Diet culture is absolute poison.
I have believed this for a while, but this belief became all the more stark for me as I have seen my daughters grow older. When my oldest daughter expresses shame or sadness to me about the way her body looks, it is like a knife to my heart.
Undoing the negative messaging I have received from the culture and society I am immersed in has been a lifelong journey. Many of us grew up in a world where our self worth was directly tied to the number on the scale. For me I felt this was particularly true in the insular Jewish community I was raised in, where there was an explicit or implicit message for many young women that good marriage prospects were dependent on having the “right” kind of body. What a damaging message to impart to young women coming into their own and discovering their place in the world.
Discovering the messages of intuitive eating and body positivity was like a breath of fresh air for me. For the first time in my life, I was learning in a very real way that the negative messaging I was absorbing from the culture around me was destroying my happiness and my self worth. I learned that I deserved to love my body regardless of whether it fit outside beauty standards or a BMI chart at the doctor’s office. I learned about having gratitude for a working body, and about pausing and listening to the cues my body sent me relating to hunger, rest, and movement. I learned that exercise is not a chore, and ironically this realization is what finally allowed me to stick to a consistent movement regimen for good.
With this new philosophy, yoga became a daily practice for me, something I enjoy and look forward to. As a teen, I remember using a treadmill and calculating in my head how many potato chips I was burning off the entire time. Needless to say it was torturous. As soon as joyful movement became the goal of exercise, instead of a punishment for enjoying something delicious, the barriers I used to experience around movement melted away.
I have also learned to strip away the guilt and moralizing that society has taught us must surround all the food we eat. The shame and guilt around food is what often propels us to make more poor choices about what we put into our bodies. Accepting that all food nourishes us in some way, be it physically, emotionally, or spiritually is transformative.
Choose self-compassion and acceptance over diet culture. It just might change your life.