Trigger Warnings: Disordered eating, intentional weight loss, emotional abuse, self harm, suicidality, suicidal thoughts, mental illness.
When I was a kid, diet culture was a family tradition. Almost every adult around me had a toxic relationship with their body and food. I was surrounded by sugar-free candies, Sweet-N-Low, I can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, Skinny Cow, Crystal Light, and diet sodas. In fact, I really thought that Sweet-N-Low and Diet Sodas were “adult foods”. Like when you become an adult, you learn to drive… and bein putting Sweet-N-Low in your coffee and drinking Coke Zero instead of regular Coke.
Hating your body and having a toxic relationship with food was a normal part of adulthood in my eyes. I watched my grandmas and parents and aunts try Atkins and Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and go from Pilates Classes to Zumba classes. As a kid, I was always told that (despite being “chubby”) my body was perfect, but when you see the adults with body similar to yours doing everything they can to change them… even kids are smart enough to read between the lines.
When I finished meals, I would sneak food at night. I would quietly slip downstairs and binge eat whatever food we had. I had come to learn that the less food you could survive on, the better. So anything more was shameful and done in secret. This binge eating behavior was one that has followed me throughout my life.
It also didn’t help that as a preteen, my gramma brought me to Barnes and Noble, told me to pick whatever book I wanted, but then presented me with “The Diet for Teens Only”. True story. She also would insist on healthy snacks when my sister and I visited while my grandfather snuck us candies and ice cream. This was just more proof to me that eating foods like this was something that should be done in secret.
I’m not blaming my relationship with my body on my family. I truly believe that they were doing the best that they could, and diet culture is a cruel mistress. I just think that it set the foundation and core belief in my life that fatness is to be avoided at all costs. Of course, being bullied in high school and being very aware that I was the biggest of my friends throughout my life.
In 2016, I lost a substantial amount of weight. And honestly, losing that weight felt like it was proving my beliefs true. Around the same time I lost weight, I was in my very first relationship, I had moved to a new state, I got to travel to Europe, I graduated from college, I was making new friends, I received more compliments about my appearance than I ever had before…
And I began telling myself the story that I had bettered myself. I was better because I was thinner.
But life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed, even to me. My relationship was far from perfect, and to keep and maintain the weight loss, I was barely eating and exercising for hours a day, while still binge eating in secret. I asked my ex if he would still love me if I gained the weight back, and his response was “You won’t gain the weight back.”
Because of this, I was terrified to gain the weight back, and was doing everything in my power to continue losing the weight and keep it off.
But surprise surprise… the weight loss was not sustainable. Especially after experiencing trauma. I gained the weight back.
And in the years that have followed, I’ve gained more and more weight.
When I underwent more trauma in 2019, I gained weight. When COVID hit and I was isolated for almost six months, I gained more weight.
But despite this all, I don’t want to try to lose weight. What I’ve learned is that my story is not unique. Oftentimes, weight loss is not sustainable and the majority of diets are unsuccessful or unsustainable.
Something else I’ve learned is that when we talk about the importance of health, we need to include mental health in that conversation. Mental health IS health. If I push myself to try to lose weight, is there actually a war for me to do so without sacrificing my mental health? No. There’s not.
My relationship with food is still difficult. I still struggle with binge eating, specifically using it as an unhealthy coping mechanism. I’ve realized that emotional eating isn’t bad in itself, but when bingeing is used to excessively numb emotions… that’s the problem (at least personally.).
This leads to guilt and shame, and oftentimes, guilt and shame lead to more binge eating. It is such a vicious cycle.
But this is why I am actively trying to improve my relationship with food and my body. My body has been through so much, and she does so much for me. She also happens to be fat. Why is it that society is so hyper-focused on the fat part instead of all that our bodies are capable of?
Why is fat considered one of the worst things a person can be?