My husband and I went to Indiana for a week. It snowed and it was cold and it was glorious. I got to walk in the snow to the new coffee shop in his hometown and spend a few hours with a hot latte, a yummy muffin, good music, and wrote my break up letter to Diet Culture.
Sometimes you just need an official breakup letter for closure.
So here it is, it’s raw and vulnerable, which is always a little scary.
But it’s me and in my quest for authenticity, I’m putting it out there.
It was so freeing and liberating.
A few days after I wrote this, I had a rough body image day, where diet culture was fighting and pulling at me. I read this letter again and felt an amazing shift. The shame fog lifted, I could breathe and I was able to move on and have a great evening.
Dear Diet Culture,
We’ve been together for a long time, you and I.
I don’t remember the first time I met you; you’ve always just been there it seems. I do remember you vaguely taunting me in elementary school, telling me I was different- larger- than all the other pretty little girls. But you really amped up your game when I started cheerleading and you taught me body comparison. You taught me that because I had the largest cheerleading outfit and my stomach pooched over my cut out uniform, I wasn’t okay.
I think that’s when I figured out fat is bad.
That my body was a measure of my worth.
We moved on to high school and oddly, you just hung out in the background, taunting again, but not really any louder. Just always quietly reminding that I wasn’t as thin and pretty as everyone else. That no boy would ever date me.
That I wasn’t desirable.
That I wasn’t okay.
That I wasn’t good enough.
That I wasn’t worthy of belonging.
I wasn’t worthy of being valued.
I just thought it was the way of life if you lived in a “fat” body. I took the identity that I was the undesirable girl and I owned it.
I didn’t know I had any other choice.
Fat was bad and you taught me to see myself as fat; therefore I was bad.
We both know I wasn’t fat. We both know my body was changing and putting on weight because I was going through puberty. I needed weight gain for my body to function well. And I wasn’t fat.
Off to college we went! What an adventure! I didn’t feel the comparison at college right away- which is odd. But then it began- I don’t remember exactly when or where it began at college, but it began and felt constant. You told me how I was larger than everyone else and I wasn’t lovable, desirable.
Then- I gained a little weight and my shame was evident.
I needed to lose it.
So your taunting took on a new angle and you introduced me to dieting. I started working out with a trainer and moderating my portions…. really, I was just restricting….really, I was just starving myself. Then I started skipping meals all together and making up for it with a binge here and there.
It was what was happening in college, so it wasn’t a problem right?
We were all just trying to look like someone else.
Trying to look how you told us to look.
Just because you care… because you just wanted us to be happy.
But we weren’t happy.
I wasn’t happy.
I have since learned you didn’t and don’t care about my happiness.
My first official diet was Weight Watchers, my senior year of college. I remember the first meeting. I was nervous and excited. Nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Excited because I was finally going to be good enough. I would finally lose the weight I wanted, keep it off forever, and be whole and happy. And so began my exhausting rollercoaster of diets and weight loss. At least 10 solid years.
I had no idea that the battle I was in was even a battle.
I had no idea you were a thing, diet culture.
It was just normal, and even good, to be on a diet and lose weight. If you aren’t dieting and losing weight, you’re fat and don’t care, right?
Diet culture, you are tricky.
You tricked me into thinking there was something wrong with me.
With my body.
With my worth.
With my willpower.
With my character as a person.
I believed you wholeheartedly.
So I launched into life as chronic dieter. I would feel so good (and this was totally reinforced by everyone around me) when I lost weight. But I’d stop dieting and gain weight back and I would feel overwhelmed by shame.
I felt like a failure.
So off to the next diet that would stick and I’d have the body I always dreamed of.
This continued until that fateful day I met Sara Upson, owner of My Signature Nutrition, LLC. Sara is a non-diet Registered Dietitian, Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian that teaches Intuitive Eating through her daily life and with her clients (and anyone who will listen!). She isn’t afraid of you, diet culture, and she’s speaking out that you aren’t what you seem. She’s a life changer and a part of the movement to take you down.
I was on Weight Watchers when she provided education for my therapy office and I was floored and confused by the message she was giving.
Diets don’t work?!
What kind of crazy talk is this?? Dieting is a must in life if you are anything worthwhile… RIGHT???
You must diet – if you care about your health but at all…. RIGHT???
I was in disbelief, but I was able to separate myself because I was doing Weight Watchers.
So maybe other diets didn’t work, but WW is a lifestyle so I’m good… I’m just learning how to eat to change my weight and my life forever.
