Be Kind To Yourself: Letting Go of Diet Culture is Hard

(thanks to Chachi Power project for the postcard, I needed it this week!)

I know, I know, I sound corny as all get out. But this is something that I have had to re-learn big time since embracing body positivity. For real. It's hard for a lot of us. Especially me sometimes.

For me, letting go of blaming/burying most problems on my body & using food and diets to cope with anxiety and stress has been like peeling off a protective blanket I had on my whole life. Once you are spending less time at war with your body, you might be forced to confront a lot of uncomfortable feelings.

Wonderful, good things come too, but living honestly and unpacking a lifetime of hurt you maybe buried in eating disorders or diets or obsessive exercising that you convinced yourself would finally "fix" you, can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

Maybe you were never the problem in the first place. Maybe you were the child of an alcoholic dad (me), of a broken culture that meant when you comfort ate after a stressful time and gained a few pounds in puberty, you were fat shamed by a doctor even though you were never actually even fat (also me).

And then you were off, on a desperate, all consuming, years long race to shrink your body. Seemingly everyone else was obsessed with shrinking their bodies too, so you were pretty sure you were doing the right thing, no matter how much of a fight your pesky body with its hunger pangs and too round bits tried to fight you.

It's much easier to bury feelings when we are consumed with all of that STUFF. Once that obsession is gone/fading, there is simply more room in your brain. It's important to find new, mentally healthy things to focus on.

Self care is actually vital and let's be honest, I sure as sugar never practiced it in any meaningful way before I let go of diet culture. How could I, I was far too busy tearing myself down.

They say there is a "honeymoon phase" with embracing body positivity/divorcing diet culture, and I think that I was definitely in it for awhile. It's only natural, it's incredibly freeing to truly take all of the pressure to lose weight or "fix" your body off of your shoulders, it's a heavy burden to bear for some of us. It's mentally exhausting. Feeling like you can like, nay love youself, as is, FINALLY, is a giddy damn high.

Even for people who don't use "fixing" their bodies as their primary distraction from feeling the hard stuff might find themselves in this position at some point. I was at a screening of the body acceptance documentary film "Embrace" last week, and while much of it was kind of stuff I already knew, it was reassuring and I think it would be a great film to watch for anyone, regardless of how you  feel about the body positivity thing. It's on Netflix in America, and it's genuinely uplifting, just watch the trailer! It is a great introduction to the idea of body acceptance for people who find that idea radical in itself.

Anyway I digress! What I wanted to say was that in the film, there is a psychologist guy (I think that's what he was?!) who talks about how most people get shaken to their core at various life stages: illness, divorce, death, mid life crisis, etc. Like, it's just a fact, most of us will have a questioning "who are we and what is it all about?" moment at these stages of life, and at that times the stuff that actually matters becomes clearer.

I guess this hit home with me because it took me reaching 40 to get there. Even freaking CANCER wasn't enough to shake me out of wanting my body to look a certain way being the most important thing (cue very large annoyed with self Carrie from Homeland style harumph!).

But that's because I had a lifetime fear of fat built up, and cancer actually made me fat, and feeling out of control of my body when I was sick, looking back it's so obvious why I went back to what I knew, trying to lose weight, to feel some semblance of "control" over things again.

So yes, the past couple of weeks I've felt a bit sad, sort of on and off but mostly constant, which is hard for me. Sitting in that uncomfortable feeling (while at the same time trying to snap myself out of it where possible so it doesn't get to be too much), has been a challenge. I am not in control. I cannot decide to cut out carbs next week and lose 5 lbs to make myself feel better. Making my body smaller doesn't fix my problems. You guys, it only took 25+ years to realize it, but holy crud is it true. I am so done with that cycle of masking my feelings with diets and food forever.

Maybe it's midlife, maybe it's trying to to come to terms with buried past issues, I honestly don't know. I feel like it's low level enough that I can cope. I bought some St. John's Wort, which I haven't taken since college, so I know I am feeling like I need to shake myself out of this if possible. I don't want to sound overly dramatic, I don't believe I am clinically depressed, I have good and bad days. I am just saying it's ok to be sad sometimes and learning to feel that and not bury it is a new thing for me.

I have taken a lot of steps to improve my mental health since I let go of diet culture. I cut out a toxic friendship that I put up with for far too long because I realized that while I may not be co-dependant in romance (I am the opposite I think, it's a miracle I met someone who will put up with me!), I really tend to let friendships go too far in the direction of one sided-ness sometimes, and I am done with that. I do have boundary issues as an adult child of an alcoholic, and tend to want to avoid confrontation at all costs, which are completely signs of co-dependency. I honestly don't know if I can "fix" myself with regards to this, I have avoided therapy my whole life because the few times I went ended in uncontrollable waterworks (hi, INFP me ;-0).

Anyway yeah, feeling all of the feelings can be hard. But I think it's a lot better than not, ultimately (you guys I am so deep!). And during these vunerable times, if you are someone like me, who spent much of their life just like, punishing themselves for no damn reason, learning to be kind to yourself and patient with yourself is pretty crucial.

I have this sort of cheesy song in my head, making me weepy, it's sort of  imprinted in my brain from a distant moment or something, it's Mike & the Mechanics whatever don't judge me I'm having a midlife crisis ;-)! The video is about a yearning for a lost love or something but the "Looking back over my shoulder" and feeling sad/wistful in mid-life type lyrics are what got it in my head I guess. Besides, now that I am old I can finally like uncool music out in the open, yay!



  1. Hang in there. Always on for a meet up if you fancy, or if you need a sounding board x

  2. Two of my sister's and a few friends went through a "quarter life crisis" (that age range 25-30), which luckily I didn't (I don't think?), but who knows what 40 has in store for me. The one sister totally overhauled her wardrobe (my guess is she spent at least five grand), moved out of state and cut her hair. She no longer wears that new wardrobe and went back to how she used to dress. The other one divorced her husband and went on a sex spree.

    Isn't it strange the imaginary benchmarks that affect our mental health? Both my dad and his dad went through a midlife crisis at 40, leading them to be a bit depressed for a few years. Then my dad went through a weird phase in his 50's, trying all sorts of new "hats" on, ha. Fixing up an old sports car, wearing kilts as day wear, trying to get a tan by taking betacaratene and turning orange, becoming a nudist... then finally getting divorced and marrying a high school crush.

    So yeah, I'm just waiting for the crazy to come out of me ;) BUT. My only "advice" is that a midlife crisis is totally normal and there will be light at the end of the tunnel! And who knows what strange and possibly wonderful new directions your brain will lead you. I mean, just ignore my own family's personal brand of crazy, ha.

    1. I would love a wardrobe overhaul but I would probably also go back to my og. ways ha ha. I feel like men get all of the midlife crisis focus, obviously it must happen to women too. It's like all of a sudden everything happened 20 years ago, when maybe you were feeling like your youth was not that far back. It's weird/does make you question "who am I" "Have I turned into a grown up yet?" All of that stuff! :-0

  3. If it helps, I have had counselling, which is different to full on therapy. I did something called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) over a difficult time I was having that I couldn't actually fix at all but had to learn to live with. It is worth a go if you feel brave enough, your GP can refer you to a counsellor and the ones I visited helped me sort out my head and let a lot of stuff go.

    Whatever you do, hang in there.



  4. Thanks M. I will keep that in mind! Glad it helped you. :-) x