Sometimes when I talk about diet culture, intuitive eating and health at every size (HAES), I feel like I’m too radical or too extreme. Whether I’m writing an essay or explaining my experiences to a friend, I can feel like I’m trying to sell or preach some crazy ideology.
But when I take a step back and think about what I am really supporting, it is simple.
1. Everyone and every body deserve care and respect
2. No one needs to diet or to try to lose weight
3. Eating can be easy when you listen to your body’s signals of hunger, fullness and pleasure
4. Movement can be fun when you focus on how it makes you feel
5. Health is a nuanced concept and there is not a single version that applies to everyone
These concepts feel natural and straight-forward. However, I suppose what can feel radical and counter-cultural is the implementation of these ideas. Especially because these are not the narratives we normally hear about our bodies.
I would say the extreme ideas are the lies that diet culture has insidiously been preaching. Sadly, these concepts have been largely accepted by our culture and healthcare.
1. You only deserve to love your body if it looks perfect- and it’s not there yet, so keep trying!
2. Everyone needs to diet and should lose some weight- smaller is always better
3. Eating needs to be complicated with strict rules and absolutely no pleasure or comfort eating
4. Movement only matters if it is intense, uncomfortable exercise
5. Health is all about being thin- do whatever it takes to be thin!
Comparing the lists, which option seems extreme? Which seems to promote health, well-being and joy?
I lived years of my life believing and implementing the lies of diet culture. I was miserable, anxious and felt out of control with my emotions and my eating. Now I try to embody the ideals of that first list and I feel powerful and balanced. Like everyone, I have bad body image days but I no longer allow those fleeting feelings about my body to control my life.
Is it radical to care for and respect your body just as it is? Is it crazy to think that you can’t determine someone’s health by their size? Is it extreme to STOP dieting? Maybe yes. Maybe no.
All I know is that this perspective shift has fundamentally changed my life for the better. I will continue to live, support, discuss and promote the simple concepts of the first list based in HAES, intuitive eating and anti-diet culture. Hopefully someday those ideas will be the ones that seem natural and easy.
Thanks for reading!