I’ve recently started actively trying to unlearn the weight bias and eating choices foisted upon me by diet culture, by following the anti-diet, ‘health at every size’ nutritionist @laurathomasphd, and by listening to a number of her podcasts, including one recently with guest Fiona Willer. She acerbically referred to her ‘phase’ of being a ‘vegetarian’ and how ‘we all go through it’. As a vegan of 12 years standing who is highly unlikely to ever go back to being an omnivore, I was a little concerned to hear vegetarianism labelled as part of a phase that everybody goes through, and I have seen advice on a number of body positive blogs to eating what you like and ‘screwing’ diet culture, which seems to include any diet that cuts out whole food groups.
As it is for many people, food is a complex issue for me. Since my first diet at the age of 13, which resulted in significant weight loss, a slimmer silhouette and a ton of compliments, I have weight cycled my anxiety-riddled way through life and, just when I thought I’d finally beaten my binge-eating disorder, and achieved four years of highly socially acceptable thinness and fitness, I was forced by a number of difficult family circumstances to acknowledge that I was FAR from well, and was indeed living my life under the tyrannical laws of numbers, scales, calories and prescribed doses of excessive exercise. I was diagnosed with bulimia, and realised that my exercise was almost exclusively compensatory and completed with weight management in mind. There was little joy in it, and I felt compelled to burn hundreds of calories per day even when exhausted and stressed. I lost my periods and am still a little confused as to why a doctor didn’t pick up on the link between my disordered eating and the menstrual problem. They said it could be menopause but it wasn’t, as once I embarked upon a course of most excellent counselling and regained some eating normality, I returned to full health in that respect.
So far, so good. I am so over diet culture and am now angry at the way that it messed up my relationship with food, my body and my ability to set a healthy example to my children. I am angry that a white, thin body is the only type to be actively admired by the vast majority of our population. I am even angrier that the vast majority of our population spend so much bloody time thinking about the appearance of our bodies when there are so many more important things to do than to focus on how much people weigh and the size of their thighs. Why is it all about being ‘sexy’? For heaven’s sake, we don’t all have sex twenty-four-seven and I’m sure people don’t think about it anywhere near as much as the advertising industry would have us believe. I say ‘people’ loosely as it’s still primarily women who are constantly objectified in this demeaning way, but I am aware that many of our young men are developing ‘bigorexia’ and muscle dysmorphia in response to the objectification and rampant sexualisation of the male body also.
I really admire @bodyposipanda and I love what many of the #bopo community are doing on social media. However, the narrative is still ‘beauty’ and what constitutes ‘beauty’. Whilst I am completely in agreement that thin white bodies are far from the only ‘beautiful’ body type, I cannot help but feel sad and sorry that we are apparently reduced to whether we are ‘beautiful’ or not. Do we have to be? Are we simply here for our aesthetic or our fuckability? I really think the world would be a better place if we could simply be ourselves with all our flaws, and ugly bits, and just get on with our relationships with each other, and talk, and listen, and try to fix important things like, for example, the pressing concerns of global warming, social inequality, the iron tight hold of big corporations on our economy and this self-absorbed and corrupt government that is literally throwing people from our most vulnerable demographic out to the coldness of our city’s streets.
As for veganism, I’d like to point out to the body positive and health inclusive community that it is far, far more important than a diet. Many vegans are indeed unhealthily obsessed with kale smoothies, avocado and sourdough and protein smoothies for their post-gym refuel, and doubtless many middle-class white women are vegan for the alleged magic of vegan detox mumbo jumbo peddled by the likes of Simply Ella. I’m not denying that this exists and is an extension of diet culture rubbish, marketed under the guise of ‘health’. But for the vast majority of us, we have become irrevocably convinced that the meat industry is cruel, unsustainable and immoral. We do not want to contribute to the suffering of dairy cows who are separated from their calves. We don’t want to contribute to an industry that sends young, helpless male calves on a 3 day trip to Spain to be sold for veal. It’s obscene. We also want to make a difference to global warming and veganism is the single biggest thing we can do to achieve this.
Veganism isn’t perfect. Soya products are grown in cleared rainforest, and orangutangs and other wildlife are affected by this, but the vast majority of soy is grown to feed cattle. Stop the demand for cattle rearing and a tiny fraction of that soy would feed the same number of humans. We can’t be perfect and none of us are, but veganism really makes sense. I wouldn’t change my lifestyle for the world, and am now body positive, anti-diet and more and more ‘woke’ by the day (stupid word but relevant). So don’t take a genuinely moral stance, one that will change the world, and dismiss it as a diet or a fad. You can be a vegan whatever your size, shape, ethnicity, sexuality or socio-economic status (although the government needs to make fresh foods more affordable, to be honest, but that’s a different post). And I hope that the vegan trend will continue to grow. Now off to browse @thevegankind for some very anti-diet Christmas treats.