Health & Fitness,  Lifestyle

Old Habits Die Hard: Fighting Against Diet Culture in January

If you have any kind of disordered eating, January is probably the hardest month of the year. Keen to play on the insecurities of the general public and to tie in with the ‘New year, new me’, every type of slimming club, weight loss brand and diet product go hard on the advertising and you can’t escape, especially with the targeted ads on social media. Old habits die hard and fighting against diet culture in January is a difficult, triggering and emotionally draining time.

Before Christmas, I had to go and have some blood tests to ensure I didn’t have diabetes or an under active thyroid as I was (and still am!) experiencing numbness in my hands. Although all tests came back clear, and it’s probably carpal tunnel, this combined with some pain in my knees and my general fitness levels, have made me want to get fitter and stronger this year. A by product of that may be I also lose weight, but that isn’t my motivation. I want to get fitter and stronger and ensure I don’t fall foul of any medical condition which will affect my quality of life. I have two boys and want to be here for them, for as long as possible.

Weight Is Not An Indication of Health

Weight is no indication of health and shouldn’t be used as a tool to guilt or shame others into eating less and I am fortunate I haven’t had any issues health wise in relation to my weight so far. But I would like to keep it that way and those two boys also happen to be extremely active and lively. I want keep up with them, I want to do all kinds of activities with them my current fitness levels restrict me from doing. So this year I have set the goal that by the end of the 2019, I want to be able to run a 5k in under 30 minutes. I want to be able to play netball again (currently I am no way near enough able to do that because I am out of breath). I also am not going to follow a single diet, I am not going log a single calorie, or buy any product specifically because I think it will make me lose weight.

Last year I blogged about why I had broken up with slimming clubs. But despite the advice I had in therapy, I thought just a tiny bit of calorie logging wouldn’t hurt. Not so I could keep under a calorie amount I told myself. But because I just wanted to ‘keep on track’ and ‘hold myself accountable’. It doesn’t work. If you have a full blown eating disorder, it is impossible to keep any type of control over food, if you are restricting in. If you are logging calories, you will restrict eventually. “Ooops, I went over today. Better just have a few less the day after. Maybe I won’t have any of this. Restriction leads to you then thinking about it, so you slip, then you feel guilty, then the guilt makes you binge, then you feel guilty about the binge, so you restrict again. And on and on.

Breaking Free From Binge-Eating Disorder

In order for me to truly break free from the shackles binge eating disorder has over me, I need to stop that diet mentality and stop pretending I can just do it a little. I can’t. It will keep me miserable forever. My body is amazing. It grew and then nournished two babies. It might not look like the bodies society tells me it should, but it’s mine. It keeps me alive and I decided I am done hating it and as a result punishing it over and over again.

Enter January

The diet industry is worth billions of pounds. Those companies do not have your best interests at heart. They want to continue to make money from you. It is in their best interest to keep you failing. I had a friend get super defensive with me once regarding Slimming World. You don’t have to pay once you get to target they say. No you don’t, but if you don’t continue to eat in the same way, you will gain the weight and more. So you keep going to the class. And buy the magazine, and the bars and other products they sell to keep you thin. They are still making their money from you. If you go on holiday and have a big gain, you have to start paying again. You are being punished for gaining weight.

Even well known bloggers who I have always liked and admired and aren’t fat by any stretch of the imagination, but aren’t a size 10, who have always seemed happy in their own skin and promoted body positivity, have been suckered in by companies like Weight Watchers. I get they have to feed their families (and for them, social media and blogging is their full time job) so I imagine the carrot they are dangling to get these women to promote their products is a big one. But it’s even more damaging, because it’s those women you follow and admire because you think they offer a safe space away from it. Suddenly if they are telling you, that you need a diet club, or their meals, shakes, supplements, maybe it’s true?

So here we are. It is really hard to follow any fitness plan which also doesn’t promote dieting to a certain extent. So the doubts begin to re-surface. Maybe I should just reinstall a calorie counter, just to see how I am getting on a day to day basis? I know I have been more active and binging less, but maybe I should be weighing myself daily again, just to make sure? The more I started to think about it, the worse it got and last night I found myself in the midst of a binge. Instead of being proud of the steps I am taking to increase my fitness – the only thing I actually care about – I am beating myself up for something I have been conditioned to do by my eating disorder since I was 17 years old.

But I won’t be beaten.  I won’t let the guilt get to me. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other and remind myself of all the things I do which are good. My self-worth is not tied to my weight. If you are also drowning in the message January is throwing at you, know that your self-worth isn’t tied to your weight either.

WE ARE ENOUGH. Just the way we are.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or want to speak to someone about disordered eating, contact Beat