I have a complicated relationship with my body, in that, I don’t really like it.
Growing up, I was exposed to diet culture very early on. Think of a prominent diet program from the late 90s/early 00s and I guarantee it’s had a place in my home. It wasn’t for me, of course – I was skin and bone until hormones kicked in and one day I wasn’t skin and bone anymore. But it made me hyper aware of the changes in my body because I was already hardwired to see them as a bad thing. I curse 13 yr old me for thinking I was too fat for skinny jeans or midriff tops. If that girl could see me now, she’d be genuinely horrified, because at that age my idea of “fat” was so warped.
I know I am technically skinny and I always have been, and the body positivity movement isn’t meant for me. So that isn’t what this is about. I’ve talked before about how amazing the body posi crowd is, and how incredibly attractive women who love themselves are. I do think a lot of that comes down to confidence, and knowing how to carry yourself, which is something I don’t have or know how to do. But I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about that.
I myself, am no stranger to yo-yo dieting – in my early 20s I lost a significant amount of weight in my final year of uni while existing on a diet of steamed vegetables, vegemite toast and stress. Strangely enough I piled all that weight back on. Now, there’s a 10 kilo window I bounce around and have been bouncing around for the last 5 or so years (though in a much healthier way than that last year of uni).
And I’m not going to pretend that my self-confidence doesn’t increase exponentially when it’s at the mid to lower range of that window. While I accept now that I’ve never been “fat”, even at my heaviest, it doesn’t change how unattractive and unappealing I feel about the little bit of extra padding I get. I’ve been working out hard the last 4 months and as a result I actually enjoyed shopping for a new pair of togs in anticipation of Summer. I mean, I’ll see how I feel when it actually comes time to walk out on a beach in them, but the first part wasn’t entirely torturous.
I (mostly) enjoy exercising, although the less cardio the better. I also really like to eat. Borderline eating disorders are not a concern for me anymore, I promise. But I still go on the odd diet. I still track my macros and say no to cookies and pizza while I turn to face yet another bowl of chicken and spinach. Somewhere along the line that has become less of a “oh good for you” type thing and is now “dieting is bad, how dare you try to be healthier!” type thing. It’s become this shameful thing I’m no longer sure I can talk about publicly because I’ve seen other people / bloggers / influencers (whatever) face backlash for not promoting an “eat whatever you want as often as you want” lifestyle. In this post-body positivity world, wanting to change the way you look or even just wanting to be healthier seems kind of controversial?
So I ask, am I not allowed to talk about my insecurities with my weight? Am I not allowed to be proud of myself when I slim down a bit? Can I talk about how this whole thing makes me feel without it detracting from a) my feminism b) the blatant toxicity of the diet industry and c) the fact that I’ve never actually faced any discrimination because of how I look?
I have a before / after photo sitting in my camera roll I was really tempted to share in my stories because I’m proud of myself… but I didn’t. Because I thought of all the disclaimers I’d feel obliged to put on it and I got exhausted. You know what I mean; “I have been eating healthier and drinking less, but I still eat burgers all the time I swear”, or “I don’t actually know how much I weigh right now!”, and “I know I look fine in the first photo but I feel better in the second one” and etc etc etc. Even when I mentioned earlier about “working out hard” I almost added in a “sometimes” or a “kind of” by way of downplaying the effort. A couple of weeks ago, I actually and legitimately saw an Instagrammer put a disclaimer like this on her commitment to doing 20 sit ups in the morning? Like why does that need an explanation? Why is doing some sit ups something you should need to apologise for?
And I get it; we have a responsibility not to trigger people (especially those of us that write about mental health, because weight and MH are regularly closely linked) and a responsibility not to scar anyone (in the same way I was) into thinking they’re not skinny enough, or into thinking there’s a “right” way to look.
I know it’s about balance. I mean, me personally, I’m still working on it. But when I say I turn away from treats sometimes, it’s probably because I know I want burritos for dinner, or there’s a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge I’m thirsting after. I know I don’t really like cake, so I would rather put those calories to good use and have an extra handful of chips. That’s the kind of balance I’m talking about it.
And despite all that, all the squats and the burritos, I still don’t really like my body, but I like it better when it’s smaller. Am I allowed to admit that?
Fuck, now I just want a burrito.
What do you think? Has dieting become a bad thing? Are we still allowed to talk about our body issues, or are we meant to love ourselves all the time? Tell me about it below.
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