'Est 7 min read
Last week we talked about diet culture in my blog post “Diet Culture: Is it Consuming You?” Much of the diet culture messaging you receive throughout your life is out of your control. This week, we're going to talk about the piece that you can control. We can't control that we're mired in diet culture, that we all live in this system of oppression, or that those systems are real and exist, but you can start to dismantle and reject those ideas. What can you do? Part of that is looking at an aspect that you can control: what are you taking in? What are you consuming?
First, let's look at self criticism. Self criticism around food and your body is internalized Anti-fat Bias. This is internalized diet culture messaging. Shilo George talked about those thoughts as an invasive species. They come, they're not yours, they are invasive, and they get all up in your brain. Self-criticism is perpetuating those messages.
What do you do about it? Increase awareness around self-criticism. Have a lot of compassion for yourself with it because this is a process that takes time. You may need to get support around it, but increase your awareness around your self critical thoughts and start to shift them. Noticing when they happen, celebrating, having awareness over these thoughts, that's a step in the direction that you want to be going and then questioning them. If you're having a thought like, “Oh, I'm fat, my jeans are tight”, first off, remember, being fat isn't bad. And it is anti-fat bias to believe so. So check that piece.
Second, ask yourself, is size really a measure of your value? Its not, but this idea might be lurking in your subconscious from the diet culture BS messaging. Your size doesn't change your value. Consider that it's possible that you can accept yourself as you are in this moment, regardless of your jeans being tight, it's possible that you just need some clothes that fit on your body, rather than trying to fit into clothes that don't fit you.
Speaking of tight clothes….one of the ways that we continue to consume diet culture messaging, is by going to retailers that only offer smaller sizes, or that value and promote a thin aesthetic. Are you going to someplace that all their models/mannequins are thin? Do you have to scrounge around to find your size or are you going someplace that is size inclusive? When you go to try on clothes, one of the ways that you can begin to shift this, is by not assuming that you should fit into the clothes, they should fit on your body.
What I recommend is when you try on clothes, make sure that you're getting a range of sizes and that you start at a higher size so that you're not trying to squeeze into a size that is too small for your body. Then, in the dressing room, actually turn around, don't face the mirror, put the clothes on, see if they're comfortable. If they're not comfortable, then take them off. And don't ever look at yourself in them. Then if you do get to the point where you find clothes that you like that feel comfortable, turn around and see if you like the way that they look on you. Recognize that these are going to look different than they do on a model or on a mannequin, which isn't even a human. Most of the images that you're seeing around this are going to be airbrushed. They're going to be highly posed. Clothes don't look like that on average human beings.
Again, consider where you are shopping. If you have access, shop at size inclusive stores. One of my favorite places to shop is Mary Rose Northwest Boutique in downtown Oregon City, for those of you who are in the Portland area, but it's also online!! They are a body size inclusive retailer.
This leads into the next area of consumption, media. What are you consuming in terms of media? Are you getting Glamour magazine? Are you getting magazines where the vast majority of their pictures are of thin white models? Or are you getting magazines that have a diverse group of people? I simply skip them all together and actually make a point of not even looking at them when I'm in line at the grocery store.
Where are the other places that you are seeing this kind of thin white beauty cultural norm? What shows are you watching? Do you have shows that have a variety of bodies, sizes, different ethnic backgrounds, different abilities, different ages? I really have struggled to find shows that have a variety of diverse groups of people in them. I try to watch those shows when I can. Even in books, podcasts, we experience anti-fat bias…consider where else are you getting images that are promoting thin ideal? In books, you might be surprised, because it's not actually a graphic usually. Most characters are thin and the thinness is valued. Are you reading books that say harmful things about larger bodies? That's anti-fat bias that's going to reinforce to your brain that thin is good and fat bodies are bad.
Last, take a hard look at social media, this is a place where we consume so many images and this is a place where we get a lot of diet culture messaging.
What's in your feed? Are you following accounts where people are having before and after pictures where people are promoting diets? Are you getting a lot of ads for Noom, Paleo, and Whole 30? These ads you can actually report them if you want to and say you don't want to see this. Over time, it does reduce, I still get them occasionally, but it's much reduced. I've unfollowed all the accounts where people are promoting fitness as wellness, or promoting weight loss, encouraging weight loss, and instead, we want to replace that.
You don't want to just take away those accounts, you also want to replace that with a lot of diversity, including size, ethnicity, diverse range of age and ability levels. There are some really great social media accounts I will link at the end of this. Follow these accounts and start following some of the fat adventurers who are out there; they're fat advocates out there doing things that I couldn't personally do, but I'm working on it. Following these accounts really opened my eyes to my own internalized Anti-Fat Bias, the ideas that I had that limited what I thought was possible for people who don't fit the thin ideal. They're living life to the fullest. Recognize that you have the ability to enjoy life at every size and that your body is good as it is regardless of what it looks like. It's helpful to have a variety of images coming in and having accounts where you're seeing that in real life.
For some people, it can be helpful to follow accounts where people are wearing very little clothes, because just appreciating all of the curves and dimples, the differences and nuances of all the human bodies, stretch marks, scars, what real bodies look like, can be really helpful. For other people it can be activating. If you are still having a lot of those diet culture messages ingrained, that actually might make you activate those anti-fat bias thoughts. You might internalize some of those. Be conscious of what feels right for you and get support if you think you need it.
I hope this blog was helpful and if you need support or if you have questions, feel free to reach out to me Tiffany@coachtiffanyrn.com.
Social Media Accounts to Follow:
Body liberation activist Jes Baker
Mirna Valerio (@themirnavator)
Ashley Manning (@ashleysadventure)
Jolie Varela (@indigenouswomenhike)
Sam Ortiz (@samortizphoto and @biggirlsclimbtoo)
Megan Banker (@pdxoutdoorchiro)
Ashlee Bennett (@bodyimage_therapist)
Erik Cavanaugh (@erikcavanaugh)
Amanda Lacount (@amandalacount)
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale.