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Sometimes Our Heroes Make Mistakes

I’m taking a short break from my Health Toolkit series to share something else that has been on my mind lately.

Brené Brown has been of the most influential voices in my healing and my writing. If you have read some of my previous work, you know I recommend her often. I have read most of her books and listen to her podcast frequently.

Last summer while I was listening to her podcast, she said a comment about belly fat as a joke. This concerned me greatly. While she occasionally talks about her diet in a problematic way, this comment was undeniably fatphobic. I decided to write a letter addressing my concerns.

I haven’t done anything with this letter until now because I was not sure what to do. I couldn’t find an email and it is too long for a social media message. I decided to post it here and I know it is doubtful that Brené Brown will ever read my letter. However, I wanted to share it for others who might have noticed and/or were harmed by this concerning behavior.

My purpose is not to “cancel” her or “shame” her but rather to acknowledge her flaws. Sometimes our heroes make mistakes.

Dear Brené Brown,

I am so grateful for you and your work. Your book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” found me when I was in a really low place. I knew something about my life needed to change but I was unclear where to start.

When I read “If we want children who love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are,” I began to tear up. I immediately knew what was wrong. I did not love myself. After that, I started going to counseling again.

I say “again” because I had also seen a counselor in college due to disordered eating and body image struggles. I thought those issues were long gone because I had stopped doing the eating disorder (ED) behaviors. However, with counseling, I realized I was still believing the ED/ diet culture lies.

I wanted to share my experience because I have read most of your books and frequently listen to your podcasts. I know body image is something you also struggle with and I truly appreciate your vulnerability and openness with this topic. What I am curious about is if you have ever looked into or read about Intuitive Eating and/or Health at Every Size. These movements have been extremely helpful for me.

In your podcast, you have mentioned being on a restrictive diet and feeling out of control around food. This is something I can relate to. During my disordered eating days, I worked so hard to eat “good” and “healthy” foods. Still, I would binge- either on snacks at a party or the entire bag of whatever “treat” I had hidden away. I felt out of control and guilty. I was convinced I just needed to try harder.

Through counseling and reading, I have learned that binging was not the issue. The problem was the restriction. I wasn’t weak or addicted to food, rather I was believing a lie that diets are healthy, helpful, and necessary. “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole offers robust research and scientific evidence explaining how diets are harmful and ineffective.

I would love to hear an interview with Evelyn Tribole on your podcast. Lexie Kite and Lindsay Kite would also be great podcast guests. I recently read their book "More Than a Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament" and it was phenomenal. Their book discusses all of these topics with a focus on self-objectification. Their message would be helpful for so many people struggling with negative body image.

The last thing I wanted to address is that on one of the sister series podcasts last summer you joked about a belly fat mantra. I understand this was just a casual “funny” comment to your sisters but it was fatphobic and hurtful for those in larger bodies. Fat is not funny, bad, or scary. Fat is a descriptor and should have no moral value.

I listened to your podcast on feedback and love the idea that “clear is kind.”

For the sake of clarity and kindness, here is my purpose for writing this letter: in your work, I have heard you reference and support diet culture messages. Your work has been so important in my life and hearing you talk about your diet is upsetting.

I hope that by sharing some of the things that have helped heal my body image, I might be able to open your mind and your podcast to some new ideas in this area. I also felt it was important to address your fatphobic comment. I truly believe you would never want to be harmful with your language.

I hope I have given this feedback in a constructive way. Thank you for all your amazing work. You have made my life better and I am so grateful.

Thank you for reading.

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