Down With Diet Culture

My diet does not start today.

Or tomorrow.

Or Monday.

Or EVER again.

Because not only is there a wealth of evidence proving that diets don’t work (and actually lead to weight gain in the long term) but the diet industry especially profits off of convincing you to feel bad about yourself so that you get “better”. And somehow, they’ve managed to convince everyone that better = thinner.

Which is funny because thinner =/= healthier.


It’s funny because thinner =/= more willpower.

It’s funny because thinner =/= kinder.

thinner =/= smarter

thinner =/= more athletic

thinner =/= saner

thinner =/= happier

And yet, losing weight is the number one resolution that people share.

I don’t judge people for falling victim to the diet culture. I understand why they do. For my entire life, I did too. And when I say my entire life, I mean from the time I was probably 7 or 8 years old, I hated myself because I was fat. I was convinced that everything in my life would be better if I was thinner.

I remember that I would read “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books about people developing anorexia to lose tons of weight and while the message was “don’t do this! it’s dangerous!” all I took from it was “starve yourself! you’ll lose weight!” And so I did.

When not eating didn’t work out for me (because holla, food is GOOD), I tried the bulimia approach. But I’m not very good at throwing up either. So for years, I either starved and binged or got myself on a regular schedule of “self-disciplined eating” which was essentially me just starving myself.

See, when I look back on my life I can clearly divide it into the times I was dieting and the times I was not. The times I was dieting were times that I was genuinely proud of myself for being malnourished. I survived on a diet of fruit and granola bars (sometimes >200 calories a day) and ran 3-5 miles a day. I would drop about 40 pounds in 3 months and you know the response I got? Praise.

People thought I was making “healthier” decisions just because the way my body looked was conforming more toward what society said was acceptable.

My worth was the number on the scale and the reflection in the mirror. My feelings about myself revolved around whether or not I was proud or ashamed of what I ate and if I had worked out that day. So no matter if I was in a dieting phase or not, I was always punishing myself. Punishing my body by starving it, or punishing my mind by believing I was worthless.

But then in 2019, I found Tiffany Roe on Instagram (@heytiffanyroe) and, honestly I am not exaggerating when I say that my life changed. Not only is she a therapist, but she’s also in recovery from an eating disorder and a major advocate of intuitive eating. She taught me some invaluable truths.

  1. Mental health is greatly impacted by one’s relationship with their bodies and with food. Think about it–you can’t survive without food. You have to eat several times a day to remain properly nourished, and yet a complicated relationship with your body affects what foods you put in it, and your thoughts about those foods affect how you feel about ingesting them. Say you really like the taste of chips but your mind has classified chips as bad. Now, when you eat chips, you feel ashamed, because you have established that complicated relationship. Then you get caught in a shame spiral every time you don’t have the “self-control” to avoid foods that your body likes and your mind doesn’t. It’s a damaging cycle.
  2. Foods only have the moral value that we assign them. She used the example of french fries. A lot of people will say “oh, well fries are obviously bad because they’re unhealthy,” but she says that to her, fries are good because they were something she couldn’t eat when she had an eating disorder. No food is inherently good or bad and labeling them as such just fosters a poor relationship with food.
  3. You do not have to have an eating disorder to engage in disordered eating. Just because you don’t have a diagnosable eating disorder doesn’t mean your eating habits aren’t disordered. Many, if not all, diets are examples of disordered eating.
  4. Unconditional permission to eat is crucial to healing your relationship with food. Restricting leads to binging. Binging leads to shame. Shame leads to restricting. The cycle continues. In order to break the cycle, you must lift the restriction and heal your relationship with food.

Now, when I get on my diet culture soapbox and talk to people about my experiences, they sometimes accuse me of using an anecdotal fallacy. That my experiences, while unfortunate, do not “prove” that there is a problem with diet culture. But my experiences are not isolated to me and a few other people with personal testimonials about how diet culture is deceptive and dangerous. And if you’re unsatisfied with the links I’ve provided and want to fight, let’s fight. Because I’m sick and tired of people justifying thin supremacy in the name of “health.” People do not exist to aesthetically please you and you cannot tell just by looking at someone if they are healthy.

And it’s just sad, yknow? How we have these bodies that are capable of climbing mountains and making music and building cities and creating human life and here we are concerned about how they look. Not about how they serve us. Not about how we can use them to serve others. But about how. they. look.

