Hey. It’s getting warmer outside, you know what that means!
You know?? Your old “friend.” I know we haven’t talked to each other since you saw that friend from high school who kept talking about how much weight they lost since they started that diet.
When was that? Last Summer?? Gosh they looked so fit and you looked the same.
You know who I am—I’m the part of yourself that tells you you’re not good enough. That tells you that you are overweight, eat “awful” food, and are LAZY. Oh my goodness you are so lazy.
You come home after work and sit! On the COUCH! Don’t you know that you have to be in a bathing suit in 2 weeks? Keep this up and you will be wearing a sun shirt. [insert a deep, deep, self-loathing rabbit hole].
Hey, reader. Does this sound familiar? Don’t worry. That bully of a voice isn’t going to be here for the rest of this article.
Instead, my goal is that you know how to identify this voice, separate from it, and talk back to it like the bully it truly is.
And that is exactly what those thoughts are—nothing but a big ole’ bully. I wish I could put gum in their hair (but that would mean I would be putting gum in your hair since these thoughts are coming from your brain… so on second thought, maybe not). Anyways, I digress.
I’m going to stand on a soapbox for a moment to yell this as loud as I can for the people in the back..
WE LIVE IN A DEEPLY ENTRENCHED DIET CULTURE AND WE ARE SO IMMERSED THAT SOME OF US ACTUALLY BELIEVE BEING “HEALTHY” IS STARVING OURSELVES (AND/OR HEAVILY RESTRICTING).
And what is even more heartbreaking to me is that we equate “healthy” to “thinness.” Let me tell you why….
As a therapist who works with people with eating disorders and someone who is also in recovery from an eating disorder, I’ve seen myself and clients at their sickest when they are striving for “thinness” (or what is now turning into “fitness”).
Their obsession with achieving this goal at first seems harmless, they join a gym, are buying more fruits and vegetables, and maybe are even tracking their steps on their apple watch or other smart devices.
Yet, this innocent goal can quickly and stealthily turn into something deadly.
Have you ever seen the TV show Stranger Things? Well if not, a quick spoiler alert and go watch it right now.
In the second season of Stranger Things, there is a demon called a Shadow Monster. (This is relevant I promise.) One of the main characters, Will Byers, is taken over by one of these demons yet no one would be able to tell from just by looking at him.
He is Will Byers AND he is a Shadow Monster– one part of that sentence is not truer than the other. The relationship between Will and the Shadow Monster is similar to Harry Potter’s and Lord Voldemort’s.
There is a part of Lord Voldemort inside of Harry and throughout the series, Harry worries that he is evil. His first day at Hogwarts, Harry experiences a critical moment in his life. Harry has the choice of what life he wants when he asks the sorting hat be in Gryffindor (despite being “fit” for Slytherin).
Both of these examples are parallel to the thoughts we learn from diet culture about our bodies. We have a choice though!
To choose to love our bodies and choose to do what we love with our body despite our appearances!
To choose to celebrate my birthday with my husband and eat a piece of birthday cake, to go on family vacation and swim in the pool with a two-piece with my loved ones, to go to my favorite brunch spot and enjoy a farmhouse biscuit with my friends, to wear summer dress and take off my sweater when I’m hot despite how my arms look.
To choose to do what my body wants. To choose out of love, not hate.
“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (p. 333) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The “bully thoughts” the article opened with, see above, are truly evil. They serve no purpose other than making us hate ourselves. And you know who profits off of you believing these thoughts? Our diet culture. Let’s break it down…
If you believe those thoughts, you will not like your body/self (you begin to actually detach from your body), and believe your body is something that needs to be “fixed,” you are more likely to buy a subscription to Nutrisystem Weight Loss (gross), heavily restrict (aka starve yourself), and then ultimately find yourself binging (“cheat days”)… because whenever anyone restricts you will ALWAYS binge.
So, here you are. You hate your body. You “failed” dieting and feel shameful (even though all diets are designed to fail), and you are trapped. You are in a cycle:
Hate → punish by restricting → shame because you can’t keep up the restriction → hate even more → repeat.
Sounds like the perfect marketing scheme if you think about it… because it is. The diet industry is a BILLION-dollar industry. There are people in this world who are profiting off of us hating our bodies.
Simply put, there are death eaters profiting off of us. For the rest of the article I will referring to the diet culture as death eaters.
So now what?
Call out the death eaters for what they are! When you notice those “bully thoughts” come up, separate from them, and then choose love.
If you need to rest, rest your body. If your friends want to go out to dinner, go eat a fun meal and laugh. If it is nice out and you still want to have a day on the couch, do it!
Earlier in the article, I mentioned how heartbreak it is that thinness is equated to health. Our health is comprised of mind, body, and spirit. The diet culture focuses soley on the body and wants us to believe that if our body does not look a certain way then we are “unhealthy.”
False! If we are constantly having self-loathing thoughts and depriving us of the things that bring us joy, that is far from true health.
I will always argue that health is more than how much you weigh. Health begins with coming back into our body, what is called embodiment, and being gentle with ourselves.
One way to help differentiate what YOU want to do versus what the death eaters want you to do is to notice if thoughts begin with “should.”
If a thought sounds like, “I shouldn’t be eating this.” or “I should go on a run” that is probably the death eaters. If the thought is, “I want _____” then that choice is more likely to be out of love.
Here is the thing: you can still WANT to go on a run! You can still want a salad! The key is to not shame yourself for days when you don’t want to do those things. To listen to your body.
If trying to love your body seems farfetched and too abstract, maybe find room for acceptance and gratitude.
For example, if you aren’t experiencing any pain today, say something along the lines of “I am grateful I can breathe with ease. I am grateful I can feel my breath flushing through my body like water.”
Make a list of all the amazing things your body can do!
If you get a paper cut, your skin heals itself. If you need something from the other room, your body knows how to move you to take you there. We can close our eyes and imagine our most cherished memories. We have a brain that holds precious information about loved ones who have passed. We are able to verbalize such memories with loved ones who are still with us, and we can feel love expand in our chest.
Our bodies are INCREDIBLE.
Also, yes, it is getting warmer out. And yes, it is almost beach body season…. So you know what that means?
Don’t deprive yourself of the joy your body wants to give you because of our stupid societal standards/death eaters. If you have a body and you want to feel the sand beneath your feet and the cool water against your skin.. then do it.
Take your body to the beach and BAM, you have a beach body. And maybe consider wearing sunscreen.
It is also okay to ask for help if this task seems daunting. Just like Harry Potter, he had a tribe who helped him fight off the death eaters. Talk to a friend, find a therapist, do what you need without “should-ing” on yourself. We are all doing the best you can and we are all in this together.