It's OK to be. But where are the women who aren't?
So I’m 17, just about to graduate, and have been raised by two parents both wholly entrenched in diet culture who modelled many very very unhealthy behaviours with food throughout my childhood. I did keto with my mom when I was 13, suggested by her, and developed a restrictive eating disorder at 15 that very quickly consumed my life. Later, I began a sort of self-led recovery with my family still unaware i’d been struggling at all, but by this time the ed was making me too unhappy to continue living with. Body neutrality and “food is fuel” type of affirmations really kept me grounded in the beginning and as many with eds do, I wanted to talk about and hear about them, and went looking for podcasts on the subject. I found Maintenance Phase by Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes which introduced me to the concept of fatphobia and fat activism in a way that made so much sense to me. I listened to their entire podcast over the summer and I cannot understate the profound impact that it had on my recovery and my relationship with my body afterward. I felt so seen and valued, and it helped me to realize that the answers I’d been looking for, the reason I felt so bad in my own body just because it wasn’t thin, wasn’t my fault. It obviously took some time to shift my mindset but realizing how fatphobia is rooted in racism, misogyny, patriarchy, and the way that modern beauty and diet culture profits off of these things made me too mad to continue to put myself on diets, and I couldn’t justify it to myself. I’ve really noticed changes in my daily life, eating is less stressful, I put less pressure on myself on days when I eat a lot of “bad” foods, and I’m able to recognize how my upbringing and my experiences have shaped my relationship with my body. I feel now nothing but grateful for coming to this realization so early in my life, when many women never do. Now I’m just trying to teach this to my mom.
Fellow American millennial woman here, and (oddly enough?) I do feel at ease most of the time in my body. Two things I think have helped: living abroad for the past 10 years (better quality food, less cultural fixation on bodies in general) and also learning to sew clothing for myself and finding out what patterns/fabrics I most enjoy, both in terms of how they look and how they feel. Sewing really drives home the idea that it's the garment's job to fit your body, not the other way around.
I've been reading your writing for a while now and I really appreciate your perspective on these issues. Good luck with your book proposal!
You’re so right about projection and discomfort with others’ bodies. I often feel that, and try to check myself. After an adolescence of disordered eating followed by a 15 year period of feeling relatively happy with my body (perhaps only because I tended to be thin without much effort) I felt totally upended by perimenopause and menopause. Again, my body was a foreign thing that didn’t feel familiar or comfortable. I felt both a) compassionate towards my younger self. i.e., If puberty felt at all like this, no wonder I freaked out, and b) dubious that I’d ever fully recovered from my eating disorder in the first place. which made me feel ashamed, and also shallow as I obsessed all over again about food and body size. It was disappointing to note that, for me, self acceptance was conditional. Things are easier now, but It’s a daily practice to let go of bodily preoccupation, allow regular eating of AnY food, and focus more on life than body image -- like the fictional young woman did. That last is one of the keys, I think. But hardly an easy groove to find. Love your writing; thanks!
I have come to use “What the fuck business is it of yours?” (Mostly silently) as my go-to response to being judged.
The less other people have to say about my body, the better I tend to feel about it. Being allowed to exist in peace, without comments about how I look or what I eat, should be basic human decency afforded to everyone.
Every post from you is better than the previous one!
This reminds me of what Glennon Doyle said on her podcast: “loving your body would mean that it is an entirely different entity and not part of you.”
To me personally, having to love my body is just one more extra effort that I have to make. I don’t feel like my body is there to be thought about or even loved. My goal is to ignore it, cause it’s just there.
My journey of making peace with my body after decades of chronic dieting and disordered eating coincidentally aligned with my working through my people-pleasing tendencies. I used to think I owed everyone and their grandma an explanation for what I did, ate, said, wore. Now I'm at a place in my life where it's ok if people are uncomfortable with me/my body--that's their problem, not mine. I don't owe you shit! It's definitely not static (depending on mood/emotions/hormones) but I feel more secure in myself now than I ever did when I thought I had "control" over my body.
Also. Lifting weights! You can't make gains on 1,200 calories a day. Praise be, Casey Johnston/Swole Woman.
Why would Zoe's mom make her go see a therapist? I didn't read that book and there may be more context missing. But if I had a child that worked their hobby naked, *in private*, who am I to say that there's something wrong with that?
I wrestle with this constantly. I am not sure how to unpick all the voices in my head about diet culture, and sometimes even reading positive things about bodies and relationships with food can encourage unhelpful things. Perhaps acknowledging this will help us be more honest about it.
Yes, I am mostly at ease with my body most of the time. I'm happy enough with how it looks, but I also don't place much value on that. I have an affirmation which is 'I value, respect and nourish my body to thank it for carrying me through life'. My body is a vehicle. I owe it the respect of looking after it, and I feel gratitude to it for the things it has and continues to enable me to do. I am grateful that I can climb a mountain or ride a bike. I am thankful that it has grown 4 children for me.