Diet Culture in the Body Positive Community

Quick Note: I see that I have a lot more followers! Hello to all of you! Thank you for following. I haven’t been posting a whole lot because I’ve been recovering from surgery for endometriosis. Now that I’m mostly pain free I’m trying to get back into the groove of things. You can keep up with me on Instagram, Twitter, and FaceBook. All of them are also RollsAndCurves.


Trigger Warning for diets, weight loss, eating disorders, and descriptions of targeted discrimination.  

Every January becomes “Weight Loss Month” on social media and in real life. Tons of people resolve to lose weight and plan to commit to a diet and exercise regimen. This all comes after the holiday season where we celebrate by eating and drinking a lot with our families, friends, and loved ones. By the time Thanksgiving comes around lots of us are already struggling with food guilt or shame about our bodies. I’ve seen many people on social media report that others question their food choices or insult the size of their bodies during holiday meals. I’ve personally experienced family members criticizing what’s on my plate despite being overweight themselves. The holidays should not be poisoned with feelings of anxiety and guilt. It should be a happy time where we can be ourselves and enjoy time with the ones we love without criticism.

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Unfortunately, the diet industry is in full force around this time of year. My FaceBook feeds are clogged with people I vaguely know selling “flat tummy teas” and “flat tummy wraps” and other things that don’t really work. Social media influencers start posting “before and after pictures” of them holding the laxative teas they’re paid to praise. On one side, they’ll be slouching and wearing baggy clothing. On the other side they’ll be posing in the most flattering way in the most flattering clothing. Either that or it’ll be an extremely thin person pretending to drink the tea. My Explore tab on Instagram is made up of before and after weight loss pictures, no matter how many times I click “See Fewer Posts Like This.” Commercials on TV, ads in magazines, ads on social media, everywhere you look there’s something or someone telling you you’re not good enough unless you buy a product or pay to join a program with the intention of losing weight. Even plus size brands have started sharing memes online that insinuate that someone’s a “fat piece of shit” or something similar if they don’t get to the gym and start dieting. Plus size and body positive models are shrinking and promoting weight loss, yet still clinging onto the “plus size” label that made them a ton of money.

fittea.PNGI don’t think they understand just how damaging it is to constantly have the diet industry shoved down your throat. To be clear, I’m not saying that people can’t lose weight if they want to. It’s a personal choice that everyone can make for themselves. You can work out and remain body positive. The problem is the implication that you’re worthless unless you’re trying to lose weight. That fat bodies, particularly fat women, aren’t acceptable unless they’re on Weight Watchers or have a gym membership. That fat people can’t exist unless they’re trying to change the thing about them deemed unacceptable. The ads showing a size 8 squishing her stomach, while a size 22 looks on and envies the size 8 body. The people giggling “I’m so bad, I didn’t make it to the gym today!” or “I had a cheat day and ate a cookie today!” The before and after pictures where the thinner person will completely trash their larger form without any regard to how it would make someone the same size or larger feel. The posts talking about how it’s most important to be healthy, implying that fat bodies are automatically unhealthy and thin bodies are automatically healthy. The fact that this way of thinking is extremely ableist. People are worthy of self love regardless of how “healthy” they are.

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If you can believe it, diet culture is weaseling its way into the body positive community as well. Body positivity has become a business, just like the diet industry, where it profits off of people feeling like shit about themselves. When a thin woman posts pictures of her sitting and showing 2 tiny belly rolls in the name of body positivity, it’s really hurtful to people that have rolls all the time and can’t ever hide the size of their bodies. When average sized women make posts talking about not having a “thigh gap”, fat people worry about the seats in a movie theater, or on a bus or plane. When brands make “body positive” campaigns but only show average sized white women, it excludes all the other people that never show up in campaigns. When a plus size model or “body positive” influencer starts promoting “fit teas” or other weight loss focused programs it destroys the message we’re fighting so hard to put out there. The fact that men are rarely if ever included in the body positive community is shameful.