This is the first time in over a decade that I am not putting weight loss on my list of new year’s resolutions, because every time I’ve lost weight, I have not gotten healthier because of it (lol one time I had to get my gallbladder removed because losing weight so fast gave me gall stones so try telling me that’s healthy). So I commit to getting healthier in 2020. I commit to getting therapy. I commit to getting outdoors more as part of (half of) the 52 hikes challenge. I commit to training for and running a marathon (!!!!!) and I commit to taking CARE of myself. But I’m not committing to losing weight, and I’m not praising anyone else for their weight loss, and I’m not encouraging anyone’s weight loss. Ever again.

Because what are you really saying when you praise someone for their weight loss? Congratulations on taking up less space? Thank you for being easier to objectify? Your body was a problem to be solved and now you’ve solved it so good job? Whatever illness you had that got you here was worth it because now you look better?

Come on. How about we look a little deeper and comment on things that matter going forward?

The best compliments I’ve received have had to do with my abilities or my personality. I love it when someone can tell me that they think I’m funny, or that I’m talented, that I have a way of making people feel comfortable around me, that I’m intelligent, that the way I write has the ability to make them feel understood.

In fact, my least favorite compliments are those that comment on the way I look. It’s lazy and says nothing about the value I contribute to your life or the world.


What’s really rich, though, is the people who can agree with everything I’ve written here and then say “well, if you’re not thin, people (men) won’t find you attractive and that’s just the way it is.”

Well, that’s ok. Because being shallow isn’t attractive either.


I Wanna Get Better

How soon after a suicidal period are you allowed to talk about it without people getting weird and worried about you? Is five months long enough?

