8 Ways to be Free of Diet Culture 🎈

What’s the best way to NOT get sucked into contemporary diet culture.  Is there a formula?  Is there an answer to being happy and content in your skin?  To being able to just eat what you feel like eating.  Stopping when pretty full?  Being okay with celebrating and eating more than usual but, still feeling fine about that because that is what humans do? To stop punishing yourself for not exercising like a gerbil on a treadmill every day?  Okay, so here are some things you can try…gerbil

  1. Cleanse your social media.  Ruthlessly.  Stop following skeletal, compulsive exercisers with six-packs. Stop friend-ing folks who talk about being ‘good’ for not eating something or ‘bad’ for eating something.  Do friend folks who are diet neutral.  Un-friend those who talk about being on a diet or the newest word for diet: cleanse.  Diets don’t work. They are torture and they make you gain more weight later.  Un-friend.  Start coming to terms with the fact that we all have different sized, shaped and coloured bodies. Some of us are in bigger bodies.  Some of us are in smaller bodies.  This is normal and it is totally OKAY!!!!!  You do you.  Own it.cake and cherries
  2. Don’t demonize food.  Food is just food.  Food is not the issue.  The trillion dollar diet industry is. Eat what you want and pay attention to how you feel and what you are craving.  Just last night I was craving something CRUNCHY.  For once, I didn’t want my favorite: chips.  Carrots worked.  I crunched some carrots.  I am not saying to eat carrots instead of chips.  I am saying to listen to what you really want.
  3. Stop looking in the mirror so much.  But when you do, gaze at yourself with compassion. If you work with mirrors, like in the beauty industry, just avoid LOOKING and checking yourself out.  Okay, after you eat a spinach salad, or a spinach anything, check out your teeth in the mirror to ensure you don’t have a honkin’ huge piece of spinach stuck in your teeth.  spinach in teethBut other than that, it is possible to lessen mirror time.  Instead, FEEL how you look. It’s wonderful to FEEL and ACCEPT yourself.  The mirror can be very critical.
  4. Wear clothes that fit.  If you clothes are too tight, replace them.  Hit up a thrift shop to save money.  Wear clothes that are comfortable.  Get rid of anything that is uncomfortable, no matter if it is in style right now.  Just get rid of it.
  5. Pretend you are your nine or ten year-old self and behave THAT way with regard to food and movement.  Play! Nap.  Run.  Skip.  Throw a ball.  LAUGH! Dance.  Last night I took my dog for a walk up the hill and around through the cemetery with my good friend Jessie and her dogs.  I had my music playing as I climbed the hill to meet Jessie.  Suddenly, I found myself dancing.  It felt awesome.  Try it.
  6. Conscientiously THANK your body for ALL THAT IT DOES for you.  It is keeping you going and managing all your bodily functions, even while you look at it with disgust.  Try looking at your body with compassion, gratitude and respect, instead.
  7. For Pete’s sake, smash your scale.  That number on there will make you crazy and the pursuit of a certain number on the scale is a big waste of your time and energy. Let you body be the weight it wants to be.  Everyone has a set point range where their body performs optimally.  Trust your body to find it’s set point range.  But, if you have been disordered for a long time, it could take your body a while to get there, so be patient.  A couple of years even.

scale

8.  Here’s a little secret that someone like me needs to tell you.  You see, I was trapped in the diet mentality for about 36 years.  Ya, THIRTY-SIX YEARS!!  I finally got free of it, after hitting rock bottom which you can read about here: The Body Positive 🙃 and here: BoPo Revisited and it all started here: Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏.  The secret is: you do not need to diet. No one does.  No one. You do not need to compulsively exercise. You just need to chill.  Seek non-diet counselling (make sure the counselor is up to date on this — you don’t want a counselor who puts folks on meal plans.  Uh uh.  No meal plan.  So be sure.  My first two links above mention a few you can check out.)  If you are disordered or if you are in the grips of a full-on eating disorder you may need professional help.  If you can’t afford counselling, find a friend who has a really great body image attitude (never talks about diet, has no problem with any foods, wears horizontal stripes..that kind of friend). No friend? Reach out to the many, many closed groups on facebook, that I mention in the above links.  Write to me or comment here….I will do my well best to help you.

Your turn…what else can we do to be free of diet culture?  To be free to just be?  Without judgement or harassment and with love and compassion?  Leave a comment if you are up to it…  We GOT This!

~M

end diet culture

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Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏

At sixteen I experimented with dieting and it led to a full-blown eating disorder…

When I was fifteen, my parents were living separately in our bungalow. Mom had the basement and Dad had the upstairs.  They shared the kitchen.  Mom started dating an alcoholic she met at the Legion.  I loathed the way she behaved in those months.  She started wearing really tight clothing and tons of makeup.  She was going out to the Legion many times a week and behaving like a love-sick cow.  It infuriated me.  My fifteen-year-old self was ashamed of the person I had worshiped prior to that.  I think Mom was rebelling and binging on that aspect of life because she had been depraved of affection and love by Dad for years.  It was just sad.

I used to make phone calls to Eva, who was married, and tell her my woes.  I would tell her how Mom and Dad were always fighting and bickering.  Next she invited me to live with her and her family, three-hours away in Leeford. Later that year I would come back to visit and by then, Mom had gotten an apartment, a 1.5-bedroom apartment above the Knights of Columbus Hall up by my old elementary school.

