Food isn't 'Naughty'
You are smiley, funny, intelligent, go-getting, doing you and so much more than just your body size. So why then are you so bloody fixated on not getting fat, being 'strong not skinny' and eating 'lean'. Ever noticed how our language around food categorises it as good and bad, how we label ourselves as naughty FOR EATING. Yeah, sure some foods are more and less helpful nutritionally, but do we always eat for nutrition? hell no, we eat because Haagen Dazs is fucking great (other brands available).
So what is all of this body positivity chatter, well imagine being able to feel amazing about yourself in your own mind, to enjoy gyrating those hips, to enjoy wearing those ‘show a belly tops’ and wearing a mankini without giving a fuck. Now you’re getting close and my friend you deserve this because your brain has more important things to do (like changing the world) than worrying about how many calories or carbs you have eaten.
Also if one day you are lucky enough to pop out some sprogs do you want them to be carrying all of this baggage around? Do you want them to hear you talking about how good you’ve been because you’ve stuck to chicken and salad all week and how you feel much better because you got in those hot pants again? Is that what should make us ‘feel’ better? Should our example not be that we have put energy into being our best goddam moral selves rather than reading the latest diet book? And as we know little ones are like sponges, they soak up everything and never mind that research shows us that peer group (e.g. friends) normalisation of dieting encourages dieting behaviour (1) (well derr).
And anyway nobody cares what you look like, they are to busy worrying about themselves, in the words of Matt Haig, from Notes on a Nervous Planet;
Quite aptly put don’t you think? Another psychological element to the body positivity argument is when we stop saying no to food, we generally become more intuitive eaters because we know we can have what we want, when we want and therefore have less 'disordered eating' (2). We tend to ‘rebel’ less and therefore don't go all out because we have nothing to rebel against. Hence the fact diets do not work and the reason why popular diet clubs earn so much moola is because we starve ourselves and eventually put the weight back on meaning a return visit to weight watchers. Less than 5% of people keep weight off after dieting - just let that soak in (3).
The other issue we face is how our body biologically works; if you starve yourself you go into an innate biological response where your body utilises stored energy therefore when you re-introduce food you will gain excess weight. Working in mental health has given me the unique opportunity of seeing those who actively engage with therapy and let go of the diet mantra, start to reach a healthy weight naturally. This isn’t rocket science when you stop overthinking about eating, you eat what your body wants and needs.
Imagine a world without mirrors or photography, who would you be then? What would you be celebrated for? Your ability to turn every sentence into a sexual innuendo, how great you are in the bedroom, your love of whips and chains or just the general 'youness' you bring to the world. We are never viewed by others as we see ourselves in the mirror, we are multi-faceted, we hold ourselves in ways that are symbolic to how we feel, interestingly how do you think your hold yourself when your body positive vs when you are not?
So how do we go about making the change in this increasingly self-obsessed digital world? Some top tips:
- Ditch the diet, it hasn’t worked for you yet.
- Ask yourself the five whys whenever you do something motivated by your image.
- Surround yourself with body-positive social media, a really good example is Megan Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda (check out the recommended reading page for her book).
- Start to listen to what your body wants through intuitive eating and stop saying NO.
- Make a note of how many times a thought about your image/control of food has popped into your mind, then ask yourself what could you have used that mental energy for instead.
Think back to when you were a child and how refreshing it was not to worry about all this shit, let go of the monster and do you.
All my love,
1 - Eisenberg, M. E., Berge, J. M., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2013). Dieting and encouragement to diet by significant others: associations with disordered eating in young adults. American journal of health promotion : AJHP, 27(6), 370–377. doi:10.4278/ajhp.120120-QUAN-57
2 - Denny, K. N., Loth, K., Eisenberg, M. E., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2013). Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors?. Appetite, 60(1), 13–19. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.09.029
3 - Tomiyama, A. J., Ahlstrom, B., & Mann, T. (2013). Long-term effects of dieting: Is weight loss related to health? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(12), 861–877. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12076