Last week’s episode of All Fired Up was called “Pushing Back.” I had the pleasure of interviewing 4 incredible women who have taken their rage at diet culture and channelled it into meaningful action. Many people who are waking up to the multiple injustices of diet culture are feeling angry, which is absolutely appropriate – after all, anger is just an emotion which tells us that we’re not being treated well! What we do with this anger is important – anger without action can turn into bitterness, or despair. But anger channelled into action – or even into questions – such as “what can I do about this?” – can change lives.
One of my guests from the podcast was Jess Sanders, who is writing a book called “Learning to Love Your Body,” for girls aged eight plus. This is a beautiful body positivity guide featuring an array of diverse bodies. Jess had started a Kickstarter campaign to get the project off the ground, and I am so happy to tell you that she’s now raised over $27000! More than 900 wonderful people gathered together to make it happen. This amount means that the project can go ahead, and a wonderful resource for girls growing up in diet culture will be ready for release early next year. Go Jess!
There is great power in numbers. I have noticed that in our community of anti-diet health professionals, we gain strength and courage from connecting with each other. And because we are feeling so supported, people are standing up more and more. It’s really wonderful to witness a flurry of action: anti-diet health professionals are submitting complaints, lodging proposals, asking for practices to be banned or changed. Workplace policies are being challenged, people are asking questions like “why don’t we have chairs in our waiting rooms which are large enough to accommodate bigger bodies”? People working in diverse areas – diabetes care, eating disorders, hospitals, medical practices, and sports – are introducing the weight inclusive perspective, and changes are being made.
And this trend of taking action from feeling supported is happening within our UNTRAPPED online community as well. Our members have formed some really lovely, supportive relationships. They’re always there for each other with words of encouragement when things get tough (which they do, frequently, in diet culture!). And I have noticed that people in the group are getting much braver in their everyday lives as well. They are sharing stories of standing up for themselves in the doctor’s office, changing health care providers when they won’t listen to them, shutting down diet conversations with friends, defending against weight loss obsessed personal trainers, and calling out bullsh*t in the constant media barrage of weight loss talk. It’s phenomenal to witness this level of empowerment!
One recent small but awesome act of diet culture rebellion had me giggling and cheering, and I wanted to share it with you. Some of our UNTRAPPED members go for a walk together every couple of weeks. And to their horror, stencilled on the pathway, was a CALORIE COUNTER which was telling walkers how far they’d walked, and how many calories they’d burned!
I don’t know who thought that signs like this were a good idea. In the age of fitbits, they seem pretty superfluous – those people who really desperately WANT to know how many calories they’re burning can certainly do so without too much trouble at all. And for those who may not have previously even thought about counting calories burned, stuff like this suggests that this is a normal practice. It’s diet culture creeping into our natural environment. I think of the kids biking happily on paths like this, inadvertently inhaling yet another layer of weight-centric thinking. I think of the email I received a while ago from a woman who had gone for a walk near her eating disorder treatment centre, only to stumble upon a calorie counter on the goddam pathway the first time she ventured out.
Our lovely UNTRAPPED members were also pretty horrified to be honest: here they were, venturing out on their first group walk and BOOM! – here’s diet culture in your face again! So in an act of peaceful resistance, these lovely rebels fixed it:
This might seem like a very small, and perhaps meaningless act, but I love it! We can follow up this act with some more directed action – I am planning to write to the council, to give them my opinion of the potential impact messages like this may have – on people with eating disorders, on young people who are already very concerned and dissatisfied with their bodies – and even on the bloody environment!
Diet culture is literally everywhere, and we must fight to keep the constant bombardment away. Places like walking paths should be free from such unhelpful reminders of body policing! We can go for a walk just to enjoy it. We can walk and take in the scenery, breathe the air, take pleasure in the feelings in our bodies. We don’t need to think about calories when we’re doing this!
If you’ve taken some steps to stand up against diet culture, I’d love to hear what you’ve done!! Send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Untrap from the crap!