f98d173214c3beea35d45205ac061d0e.jpgTo be honest, I’m starting to become disenfranchised with the body positive community. Two years ago the body positive hashtags would be full of amazing people with great messages. There was so much more diversity. PoC, LGBT people, disabled people, fat people, and all other kinds of people had platforms where they could be heard. Now that it’s caught on and is marketable, it’s been taken over by thin or average sized white women and more diverse groups of people are being pushed out. It’s easier to promote the message that everyone is beautiful when you don’t have to acknowledge fatphobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. I’ve had an analogy on my mind for months that I’ve been too afraid to say, but I feel like I have to at this point. The fact that body positivity is becoming popular in lieu of fat positivity is the same reason why some uninformed people think “All Lives Matter” is a good counter to “Black Lives Matter.” Yes, all lives DO matter. Acknowledging that all lives (or bodies) matter does not do anything to help the ones in need. This is not to say that the struggles fat people face are the same or worse than the struggles people of color face. It’s just an analogy to explain a flawed way of thinking that applies to both situations.

gabourey-sidibe-beauty-redefinedjpg-1024x967.jpgThis is also not to say that thin or conventionally attractive people can’t support the cause. It’s true that causes are greater in numbers, and it’s amazing that body positivity has come so far. Mainstream stores are even starting to hop on board. Stores like Target are running ads showing diverse types of people. The bad part is that they’re forgetting the roots. The modern body positive movement was founded in 1996. The first wave of it was the fat acceptance movement, which started in 1967. For almost 30 years fat acceptance was alive and well before the body positive movement was even formally defined. The body acceptance movement only gained a massive amount of popularity when thin people joined it and basically claimed it. It made it an easier pill for society to swallow. Body positivity was invented to help people that weren’t society’s idea of beautiful. Now it seems to exist to reaffirm to the beautiful people that they’re still beautiful when they have a stretch mark or dimple of cellulite.

ashleyWhile the fat acceptance movement is criticized for “promoting unhealthy behaviors”, the body positive movement is praised for showing pictures of thin, conventionally attractive women without Photoshop. While fat women are ignored in the media, flawed thin people are worshiped and put on a pedestal. It’s okay for a celebrity to show stretch marks from having a child, but if a fat person posts a picture of their stretch marks they get insulted. It’s okay for Amy Schumer to pose nude in the name of body positivity and make jokes about being fat, but if you call her plus size she gets offended. It’s okay for plus models to be super curvy and marketable, but if they have fat in the “wrong” places they won’t get hired by mainstream companies. While thin women are posting about how bad they feel when people call them fat when they aren’t, fat people are posting about how they were denied treatment by doctors because the doctor blamed all their problems on their weight. I can vouch for that. It took me 8 years and 10 doctors to be diagnosed with endometriosis because every other doctor assumed my pain was due to my weight or assumed eating habits. It’s been proven that fat people make less money than thin people despite working harder. Imagine how much less a fat, black, queer woman makes than a thin, white, straight woman. It’s a vicious double standard that defeats the purpose of body positivity, and extinguishes the struggles of fat people from society’s view.

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I’ve been struggling with my body image for the past few months. As I mentioned above, I have endometriosis. It’s a painful and debilitating condition that’s basically sucking my life away from me. When I have a flare up, my entire stomach swells from my underbust area to the very end of my stomach. It easily adds the appearance of 30 pounds, which on my 5’2″ frame is a considerable amount. My hands, face, and legs swell up too. My double chin looks larger and more noticeable. While I hadn’t actually been gaining weight, I noticed other people treating me differently whenever I had a flare up. I got more “should you be eating that?” looks from servers, family members, and people in public. People weren’t as nice to me as they used to be. I’d been noticing people giving me dirty looks or laughing behind my back. I stopped taking pictures of my body in lingerie because I started to feel bad about the way I looked due to the way people were treating me.

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Same body. Same weight. I could easily pass these off as before and after weight loss pictures. Don’t always believe what you see.

I had surgery on January 10th to treat my endo. Within a couple days I noticed my body looked much less bloated and I was measuring a few inches smaller at the underbust, waist, and hips. I was so happy, which shocked me. I usually didn’t care when I lost or gained weight (or at least the appearance of weight.) Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t completely get rid of my pain. I had a Nexplanon inserted and it seems to be helping. Now that I’m living mostly pain free, I have a better relationship with my body. It’s hard to love a body that’s constantly hurting you when there’s nothing you can do about it.

