My family and diet culture

The whole time I was home, mom would periodically start in on eating healthier and getting more exercise, which sure, I agree, are beneficial things and I do my best, but when I have no money, buying healthy foods is a challenge, and there are few safe spaces for me to exercise in. My neighborhood is not safe to walk around in, that’s for sure, and I don’t have the money for a gym or any classes. I tried to explain that, when I’m in the middle of a downswing, I don’t *care* about those things. Getting out of bed and putting on clothes is sometimes all I can manage in a day. I can tell she’s trying to understand, but this still seems completely foreign and lazy to her. She just wants me to get on with it and just do it already and has a hard time not thinking I’m just being lazy.

I mostly tried not to let this bother me, but I really had to grit my teeth when my sister came home, and the real diet talk began between the two of them. Talking about calories per serving, my sister talking about going to the gym twice a day and mom wholeheartedly endorsing it (while I sit there, thinking of the thinspo images my sister has all over her kitchen, how my sister has a poster on her wall where she measures various parts of her body multiple times a week, how she’s actually had problems where she was all kinds of disoriented because she’d cut too much protein out of her diet and probably could’ve died… How her fiancee encourages this behavior, constantly comments on her body, and often comes up with new ideas for diets for the two of them to try, all of which scares me to death.

Is this how we’re going to measure our life?

Both my mother and my sister are obsessed about their weight and size and are all kinds of crazy about looking “right” for my sister’s wedding this summer. At some point this past weekend, my sister said, “I love my birthday! It’s an excuse to eat cake with no guilt!”

I looked her dead in the eye and said, “I never feel guilty about eating cake.”

Because I don’t. I’m at peace with my body, I like how I look, and constantly strive to undo the damage living in my family’s diet culture has done.

“Diet culture, even when it doesn’t involve surgeries or starvation or physical harm (although it very often does involve these things) is violence. Even the language of diet culture is about hurt: burn those calories, zap that fat, I’ve been so bad, no pain no gain, beat the hunger, crush the cravings, fight the fat, battle the bulge, waging war on obesity. See? All about the hurt. It’s no wonder then that some people seem to perceive fat acceptance as a new kind of danger. Some assume it’s a movement that promotes harm to one’s own body or to the health of others, or even to taxpayers. It doesn’t. It simply illuminates this fact: if there is a war on obesity, there’s a war on ‘obese people’ and those people have a right to resist. So we do, often by opting out of the war altogether and making peace with bodies. I don’t want to fight my body anymore and I sure as hell don’t want to fight yours, whatever size it is. In fact, I don’t even want all that rhetoric about fighting. Why are softer words (embrace, accept, listen) less utilized? Traits commonly seen as ‘feminine’ and therefore weak — like kindness – are actually some of the most effective mechanisms we have to use against fat-hate. It’s hard to sell diet pills to someone who’d like to be gentle on themselves, accept themselves for who they are, listen to what their body needs and embrace size diversity. And it’s hard to see how creating a world without diet pills wouldn’t be a win for feminism.”

-“Fat Acceptance: when kindness is activism,” by Spilt Milk on Feministe.

And my nearly 29-year-old body bears a lot of scars from diet culture. Mom says I didn’t start to gain significant weight until my dad left, but that’s when my period started, and the really disordered eating started happening because that’s when my mom stopped eating. For months, she lived on salad and coffee, and constantly commented on her body. So I started eating in secret, shamed due to how my mom treated my weight gain, the constant lectures while watching her live in such a disordered fashion. She put me on diets, too, and then scolded and shamed me when I didn’t lose weight. I’m pretty sure that this whole time my thyroid wasn’t working right, so I couldn’t have lost weight if my life depended on it. I did try, hard, every diet, but I’d give up once mom started in on how I must be cheating or I’d have lost more weight by now. So I continued to yo-yo for YEARS, trying out various diets and failing all of them, constantly bearing the concern trolling from my family.

It wasn’t until I was on my own that some of the disordered eating slowed down, and once I discovered Health at Every Size and fat acceptance, I really started to like my body how it is and stopped mistreating it so badly.

Moving home could undo a lot of that. On the other hand, I deliberately left Fat!So? and Health at Every Size there when I left. Passive-aggressive? A little. But I didn’t want to talk about it any more, as I’d done nothing but be on the defensive for a week.

Maybe mom’ll take the hint and read it, and learn a little bit about how NOT to treat me.

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Filed under Civil Rights, Fat Rights, Now

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