It’s World Mental Health Day, and heckfest is gonna talk about it.
cuz folx, living every day when you hate living is a heckfest.
I’m a real big advocate for mental health these days. I didn’t really get loud about it until I went public with my struggles back in March, but now that I’m open about it, I feel like I have a responsibility to both a.) be honest about my experience and b.) take the necessary steps to get better.
So I’m gonna do that. Starting with May.
I was at my temp job. Stuffin envelopes, as one does. And I was just thinking about my life.
I felt like I was stuck at a red light. It didn’t matter how many directions I could go or how far I could go because the light was red. And I was stopped. And my car was running, but I was kinda running out of gas because I had been stopped at this red light for SO long. And I was cramping up and getting restless because I was packed up and ready to go places, but I couldn’t go any of those places because, as I have said, the light was red.
Simply put, I felt stuck. And I was crying. While stuffing envelopes. Because I am an excellent multitasker. And I drifted into thinking that maybe I would just shut off my car for good. Because it’s not going anywhere anyway, yknow? And while I was stopped, it’s not like I could do much besides listen to music and whatever else one does in a stopped, yet still running car. So I thought, hmm, ok, if the light doesn’t turn green in x amount of time, the car is going off.  
If I lost you anywhere in this car metaphor, or if you think you might know what I’m talking about but you’re not sure, let me be blunt: I gave God a deadline. And I told him that if I was still jobless and hopeless by then, I was going to kill myself. And for the first time in my life, I actually made a plan.
This time was different than the previous times, though. Not only because I made a plan this time, but in years past, I felt like I maybe didn’t have anyone who cared/could help me. This time, I knew there were people who cared about me. I knew there were people who would listen and care. No amount of people reaching out and loving me was going to change my mind.
In my mind, I was useless. I was unproductive and my existence wasn’t beneficial to anyone, least of all myself. It didn’t matter to me how great of a friend I was or how intelligent I was if I didn’t feel like I had a purpose. It didn’t matter that I could contribute in meaningful ways to anyone else’s life; I couldn’t contribute meaning to my own life. So what was the point?
Now, I know this sounds dramatic when my biggest problem was that I couldn’t get a job, but it’s amazing how much that affects one’s life. Not only with providing the funds to have a life, but also giving you something to do, a way to find fulfillment, a path to success. I know that’s not all there is. But I didn’t have (or feel like I had) any of the other things, either.
By the way, this blog post isn’t for people who want to help their mentally ill friends. It’s for my mentally ill friends who want to help themselves. Because I am the only person that could have helped me back in May/June. And ultimately, I’m the only person who can truly save me from myself. And you are the only person who can do that for yourself, too.
So I realized pretty quickly after my suicide planning sesh that maybe, just maybe, my problem wasn’t the job thing.
And I made a very out of character decision. And it scares the heck outta me to share it publicly but it’s part of the authenticity and advocacy thing that I’m so passionate about. So here it goes.
-deep breaths-
My decision is this: I am going back to therapy. It’s going to be a real thing in my life from now on. It has to be. Because if I have to keep doing this alone, then I’m gonna need a better toolbox. Mine is filled with broken plastic forks that I tried to eat frozen ice cream with. And yeah, there are a lot of problems with that sentence. Which is why I need therapy.
Let me explain why this is out of character for me: I have been shoved in therapy since I was a child. I’m pretty sure I was six years old the first time I had to visit an old white woman who made me uncomfortable with board games and interrogations. I had regular visits to talk to the ladies who played speed with me and asked invasive questions that I don’t even remember answering. And honestly? It didn’t do anything for me. I started wanting to die before I was ten years old. That was after and during mandated therapy visits.
Then I got to college and was diagnosed as a psycho and I went back to therapy. I thought it might be more helpful or something now that I was older and trying? This time, I didn’t even wait for the invasive questions, I just divulged all the information one could possibly need or want to know. But no amount of talking made it better. I think my thoughts about it can be most accurately summed up in a song I wrote called “Therapy”:
I don’t know what I need, probably therapy
but why would I give money 
to tell somebody my grief
when I can do it for free on your answering machine?
You might feel inclined to laugh, but this is real feels, man. I have plenty of people who will listen to me. That’s not what I needed then and it’s not what I need now.
But I didn’t realize until recently that I had a fundamental misunderstanding about what therapy is and what I’m supposed to be getting from it. And I think that’s way too common with people who don’t really understand what’s wrong with them and just expect therapy to “fix them.” So I’ve resolved to try again and establish expectations this time.
I’ve been feeling for a while that I’m just at the mercy of my life circumstances. I can’t control when I cycle up or down, and after six or seven medications, I can’t just make them fix me. But since making this decision, I feel a lot more confident that I can take control of my life again. But I also know that I’m currently in a manic phase where I’m on top of the world and this roller coaster is going to drop at any moment. And when it does, hoo boy. Yikes amiright? The goal is to still feel as hopeful then as I do now. And the goal is for therapy to help me with that.
Therapy won’t make the light turn green, but it can prepare you for when it does turn green. Sometimes we whine about being stuck at a red light, but do we ask ourselves if we’re truly ready for a green light anyway? If I was being honest with myself back in May, I wasn’t ready for a green light. I thought I was, but what good is a green light if you’re not in any state to be driving?
Besides my experience with making plans, there are two huge factors that pushed me toward this resolution.
One was a certain therapist I follow on Instagram who’s handle is @heytiffanyroe. If you follow her–she’s amazing, right?! If not, you should start. This woman has changed my life. She also has a podcast called Therapy Thoughts that rocks my world.
She is how I learned that not all therapists are created equal. She has taught me what I need to look for as I begin my journey back into therapy. I have learned more about how to take care of myself mentally and emotionally from following her than I ever did in all my previous years of therapy. The tools and validation I feel just from seeing her posts every day have been instrumental in my development this year. It started before May, but she’s the reason I warmed up to therapy enough to consider it at all when worse came to worst.
The second reason is another person–one of my super close friends who has no idea that I’m even thinking of therapy. Maybe I’ll tell that story another time.
But I love that just because these two people were good humans who didn’t know me/know me that well and they inspired me so much just by virtue of who they are and how much better they make me want to be.
I can testify to the power of being a stellar human being and how that affects us other human beings. But I can also testify of the power of being your own stellar human being and using the motivation from those around you to take back control of your own life.
I’m trying to gear this toward my past self and people like my past self, because if I had read this in 2016 and heard myself say “take control of your illness,” I would have thought “there is literally nothing I can do to fix myself.” If you’re the 2016 me, please believe that you are capable. Right now, you’re falling with the avalanche down the mountain, nothing to hold on to and nobody to reach out to. But it will settle. And you’ll find a toolbox. And you’ll dig yourself out. You have to.
Happy Mental Health Day. Do something to take care of your mental health today. Read a book. Do some yoga. Take a bubble bath.
Sidenote: I actually bit into a bath bomb the other day because it looked AND smelled like a cupcake. Yeah, it was hard, but I thought it was just a little crusty on the outside and would get softer when I bit into it. In my defense, I was right. 0/10 did not taste like a cupcake. Pretty excited to use it for its original purpose, though…