Abandoning Diet Culture and Finally Feeling Free


Abandoning Diet Culture Once and For All

abandoning diet culture: coastal bend mom

Recognizing my Vicious Cycle of Disordered Eating

I didn’t realize I had become so indoctrinated with Diet Culture.

I snacked on a pre-portioned bag of baby carrots. I felt valuable. I felt like a “good girl”. I knew those carrots held multiple health benefits. But mostly I knew they were what I was “supposed” to be eating, [in accordance with my newest attempt at dieting]. It was exactly a cup of carrots, no more, no less.

I finished my carrots and even though I like carrots, I wasn’t full. I was still SO hungry. But I told myself that hunger was good. That hunger was self-control. That hunger meant I was actually controlling something in my life.

The afternoon went on and that hunger still gnawed at my insides. It accompanied me everywhere I went, and it made me short-tempered. It made me ravenous and anxious. I was distracted by all my tasks. And yet- I applauded myself for not caving. I was doing “good”.

abandoning diet culture: coastal bend mom

Around 5 pm I began making dinner. I was so hungry. I snacked while I cooked. Then I sat down to eat dinner and no amount of reasonable portion sizes could ever fill the emptiness inside of me. So following dinner, I needed a sweet treat, which lead to overeating on ice cream and eventually popcorn. I couldn’t stop there, I topped it all off with some leftover candy, and a bowl of cereal. I was finally full- and yet I felt like an utter and complete failure.

The next morning I deprived myself from food until noon to “make up” for last night’s binge session. I worked out 2x the next day as a “punishment” for my mistakes, and I told myself today would be different. Today I would “honor” my body by taking care of it. Today I would be strong.

This vicious cycle went on for years. Yes, years. It wasn’t until recently, that I learned to identify this as disordered eating. It stems from deprivation and binging. I placed so much moral value on my food choices that I couldn’t eat a single thing without analyzing the type of person that a cucumber or a donut would make me. In my mind, a cucumber= good person and a donut= bad/weak person.

If I ate “good” food I felt good about myself. If I ate “bad” food (or one I perceived as bad) I would enter a never-ending self-loathing cycle. I would even begin to view otherwise “healthy foods” as bad if I ate them out of schedule or over a pre-determined portion size. (For example; if I ate 8 apple slices instead of 6 I viewed this as out of control or “bad”).

The Revelation of Diet Culture

abandoning diet culture: coastal bend mom

One day I was listening to podcast about Intuitive Eating and my heart stopped. I literally had to sit down and stop what I was doing, because the speaker was literally describing me. And my life. And then she offered a way out. She spoke about “abandoning diet culture” altogether. I panicked. How could one abandon it altogether? How would I know what to eat and when? For over 10 years I had followed some form of meal plan, and food schedule.

Could one really just “eat”,  and then “stop” when full? What world was this? I wasn’t sure- but I knew I wanted it. I needed it. I needed to be free.

After this revolutionary moment, I saw diet culture EVERYWHERE. I saw it at the grocery store and the clothing department. I saw it at book club, and GNO. I saw it in my family members and jokes in TV. It overwhelms Instagram and Facebook. And is the leading content of the blogging industry.  It is everywhere. Diet culture tells us all the things that are “bad” for us, and all the things that are “good” for us.

Diet culture strips us of the very tools our bodies are born with, and the very God given self worth we are destined to have.

It hasn’t been easy to abandon diet culture. It was as much a part of me as my green eyes and my blonde hair. I had to carefully and with help strip it off one by one. I learned to look at my curves as my right of passage into adulthood. I started exercising because it made me FEEL good and not because it was a punishment for what I had eaten. Instead, I exercised because it gave me energy, and strength. I started doing Barre, and Pilates instead of wrecking my knees and back with HIIT workouts that would burn more calories.

I started buying ice cream again because I COULD. And because it wasn’t off-limits anymore I no longer binged it. I would enjoy some every now and then and it would fill my heart with joy, not dread and self-loathing. I looked forward to making dinner and meal planning because nothing was off-limits.

I learned to honor and listen to my body. I began to pay attention to my body, and discovered foods that I really didn’t care for- but had always craved simply because they were off-limits. I no longer want those foods.

I learned that I really don’t like cauliflower rice. Like it makes me sick I hate it so much. But I’ve eaten it for years because it’s a “healthy alternative”. But I learned that I do LOVE snacking on baby peppers. Genuinely. Not as an alternative to anything, just for the sake of loving baby peppers.

I filled my home with foods that brought joy to everyone, and even some silly things we had never tried. I paid closer attention to how I felt physically after eating certain foods- and for the first time in a long time, I learned to eat when I was hungry, and stop when I was full. I learned that regardless of what Diet Culture had taught me, that some foods DO fill your soul with so much joy their taste is every bit as satisfying as the memories that accompany them. I owned this.

Everything in moderation made me happier than a world of restrictions.

I still have days where the pressure of the world and what diet culture is telling me will close in on my chest and it feels hard to breathe. I look at old pictures of myself and I see someone really “skinny”- and yet I remember that even then I hated myself. But for the most part, I have embraced this body- and this person who owns it. I have allowed myself to settle in to the person I was meant to be. There is SO much more to life than constantly trying to change myself – to fit the “world’s mold”.

I am an advocate for progression, an advocate for self-care, and an advocate for moderate living. But I am no longer a victim of self-loathing, and destructive behaviors.

If you’re curious and need some more resources here are a few that have helped me.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works

Helping of Happiness Podcast Episode on Intuitive Eating

The original Podcast Episode that Introduced me to Intuitive Eating

And one more resource that I love from the Podcast “About Progress”