I realized at that moment that I had unintentionally bought into diet culture and relapsed into some old habits. I’d go all day without eating, and then eat a ton of food at one time when nobody was around. I’d pretend I wasn’t hungry or wasn’t feeling well to avoid being forced to eat. I’d make food and take it upstairs to my room so other people couldn’t judge me. At other times, I was ravenous and ate everything that was in front of me. When everyone went to bed I’d go downstairs and eat. Endo sometimes makes me nauseous and have diarrhea. I’d convince myself the food made my stomach hurt and I’d throw it up and blame it on endo. Instead of worrying about recovering from my illness, I was worried about what my body looked like and rejoined the endless cycle of binging, purging, and restricting. The scary part was that I didn’t even realize what I was doing. The rhetoric that thinner is better had worked its way into my mind and changed my behaviors without my knowledge.

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I 100% believe that I relapsed because of the way diet culture has been heavily promoted. I swear it’s worse this year than other years. Usually it starts to fizzle out by this point, but it just keeps getting stronger and stronger. I made a series of tweets a while ago about New Years Resolutions, and made a few resolutions of my own that I want to share here. In my opinion it’s more important to work on your mental health rather than change your body and hope it makes you feel better. If you’re an unhappy person, you’ll be unhappy no matter how much you weigh. When I was a teenager I was significantly thinner than I am now, but I hated myself so much more because I thought I was this gigantic person that wasn’t worthy of affection.

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Crappy quality picture from high school. I used to think I was huge.

One of the things I did that really damaged the way I saw myself was following a bunch of adult models and plus size/busty influencers on Instagram. I thought it would encourage me to see other busty plus sized women living their best life and showing how happy they were. Instead, it made me doubt myself. I started doubting if my body was worth it because I don’t have the characteristic huge boobs, tiny waist, huge butt body type that seems to be universally loved. It’s like you can be any size as long as you’re proportional and hourglassy without any rolls. I started doubting my blog because I don’t have thousands upon thousands of followers. I don’t receive a ton of PR samples. I’ve never been sent on a vacation and I can’t afford to go on vacation anyway. I don’t wake up to random presents in my mailbox from brands who are dying to work with me. You know what? That’s okay. My worth as a person should not be defined by the amount of things that I receive, the amount of people that follow me, or the proportions of my body. I decided to stop comparing myself to others.

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I am enough because I am me. I am responsible for my own happiness. I’ve started unfollowing certain models or removing them from my social media feeds. I unfollowed some people on Snapchat. I blocked a few weight loss pages that kept sending me messages. I always click “See Fewer Posts Like This” when I see a weight loss picture on Instagram. I stopped following influencers that you can tell are only in it for the money and fame rather than spreading an important message. I stepped back from social media a little bit in general, choosing instead to spend more time on my personal pages reconnecting with friends I drifted apart from. I unfollowed friends who started diets from my FaceBook News Feed so I wouldn’t constantly feel like shit whenever I saw their posts. I started blogging less often because it ate up a lot of energy I just didn’t have at the time. I carved out a little space of the internet to make myself happy. There’s no sense in keeping things around when they make you miserable. I hope everyone is doing well this year. You’re all worth it.


All photos that aren’t mine were either screenshotted from Instagram or pulled from Bing. If you own one of these images and would like it removed from my post, please contact me and let me know. I’ll remove it immediately. 

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2 thoughts on “Diet Culture in the Body Positive Community

  1. mymentalhealthjourney2017 January 27, 2017 at 9:20 pm Reply

    Fantastic post!
    Being healthy is so much more than being thin, it’s also about how you view yourself and preserving your mental health and avoiding things that are detrimental to you.
    You should be loved and accepted as you are and people need to stop shouting that being thin is the most important thing.
    I want to focus on being happy in my own skin and that, if anything, will be my resolution this year 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this amazing post 🙂

    Like

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