A year and a half ago, I fought my body the hardest I have ever fought it before (and I have been fighting it for most of my life).
I ignored my hunger, I lived on intensely distorted percentages of macronutrients and calories, I pushed my body when my body begged me to rest and did other harmful things to my body I will not mention here. (Note: I had been doing this torture cycle to myself for most of my life, not just a year and a half, this is just when my “a-ha” moment was.)
I shank myself to a size that my body and mind could not thrive in. In this size, I thought, surely, all my problems would be magically solved: my self-esteem issues, relationship issues, financial issues even. Afterall, that is that we have been taught, ”if I can get into that size #, everything will just magically fall into place. If I can hate myself enough, maybe I can get into a version of myself that I love. If I can torture myself enough, I can be happy.”
Typing this now, it seems so fucked up.
But since “go”, everything, EVERYTHING, in this culture around us, has told us that this message was true.
Times that I have not been able to get into that size #, that was because of a personal failure. I just was not dedicated enough to hating my current self, so my problems would continue until I could stay focused, until I could have some self control.
Well, a year and a half ago, I fought my body hard enough to get into that size # and all my theories on my happiness all came crashing down. Reality hit me in the face, the reality that I still, even at this ‘magical’ pants size, hated myself.
It wasn’t the pants that need to change, it was my mindset.
(Call in the therapists! Call in the social support! Call in the body positive warriors!)
After burning through a few books (The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner and Body Postive Power by Megan Crabbe), it hit me again: The problem is not my body, the problem is the culture. The problem is that everywhere we turn in the media, we are being told “here is what is wrong with you, and here is how you fix it (in just 4 easy installments of $49.99).”
I started looking at women around me, around me in real life, women that I admired. I turned to instagram body positive superheros. I started looking to kind humans just on the street in day-to-day life and realizing “damn, NO one looks like this model that diet culture is trying to shove us into.”
I started feeding my body. I started moving my body as a sort of gratitude practice, being thankful that it can move the way that it does. I started looking at myself in the mirror and giving myself affirmations. I stopped calorie and nutrient counting and I started just living. And guess what happened when I started doing all this? Did all my problems go away? My relational, self-esteem and financial problems? Hell no! They were all still present and accounted for! But there was a huge shift, a shift in how I saw myself and a shift in how I could address these problems in a realistic and healthy way.
It had to start with self-like, self-love took A LOT more time and therapeutic intervention. Some days are easier than others, but I am thankful for this journey.
Part of my recovery was trolling Instragram, trying to lift myself up during hard days. Instead of looking at fitness posts by women that I would never look like (even if I ate and worked out exactly as they did), I started looking at body positive art.
And @donutsoverdietculture was born.
I still consider myself in the early stages of this journey. I still have a long way to go, but I am so glad that you all are here with me.
Emily Van is a Body Positive advocate. She is on an ED recovery journey and considers herself a diet culture dropout.