diet culture and eating disorders (might be triggering)

I came across a video by Melanie Murphy where she was discussing diet culture, and I fell down a hole of her videos. She’s so cool and candid about things. Sometimes I can get critical about talking about myself in blogs because I doubt that people will want to hear it- but when I see influencers like her sharing their journeys it inspires me.

I’ve been more into taking care of myself lately because of my newfound love for physical activity. Since doing pole dance and being really committed to improving my performance- I’ve been more aware of the effects that starving myself of nutritional value has.

If I don’t eat right, I can’t get by as well as I used to, and life becomes unenjoyable. That’s a consequence I never noticed so much before.

A couple of weeks ago I reserved a book in the library called ‘Just Eat It’ by Laura Thomas. I’m probably gonna do a review of it when I get to read it. It’s about how diet culture has basically drowned out our natural human instinct when it comes to food and it’s changed our relationship with it over time. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a piece of food and didn’t attach a connotation like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ to the object. After sharing my enthusiasm about the book on Instagram someone who had previously read it told me that there’s a workbook that helps you alter your perception of food- like therapy without going to a therapy session.

I’ll definitely share any revelations that gives me if I think it’ll be something that’s generally helpful.

For context, I connected with Melanie Murphy’s video because she’s currently in food therapy. She has a history of eating disorders and does a ‘food diary Friday’ which doesn’t just document what she eats but it also has her talking about why she doesn’t give a shit about tracking every little detail about what she eats anymore.

I had an eating disorder through my teenage years (which I’ve mentioned before) that was never really picked up on or dealt with. The thing about eating disorders is that they usually don’t go away they just morph into different disorders over time. That’s something I learned from Melanie.

I started off with orthorexia, which I only just found out was a thing.

I’ve had orthorexia ever since I can remember. I think I even had it in primary school. I would be irritated if someone offered me food that I considered unhealthy, and while I kind of knew it was completely irrational I just considered myself to be ‘on my grind’.

In my teens, my orthorexia then became a binge eating disorder. My body would take so much but then I would literally eat an entire loaf of bread, regardless of whether I had something to put on it. I would be in so much pain.

In my childhood I was somewhat exposed to binge eating. It became a thing where I would eat healthy all week with regimented ‘breakfast/ packed lunch/ dinner’ and then at the weekend my sister and I would run riot and eat whatever whenever. There wasn’t really any structure.

In my early teens I went from having a childlike body to one that I wanted to look good as I grew.

I remember over the summer in 2013 I became unhealthily obsessed with Blogilates. I did a minimum of 30 mins cardio a day, paired with one of their ab and thigh workouts. I rationed out chicken to eat over the week and only ate fruit and veg aside from that. Then I would go mental and eat like half a pack of rich teas and cry after.

At the end of the summer I lost a lot of weight (not that I could notice it) and I was congratulated for it, but I was really unhealthy.

This mentality kind of stuck with me. I developed quite extreme food anxiety and I never ate in school. Literally ever. For about 7 years I ate in front of my two best friends (and family when I got home) and that was it. Going out to eat with family for somebody’s birthday riddled me with anxiety and I would dread going on the off chance that someone I knew would see me.

I also developed a mild and short-lived case of bulimia. It wasn’t consistent but I would binge and purge occasionally over a few months.

When I left sixth form, I went vegan/vegetarian and became healthier in terms of body image. All that said, food still somewhat makes me anxious. I don’t think I could ever go on a dinner date. I’m now in (self-educational) recovery because I realise that there’s something wrong.

What I’ve learned from Melanie is that diet culture has really ruined my perception of food without me even noticing.

I was always so rejecting of the idea of a ‘diet’ because ‘diets’ are lame and they’re what ‘superficial dummy girls’ do. But at the same time I didn’t really get that I couldn’t keep up just restrictively eat like that for months on end. Blogilates told me to do a diet plan so that I could have abs so I did the diet plan and got the abs. But what about when you stop the diet plan and the abs go away?

I was taught that a healthy lifestyle means eating good food and exercising all the time. I grew up believing that to be healthy you had to be boring, but in being genuinely healthy for the first time ever I’ve been the happiest and most enthusiastic I’ve ever been. I’m literally only just learning to think with my body and not with my head. Hearing when my body is hungry, hearing when it’s not hungry, listening to what it wants to eat.

I think it’s gradually becoming more obvious that being healthy and maintaining healthy body weight/image is a lifestyle thing. Being healthy means being consistent and both the body and mind share their part in that.

My intention in writing this (despite not really having any answers yet) is to introduce to you the concept of diet culture being incredibly self-destructive. We don’t know how to be in our bodies anymore. Our bodies will not thank us for being restrictive, and military, and hating ourselves for having natural impulses and urges.

Our thought patterns related to food forms in childhood. Maybe your family didn’t have much money, or your parents weren’t very educated on nutrition either, or maybe you grew up thinking ‘I’m not enough’ for one reason or another. You learn to associate wotsits as being a ‘treat’ and therefore you might think eating wotsits is self-love. You learn to associate celery with being healthy so you think eating celery is ‘self-care’.

It’s all a bit more complex than food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and it’s worth exploring.

I hate the idea that I may be triggering anyone, but I’m hopeful that in reading this at least one person may be aware that they need to try loving themselves in the way their body is asking them to.

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