I mean WW had to work, it had to be the ticket- I was losing weight and I was doing it the healthy, right way.
As God would have it, months later Sara and I started collaborating together to treat eating disorders. Before I began seeing clients, she recommended I read Intuitive Eating. When I began reading I.E., I was at my “goal” weight.
I felt AWESOME.
Physically, I was so small and emotionally I felt like a bad ass.
Everyone around me reinforced how good I looked and how proud they were of how hard I worked.
But then my boss started telling me I needed to stop losing weight and started commenting on my clothes being too big. My goal clothes were too big. This is a chronic dieter’s dream come true. I was so happy.
But then I started seeing eating disorder clients.
But then I was sitting with clients, telling them how their food choices do not affect their worth and I was reading this radical book that totally dismantled diets… And, I had a choice to make.
I had to either choose you or I had to choose authenticity, freedom…. which meant I had to stop trying to control my size.
I couldn’t do both.
I couldn’t live with you taunting me and telling me how I needed to be a certain weight, eat certain things and exercise a certain way in order to care about myself, look a certain way, and be good enough. I couldn’t live that out while trying to help clients break free from the same prison and shackles I was living in.
Thank God I chose authenticity and freedom.
I removed all WW from my life and began trying to live this life intuitively.
You were not happy about this, but it honestly just felt like I was off diet again, that I’d get back in the saddle one day. It just felt like I was off this current diet and I’d start a new one when I got too fat.
In a matter of months I gained everything back. I didn’t know what to do with that.
The weight was so hard to handle. I wanted so desperately to live with I.E., but the weight was so uncomfortable.
It meant I was wrong, yet again.
I was flawed.
I was so tired of being flawed.
So you were happy, you were getting me back. At least you thought. You thought it was just a matter of time before I came back.
But guess what? Jesus stepped into this battle.
It took a while for me to really invite him in- Jesus and my weight were always separate.
Why did He care?
This is the way of life, taught everywhere, including church.
And He couldn’t be in my greatest shame.
But then one day I realized Jesus doesn’t care about my size, my weight.
He just loves me.
Just as I am.
He doesn’t need me to a be a certain weight or size or even have “good” health markers.
That was pretty pivotal. It began opening the door slowly for Him.
Until I started specifically praying and asking Him in.
You HATED that.
You amped up your game- all around me- everyone dieting, everyone disagreeing with I.E.
But you see, He’s bigger.
And He stayed right beside me, He was there, whispering lovingly that I am beautiful and worthy …. no matter what my health or weight or size is.
He showed me that while you told me dieting, restricting and exercising for the sole purpose of weight loss was caring for myself, it was a lie.
He showed me caring for myself meant putting down diets, being kind to my body, allowing myself to enjoy food and moving because I enjoy movement is truly caring for myself.
He showed me through the loss of our first baby and a crazy end to my pregnancy with my son how much He loves me.
Despite my circumstances and my body’s “performance”.
That although my body may not have done things perfectly in pregnancy, it held my son. It tried its best to hold our first child, but for whatever reason it couldn’t.
And that didn’t make my body wrong.
He showed me that even though my body “failed” to have a “normal” pregnancy, my body is good and He loves me no matter what my body is or isn’t or can do or can’t do.
Despite anything in this physical world, His love prevails.
And in His love you are not welcome.
You cannot be there.
You cannot even be close.
Because His love preaches everything you don’t.
He and his love are everything you are not.
And you cannot come close to Him.
While He is tender with me and envelopes me protectively, kindly, kissing me gently, He is mighty and terrifying with you.
He shuts you down in a second.
It doesn’t mean you don’t try. I think you’ll try my whole life.
But He’ll win. Every time.
The key is that I have to run into His arms- to let Him embrace me.
He is a shield. He is MY shield.
So, Diet Culture, we’re done. Like the bad boy friend it took me almost 6 years to drop- I’m done. And I won’t look back. You can try, like he did, to get back in. But you aren’t welcome. And I’ll do whatever I have to do to remain free from you.
I have a tribe, you know? I have my people that are my tribe and they have broken up, or are breaking up, with you. And we’re not coming back. We’ll band together and fight against you.
For ourselves. For each other. For everyone.
But the greatest thing is that our Leader is King and we know ultimately we already are free. He’s made us worthy and free, just as we are. And you have no say in that fact.
So, goodbye, Diet Culture.
I won’t miss you.
A lover of your Conqueror