Saturday, 20 July 2019

Why I'm quitting diets for good

Why would a fat girl want to quit dieting?! 

From an extremely young age, I was aware that I wasn't as petite as the other girls in my reception class. I had a rounder, squishier face and the tops of my legs spread out across the width of the red, plastic chairs when I sat down. I didn't really know how much that this would matter later on in my life, but I was very aware that my body was different to the other girls in my year. 

Once I joined junior school, I became even more self-conscious of my body being bigger. I was pretty into sports, and already well aware of what "good" and "bad" foods were. I knew how I wanted to look. I certainly knew how I didn't want to look. I knew fat was bad. Fat was ugly. Fat was lazy. Fat was unattractive. Fat was unsuccessful. Fat was unambitious. I knew all these things and yet I didn't know what it actually meant. I just knew it didn't make me feel very good. It made me feel even worse when one of the boys I played football with told me that I wasn't allowed to play any more because I would take up half the pitch. 

Secondary school was hard. I know it brings lots of different struggles to different people, and I actually for the most part enjoyed it, but it's particularly tricky when those closest to you hurt you the most. My best friend had been calling me Mastaf to everyone, even to myself, when one of the other girls in the group pulled me aside and said "hey, did you notice that Mastaf is Fat Sam backwards?". I'm sure everyone reading this can relate, but when someone you thought you could trust pulls you down by your biggest insecurity, that shit is painful. From then on, the other girls in the group told the ringleader how unfair and uncool is was to do that, and I moved on. (thanks, gals)

I feel like you know where this little tale might have landed me. By the age of about 14, I had some serious body image issues. I was on a diet pretty much constantly. I would make sure I had done at least 100 (rising to 250) sit-ups before I went to bed every night. It still wasn't good enough. I never "won". Even when I felt like I had won and got my first proper boyfriend, he'd forced me to weigh myself in front of him and he suggested I joined the local weight loss club. I skipped meals. I never got substantially smaller. When I did lose chunks of weight, I only gained it back again. Over the years, I only took up more space in a world that I have been told I need to take up as little space as possible. 

Personal history lesson aside, all of these factors only fed (no pun intended) my already poor relationship with food. I was "dieting" from a relatively young age and was incredibly aware of the moral values that foods were portrayed to hold. I found myself being made to feel guilty around food by family, as some diets I found myself on encouraged enormous amounts of certain foods. Those closest to me weren't to know - and I don't blame them at all - as they were only products of the same conditioning that gave me my disordered eating in the first place. 

As long as I can remember, I have only ever seen one female body type sold to me. She's tall, thin, probably blonde, white, able-bodied, successful, and likely wearing some form of workout gear. If this describes you; congratulations! I am throwing ZERO shade at people who fit this ideal, but I feel the need to speak for those of us who don't. We are conditioned to believe that the individual described above is the way to be fit, healthy, successful, loved, respected, and valued. No matter how determined I was that "this diet is going to be the one", I honestly never achieved what controlled my thoughts every day. Restricting what I ate only made my relationship with food worse. It was my fault; of course it was! I didn't try hard enough, I didn't throw enough money at it, I didn't have enough willpower, I didn't follow the rules closely enough. I became so obsessed with diet culture that there wasn't enough room for anything else in my brain. Funnily enough, it was when I really became absorbed by diet culture that I found my anxiety at it's worst. But more recently I have started to question this image that has been sold to us for our entire lives. Is it REALLY worth it? Will being a size 8 really solve all my problems? Will people love me more? Surely I am worth more than how my body looks?

I'd decided that I had spent far too long already worrying about my body offending others, and I flatly refuse to let it steal any more of my time. I've already wasted so many years of my life not doing things or wearing things until I am a certain weight or size. It makes me really sad for people like my mum who have been sold (literally) this ideal for such a large portion of their lives, and there has been pretty much zero push-back on it until now. There is a lot of confusion around what body positivity really is, and it gets a lot of criticism from people saying that it "promotes obesity", which I can assure you it doesn't, although we do need to consider that there is a whole lot more to health than weight alone. Body positivity is simply that ALL bodies are worthy of love, value, dignity and respect. Big ones, small ones, and everything in between. It's the belief that you ARE enough, exactly as you are. 

The problem is, telling people they need to be smaller is a real money maker. The diet industry is worth around £2.8 TRILLION globally, and the weight-loss companies are relying on repeat business when inevitably we fail their diets (correction - they fail us), and we keep throwing money at the next big thing that promises to make us smaller. These huge companies can make ludicrous amounts of money by telling us that our bodies are the problem, and then by selling us the solution. 

I have decided I have spent too much time and money on diets that don't work. Which for 95% of the time is true. Only 5% of people who go on a "diet" actually reach their goal weight and stay there. I have decided my happiness is worth more than fitting into a dress size smaller. I am totally not suggesting that we all finish reading this and go and gobble up 10 doughnuts (but if you want to, that's cool). Nutrition is definitely still important. But how about we just listen to our bodies, and not track/count/calculate/syn everything we put into them? It's a scary concept for those of us who have been a part of diet culture for so long. This is something I feel super passionately about, so expect to hear more from me on this. 

I hope this has been a bit of an eye-opener, and maybe offers a slightly different viewpoint on diet culture. There will be more posts to follow which will dive a little deeper into why diets don't work and why thinness doesn't always equal health. 

Love always,

Samantha x 

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1 comment

  1. This is so true, I can relate to this in so many ways. Xxx

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