Upfront trigger warning: eating disorders, diet culture, & weight loss.
I’ve been seeing a huge increase in diet culture posts since the COVID-19 shut down started (which sucks because we were already inundated by them before) & maybe I’m just extra emotional today, but some of them have hit me right in my feels & brought me to tears.
I saw someone with a large following on Instagram post about how she's doing a suuuuper regimented diet plan (totaling 1200 calories a day. What?!) & working out twice a day 6 days a week.
I know that this time has been very anxiety-producing for most of us (tips for managing that here).
I know that we have all been indoctrinated with diet culture and "thin is best" rhetoric for so long that most people don't know any better. They truly mean no harm.
I know that, in a time where everything feels out of control, diets and eating disorders can give us the illusion of control we all crave so much.
I know that, for most people, this is all they know and they're just doing the best they can. But it made me sad.
It made me so sad. Like, cried real (pregnant & hormonal) tears sad.
Because I also know there are so many people who will try that plan & find themselves in the throws of eating disorders. It's estimated that up to 30% of people who diet with end up developing disordered habits (not all diets lead to eating disorders, but a solid majority of people with EDs started with dieting). As many as 90% of the people who try out this extreme behavior will "fail," adding shame and guilt to the list of things they'll be punishing themselves for later.
I wish I could take every one of them by the shoulders & say, "Your life's purpose is not to lose weight. You are worth so much more than that."
Do you know the average caloric intake recommended for a toddler? 1000-1400 per day.
Let that sink in: the diet plan mentioned earlier has grown adults, who are exercising almost daily, eating the same or less than a TODDLER.
The average adult burns around 2000-2400 calories per day just in bodily functions ALONE. Those are all burned because your body is doing incredible things to keep you alive every day. So you could live a completely sedentary lifestyle and still be burning about 2000 calories per day. Not that I recommend it... but you technically could.
Now toss in a workout every couple days & that number gets even higher. (If your doctor has you on a specific plan for your medical needs, this message is not for you. Do what your doctor says.) It is mind-blowing to me that the outdated advice to consume as little as 1200 calories per day while regularly working out has stood largely unchallenged for this long.
If you are reading this information and thinking, "Oh my gosh, she's talking to me right now..." please listen, sweet friend:
Please please pleaseeeeee feed your body the fuel it needs.
Did you workout today? Awesome. You need to eat.
Did you sit on the couch all day? Cool. You still need to eat.
Did you eat a lot yesterday? No big deal. You also need to eat today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
You. need. to. eat.
Not to mention, you are worth so much more than hunger pains, a smaller pant size, or a number on a scale. You do not need to earn your food through exercise & you do not need to be smaller to be worthy.
Again, I know that so many people who engage in disordered habits are simply doing so in an effort to self-soothe and have some sort of control over their lives. I was that person for years. I get it. But I can also promise you this: losing weight is not your life's purpose, nor will it make you feel any better at all. True healing needs to happen on the inside, not the outside.
Now, weight loss is not inherently a bad thing! For many people it is/has been a great & necessary thing. But literally starving yourself to lose weight is always negative (ever wondered why extreme diets make you plateau, feel shaky, lose energy, and just overall feel awful? That's quite literally called starvation).
Why am I so passionate about this? Why is this worth writing about? Why does any of this even matter?
Because I understand that, for many of you, controlling what goes in and out of your body is the best you way you know how to soothe your anxiety.
Because I know how trained we are to believe that diets and exercise and weight loss are the key to our happiness.
Because I gave 10 years of my life to eating disorders (yes, plural).
Because I have years worth of photos where all I can see is how mean I was to myself or how fat I thought I was.
Because my memories & experiences were robbed & tainted by a voice that told me I’d be better if I was smaller.
Because I spent hours of my life sobbing over a reflection or scale or article of clothing.
Because most of my adolescence was spent thinking I'd never be worthy enough unless I was smaller.
Because I don’t want a single one of you to share that part of my story if you don’t have to.
Because it breaks my heart to think of anyone else experiencing that kind of pain.
Because I clawed my way out of that reality, tooth and nail.
Because I STILL have days that I catch myself thinking, "If only _____ looked different...."
Because the recovery I fought so hard for has given me my son (Cue the water works every time that reality hits me. My baby boy is alive BECAUSE I chose recovery).
Because recovery will always be worth it.
Because you deserve to know how loved you are.
Friends, please hear me: you are worthy exactly as you are right. now. At this very second. Not when you lose 10 more pounds, not when your pre-baby clothes fit again, not when you hit your calorie deficit goal, or workout enough times this week.
You are worthy right now.
There is absolutely nothing on this earth, especially not weight loss, that you can do to change that.
Never forget it. ❤️