New Year’s Resolution No. 1: Ditch Diet Culture

Christmas is not always 'the most wonderful time of the year' for those of us for whom eating comes tangled up with feelings of dread. The festive period can feel very daunting when you struggle with an eating disorder/disordered eating, particularly with the lack of structure to meals, the pressure to eat more with larger groups of people and the constant focus on what is being consumed next. Sharing delicious food with people we love should be an enriching and celebratory occasion; however, in my personal experience Christmas can leave me feeling drained due to the constant battle I have to fight against my disordered thoughts. 

 

And yet what angers me most is that we are not allowed to simply adapt to our perhaps temporarily larger bodies once the new year arrives. We are immediately bombarded by diet advice, weight loss products and exercise regimes, not to mention the number of influencers promoting laxative tea. I remember getting a Slimming World leaflet through my door on New Year’s Day last year whilst in the darkest months of my anorexia, and tearing it to pieces. If only dismantling diet culture was that simple. The concept of dieting is so ingrained that the very real danger it poses is not acknowledged. Diets normalise and encourage disordered eating behaviours, such as counting calories, avoiding ‘bad’ foods, and praising thin, toned bodies for ‘succeeding’. The number of people diagnosed with eating disorders rose by 15% between 2000 and 2013, the most significant increase being amongst men. Although many factors in modern society contribute towards this, young people do not decide to hate their bodies, they are taught to do so. 

 

For someone who has a troubled relationship with food, it is completely normal to be struggling with more disordered thinking as a result of the constant triggers present at this time of year. The only thing that matters is your own response to these thoughts. Remember that food is not a tool to alter the shape of your body. Just because everyone around you is engaging with diet culture does not mean you have to do so as well. You do not need to earn your next meal or feel guilty about anything you have eaten. The glorification of weight loss stems from patriarchal structures that historically, have oppressed women into taking up less space. As long as we remain occupied by consumption due to relentless pressure to conform to beauty standards, companies continue to generate profit – in Britain the diet industry is worth over £2 billion. 

 

I have entered 2019 weighing 15kg more than I did at the start of 2018, and with so much more happiness in my life than I would have thought possible during my lowest moments. Regardless of whether you have a diagnosed eating disorder or not, we all need to be especially resilient to diet culture at the moment and mindful of the media we consume. Don’t forget, we’ll need to build up our defences against the onslaught of 'bikini body' diets which will soon be upon us… 

 

Helpful websites

Beat - https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/your-stories/coping-with-new-year

ABC - http://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/ (Bristol-based organisation)