When I think about humanities progression in regard to feminism, I’m both disappointed and proud.
I’m glad I live in a world where women are celebrated for being career-driven and bagging high-powered roles. But the gender pay gap continues to linger.
I’m glad that victims of sexual abuse are starting to be heard and taken seriously. Yet many assaults don’t get reported, as women are so used to not being believed.
I’m glad that women are building each other up and are empowered to be themselves. But I am horrified that the world continues to buy in to toxic diet culture; and as women, we are perfect targets.
We are powerful and we are strong. We are independent and intelligent. We aren’t identical to men but we are equals. Yet when it comes to diet culture, we are vulnerable.
Throughout history, women’s bodies have been judged for how they look. Society determines unrealistic cultural ideals, and women are expected to tailor their physique to match. Rather than being judged on our kindness, our intelligence, and our moral standards, we are judged on our “beauty” and the size of our clothes.
Diet advertisements use language and imagery tailored toward brainwashing women to believe that everything will be better if they dropped a stone or two. If we diet, they say, we will feel good and look good. Yet the reason we don’t feel good is because society has told us we aren’t good enough; and looking good is completely subjective. They relay these pitches to us over and over on TV and social media, hoping that one day our self-esteem will deplete enough that we waste our money on their products.
We have now internalised the thought that losing weight is always positive; leading to inappropriate “compliments” without considering someone’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Some companies explicitly endorse diet products with an aim of quick weight loss, detox and “cleansing,” thinking we aren’t aware that we already have an organ specifically designed to do just that—and it’s free.
Others may promote the “it’s not a diet it’s a lifestyle” cliché; when in reality, if it involves restriction or excessive monitoring in fear of weight gain, it’s a diet.
The truth is, fixation on food decreases when nothing is considered “bad,” and we eat regularly enough.
The reason the diet industry is one of the most wealthy is because diets don’t work. If they did, we would all do them once and never have to give them our money again. Instead, they fail; and when they fail, we blame ourselves.
It must have been something we did, right?
That cheeky Chinese takeaway or the glass of wine we had when we were being “naughty?”
It’s not you. It’s them.
And what they don’t tell you is that each time you fail, your set weight is heavier. Your body has become used to low calorie intake and high levels of exercise and so it stores any fat it gets to use as energy; without realising it won’t need it because you cancelled your “fat-class” membership last week.
This is why fad and yo-yo diets are a big no-no; and a dietician is the only person who could recommend an individualised plan for safe weight-loss.
Most of us have a more difficult relationship with food and body image than we think. More often than not, it comes down to a mixture of societies, often unintentional, but massively stigmatizing fat-phobia; and to our parents and family members’ internalised bias, passed down from their own unresolved body image issues.
This is not a blame game and we most certainly can’t point a finger at any one person for this. But even when we feel comfortable in our bodies, then see people we love hating on themselves, we can subconsciously internalise this, only for it to rear it’s ugly head in the future.
Fatphobia is everywhere and is a form of oppression. Fit, larger women (yes, body size doesn’t determine health, and fat women can still be healthy) experience more discrimination from other people’s ignorance of health, than those who are knowingly poisoning their body via drug and alcohol use.
Yes—it’s more acceptable for someone to drink a bottle of vodka per night than for a fat woman to eat a chocolate bar whilst binge-watching Netflix. Go figure.
But together, we can advocate for each other and work as a team to boycott diet culture.
To start, we need to remind ourselves that we are good enough.
Clear out your social media of anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself (relatives and friends included). Throw away any clothes that don’t fit or are uncomfortable. Give yourself a compliment in the mirror every day.
Sensitively request that people don’t use weight loss as a compliment to you or talk about dieting in your presence; even if it’s putting themselves down and not directing anything toward you. And whilst doing so, be compassionate. These people have grown up in a world filled with toxic-diet culture too.
Your body is a vehicle to live. Think of your achievements and memories; your body allowed you to do that. Be kind to it as it works so hard every single day to care for you. Trust it and allow it to tell you what it needs and when, rather than using a diet guide. Value your body for all it does, not the jeans size it needs.
Whether you are eating a salad or eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, you are enough. Whether you exercise every day or just when you feel like it, you are enough. Whether you are a size 6 or a size 26, you are enough.