Guess what? It’s International No Diet Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about the harms of dieting and anti-fat bias. You might not be familiar with the term ‘anti-fat bias’. Effectively it means the bias against fatness in our culture – this could be in the doctor’s office, at the family dinner table, in exercise/ fitness circles, in the media, politics, entertainment – basically everywhere. I came across this really great article by Your Fat Friend, Aubrey Gordon, fat activist and author, who explains what anti-fat bias is and why she no longer talks about fatphobia. I think it’s worth your time to read it.
Most of the time I talk about the harms of dieting. How it robs us of our time, money and energy (mental and physical); how it shreds our body trust and makes us doubt ourselves and our sanity. I talk about the dieting industry and its ingenious business model: it takes your money while making a promise it can’t keep (because diets don’t work for long term weight loss) and then blames YOU for ITS failure! It’s not far from Curry’s selling you a faulty toaster and then selling you another faulty toaster (and another and another), all the while telling you its your fault that the toaster doesn’t toast! I also talk about how dieting is often a precursor for an eating disorder.
What is talked about less often is how dieting can serve a purpose for people beyond weight loss.
Dieting can be used as a way to fit in (when everyone at work and in your social circle talks about what they are or are not eating, what is currently supposed to be healthy or unhealthy etc.). It can be a way that you get a pass if you’re fat (because fat people who aren’t trying to lose weight can face greater judgement than those who are – known as a ‘good fatty’).
Dieting might be a way to tolerate impossible feelings or situations. It can be used as a way to control something in your life, when everything else seems so scary, uncertain and out of control.
It can be a way to try to avoid further stigmatisation and marginalisation if you’re already in a body that is stigmatised and marginalised (think gender non-conforming, LGTBQI and Black and Brown people in a white dominant hetero-normative culture). A good analogy is skin lightening creams. There’s no doubt about their harmfulness to mental and physical health and well being. But if you live in a culture where lighter skin affords you social and economic currency, you can see why people will risk the harm it can bring. The same can be said for dieting.
While I absolutely do not budge an inch from my opinion that dieting is harmful, I totally get why it can seem like the safest option for some folks. It’s understandable that some people experience a sense of being between a rock and a hard place on this one. While dieting leads to obsession and disconnection with our bodies and food, it can also be a way to try to fit in: to be accepted and included. Our world doesn’t make it easy for all bodies to live unapologetically in their own skins.
Let’s open our arms wide and have compassion for all bodies that are suffering.
As a gift to you today, here’s a Loving Kindness Meditation for your body and all bodies.