Living with Peter and Eva, I realized that every family  has their problems and pressures.  Sometimes I would wake up at night and hear them arguing with each other about money.  Taking in a teen isn’t without cost.  I knew that I needed to chip in.  I picked up many babysitting gigs and even braided the hair of a few ladies on the street.  French braids were at the height of fashion and I could braid.  My red-headed friend who had moved away had taught me.  I would charge $10 – $20 for a braid and that was a lot at that time.  The ladies would gladly pay me because their long hair would be up and out of their way for days in a good braid and, they could go out on the town with hubby and be in style.  When I had a free night, especially on a weekend, I would call some parents and let them know I was free.  Nine times out of ten they would call back and hire me to babysit for the night.  I don’t remember buying groceries or anything for the house with my money, but, at least I didn’t need to ask for any spending money either. I also paid for my driving school with that money.  I was very eager to learn how to drive and I firmly believed in learning correctly.  Interesting since I later became a Transportation Officer in the Army and then a Driving School owner.

Eva took me down to enroll in the Catholic High School for grade ten.  I would take the bus every day.  The bus stop was only a minute away.  The problem was, going to Catholic High was going to be a huge change.  I had been going to St. Stephen’s in Walden.  163 students went to St. Stephen’s.  2000 students went to Catholic High in Leeford.  It was huge.  I was completely lost there.  I had been a total jock at St. Steve’s.  On every team.  Excelling at all my subjects.  Known by all.  At CH it was a different story.  I didn’t make the basketball team.  I just could not believe it.  I went to the coach and begged my way onto the team.  She told me I would likely ride the bench all season.  I said, I don’t care.  Please let me play.  I will not survive here without basketball.

Basketball practice was every morning at 7:30. I had to take the city bus for 45 minutes to downtown then run five blocks to CH, then run for an hour of practice.  Normally that would be no problem, because I had been super fit.  However, at that time, I had become anorexic.  I was living on about 800 calories or less per day: a tiny breakfast of half a pita with 1 precise tablespoon of peanut butter and exactly 8 oz of skim milk (blech!!!); an apple for lunch and the smallest dinner I could get away with.  Eva was watching and I would try not to upset her.  I didn’t want her to know my secret.  I was growing and I was expending a lot of calories for basketball.  I was extremely emaciated and lacked any muscle tone and had very little strength.  I really don’t know how I physically carried my frame around for the day.  The human body is an amazing machine.

The anorexia started innocently enough.  Eva had started going to Weight Watchers to lose the baby weight from her second pregnancy.  Her first born was now two.  She asked me if I would like to eat the same way as her.  We could do it together.  I did not need to lose any weight.  I was a healthy 120 pounds on a 5’5” frame and quite muscular.  But, I was open to trying this new thing with my sister whom I looked up to so much.  I loved doing things with Eva.  We had a lot of fun together and did a whole lot of laughing together.  But, as I started restricting and losing weight and then going back to Walden for a visit, my friends made quite a big deal about how great I looked.  I thought I should lose even more.  I have very strong willpower, so restricting even more was possible.  It wasn’t at all fun, but, by this time it had become a bit of an addiction and a secret project which somehow gave me comfort — ridiculous, I know.  It was also about control.  I could control this aspect of my life. One day, I was out with Eva running errands.  I was walking up to this window of this storefront.  I was watching the reflection of this skeletal figure walking up to the window and I was looking to see who it was.  I did not recognize myself.  I was skeletal but, when looking at myself in the mirror, I saw a fat person.  Dysmorphia is what they call this phenomena  When laying down in my bed at night, my bones were pressing through my skin and it would hurt.  It was quite hard to get comfortable.  There was a pull chain above my bed to turn out the light.  I had to will myself to raise my arm to reach the chain to turn out the light.

I continued this way for the year – holding out even though Eva would scream at me to Morgan please eat!!!!.  By the end of it, I was about 80 pounds and was getting sick a lot, always freezing cold, no period, short of breath, thinning hair, bad breath, coated tongue and of course, always starving and suppressing it.  Anorexia is hell.  It truly is.  Do not go there.  Please don’t.

I had strep throat over and over that year.  My immune system was shot.  Going to see Eva’s doctor, a European with blunt speech, asked me if I was losing this much weight on purpose.  I remember liking how he worded that question. I opened up to him and told him the truth.  Right away he organized a counselor to come and see me at home a couple of times per week.  The counselor was wonderful.  I really liked her.  She explained to me that I needed to put more fuel into my body.  I had been complaining about not having any energy.  I liked how gently she explained these simple matters to me.  She helped me to stop the behaviour.  However, I was terrified of opening the flood gates of eating.  I thought I would never be able to stop once I started.  I was starving but I was afraid to eat.  So, then the bulimia started.  I would open the flood gates.  I would eat thousands of calories in cookies, chips, cake, baked goods and then I would take a large dose of laxatives. Chocolate X-lax was my purging tool.  By the middle of the night, my guts would be gurgling.  Sometimes there would be leakage.  Ew.  But, it would do the trick.  Everything would be voided explosively into the toilet.  What a stink too.  Sometimes it was quite embarrassing, depending on where I was when the void wanted to begin.  Why not just vomit?  I tried that.  It just would not work for me.  I couldn’t bring anything up once it was down.

The Bulimia went on for about another year or so and by then I was living back in Walden and attending grade eleven.  For years, I would go through times of wanting to lose weight again and so would start to restrict, but, it always led to binging and purging again.

Joining the Army put a stop to it.  For a few years anyway.