims of this diet culture we live in. That means your colleague on the raw locavore vegan diet, your gluten-hating high school friend and..okay maybe not Kim Kardashian. Remind yourself of the pain you felt when you were trapped in the cycle of dieting and body hate, and just know that they are in that same pain. Dieters are doing the best they can with the knowledge, support and self worth they have in that moment. They're one of the many victims of the same diet culture you were once trapped in. And it's that diet culture that deserves your anger, not the victims of it.
This post was originally published August 2016. It has been updated to give you the best possible content.
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