It might seem like all I do is talk about eating disorders, mental health and body image, but these issues are too important for me not to share my thoughts and opinions on.
Today I want to muse on the diet culture of the 21st century. Once upon a time I was a victim to society’s idea of what it meant to be “healthy”. The no carb, no fat, no sugar – basically no food – diet that I had deluded myself into believing was a stepping stone to perfection. I masked my ill ways by telling people I was trying to focus on nutrition and health, and people believed me. And why shouldn’t they? I looked like I was doing everything “right”. It was “inspirational”, and thus nobody told me I was in the wrong. Yet despite it all, one day it occurred to me that i was in fact being counterproductive, and living a lie.
For people who don’t know, I used to have a blog – A blog dedicated to the world of fitness and health. And I used this platform to log my personal fitness journey. The ironic thing was I could barely look after myself, let alone give advice and act as a figure of health to others. The diet culture that I had fallen victim to was toxic. It encouraged restriction, punishment, and delusion, and for so long I didn’t want to see that what society likes to praise as #Fitspo, was actually just a cover up for something so wrong. Diet culture encourages people to demonise food groups, exercise to the extreme, and punish yourself if you break any rules, all in the name of “health”.
What I began to realise was this – if I ever wanted to live the life I used to lead before I decided to torture myself with pictures of fucking green juices, sucked in and ultra posed mirror selfies of my “ab process” and what not, I would have to stop everything. I had to relearn that food and exercise are only two minor parts in the story of my life, and gradually as I worked on myself each and every day for 2 years, I felt the presence of those toxic thoughts lessen in my mind.
Part of the action I had to take involved unfollowing a whole bunch of people on social media that I felt uncomfortable looking at – people who posted every meal they ate, photos of bodies, photos of fitness regimes etc. My mind wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation to go back into what I once deemed “my life”.
Another thing I did was to try and stop joining in conversations about food, weight and fitness. Inevitably around me I would hear “Ugh, I need to lose weight”, or “I just ate so much crap and now I need to go to the gym to work it off” or “I heard this will make you burn fat faster” – it was too unbearable to hear anymore. Instead I spent time with people who were passionate about movies or music, and my focus turned to something much more personal and worth while.
To rid myself of thoughts surrounding my food and my gym routine, I tried to distract myself with different hobbies. And so returned my love for art, which had been patiently waiting on the sidelines for me to come back from my “health” detour.
Discovering that I can go a day without worrying about how many flipping calories were in my food was a relief to say the least. It was as though someone had literally pulled a plug in my brain, and all of a sudden I was exposed to a whole new world of possibility. Naturally there will be people who disagree with me, and perhaps a small percentage can live their life following a diet without negative thoughts and feelings about themselves in the process, but I know for a fact that the large majority of us can’t, and shouldn’t feel this obligation to do so for the sake of bettering ourselves.
Right now I eat what I want, and when I want to and stop when I’m full. My workout routine, if I’m honest, doesn’t exist at the moment. Yes you could argue that I’m being unhealthy for not being regularly active, but I never said I was perfect. The life I lead right now is undeniably healthier than the one I used to live, despite eating copious amounts of pasta (student life lol), ice cream, bread, and all the other foods that the Fitspo community recoils in fear from. After all of this, at last, my conclusion of what I believe to be ideal and healthy has simply become natural – in short, I now just live my life.
Life is more than diet culture.