For the past 4-ish years (coincides almost perfectly with the Munchkin being born – more on that later) I’ve been actively trying to disentangle myself from the diet culture crap. And it’s crap. All the research shows that weight BIAS is the problem not the weight itself but diet culture would make you think it’s the weight.
It’s not actually the weight that is the problem and some research has shown that being slightly overweight is actually healthier than being underweight or even “normal” according to the BMI scale but this isn’t about how much crap the BMI scale really is, that’s a discussion for another day.
This is about how diet culture (and social media) has warped people’s sense of activity. I suffered from it too – if my fitbit didn’t log the activity did it really count?
According to the diet culture “ate it now negate it” mantra or “calories in/calories out” if I didn’t have a good idea of EXACTLY how many calories I burned or how many minutes I spent slogging away at an exercise that I hated I had no idea how many calories, points, or whatever I earned from that exercise. Diet culture taught me that I couldn’t trust my own body and I couldn’t trust how I felt. I needed all sorts of external measures or markers to really understand what my body needed; I had to track everything and I had to make sure I knew exactly what was going in or what was coming out.
So what happens when the tracker doesn’t pick up the exercise? Did I not actually “earn” it? Did I not actually do the work? If the runner doesn’t start her smart watch, did she really run? Or in today’s day and age, if I didn’t post my workout (or post workout sweaty selfie) on insta did I actually do it?
The short answer is yes! I did actually do it and that was when I really felt myself cresting over the diet culture hill.
One day I was trying to get the family out for a walk and no one was cooperating (of course I was thinking about MY EXERCISE and not family time taking a nice walk together – but that’s a different story) so by the time we actually got started I forgot to turn on the watch to log it. And guess what? We still walked, I still moved, got some exercise, got some fresh air and got some family time out of the whole deal.
When I got home I had the thought “oh $h-t! I didn’t start my tracker!” and I had a moment of clarity. We had spent roughly 30 minutes outside walking around; the Munchkin and I talking about what we saw, how our days had been and a variety of other things (mostly “what’s that?!” as the Munchkin pointed to something else). The fact that I hadn’t turned on workout mode and logged my 30 minutes didn’t mean they didn’t happen. It wasn’t like some evil genius re-wrote the past 30 minutes of my life and suddenly erased those memories of being together and spending time together.
Not tracking my movement didn’t mean it didn’t happen. It poked another hole in the crumbling wall of diet culture realizing that I could trust my body to remember that we had walked that day whether I knew exactly how many calories were burned or not. I could still eat a balanced meal for dinner without having to remember how many extra calories I “earned” on my walk because trusting my body lets me cue into what I need and not let external forces be in control.
By allowing movement to just be movement (because it does feel good as long as it’s not in a brutal “no pain/no gain” mentality) it allowed me to start trusting the process and start trusting my body to do what it needs to do. It keeps me from spouting the diet culture crap that keeps women more focused on their bodies and how they look (predominately because of how OTHER people will view them) and allows me to raise my kid to continue to trust her own body. I don’t ever want her to lose that sense of self that causes her to pay more attention to external cues; I want her to cherish her own, wonderful, amazing body and self for what it can do and what it is then have her lament what it can’t do or what it isn’t based on some unattainable, whacked out notion of what “pretty” or “healthy”.
When I had those feelings of “oh $h-t” I could have fretted about it or “made up” for it some how but instead I really dug into what those feelings meant and leaned into what having a tracker meant. Instead of letting diet culture win again I took another step towards breaking the cycle and dismantling that culture for my daughter so she doesn’t have to grow up with the same insecurities and stress around what having a female body in this world means.
I hope I can instill these lessons in myself enough now while I am still the model she looks to. She has her whole life ahead of her and I want to make sure most of the time she’s not thinking about food or making sure she “earned” the food she wants to eat. The amount of time and mental energy I’ve gained by not thinking about external measurements or guidelines really allows me the freedom to enjoy this life and all it has to offer.
Move when it feels good and eat what feels right, trackers be damned!
Cody Stanford , Fatima. “Addressing Weight Bias in Medicine.” Harvard Health, 3 Apr. 2019, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/addressing-weight-bias-in-medicine-2019040316319.
Golden, Neville H., et al. “Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents.” American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Sept. 2016, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/3/e20161649.
Lessard, Leah M., et al. “Eating and Exercise‐Related Correlates of Weight Stigma: A Multinational Investigation.” Obesity, vol. 29, no. 6, 2021, pp. 966–970., doi:10.1002/oby.23168.
“Recognizing and Resisting Diet Culture.” National Eating Disorders Association, 2 May 2019, http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/recognizing-and-resisting-diet-culture.
“Weight Bias and Obesity Stigma: Considerations for the WHO European Region (2017).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/obesity/publications/2017/weight-bias-and-obesity-stigma-considerations-for-the-who-european-region-2017#:~:text=Weight%20bias%20and%20obesity%20stigma%3A%20considerations%20for%20the,is%20the%20victim%20of%20prejudice.%20More%20items…%20.