Talking about diet-culture makes me want to use reeeeaally harsh words. In fact, you have no idea what kind of hellraising words pop into my head when I think about all the lies that we’re being fed on a daily (hourly? secondly??) basis.
– When I think about how my mother never lived to see, let alone believe another truth, how she tried and tried to manipulate her weight into a thinner shape, even though she never had much jiggle to get rid of.
– When I think that I never even once saw her happy or relaxed in her own body. And never will.
– When I think that she, in turn, put ME on my first diet when I was only in kindergarten and had a body that was really just slightly softer compared to the bodies of most of my peers.
– When I think of all those decades of believing that her denying me food was because she hated me, didn’t want to feed me, or because she wanted to hurt me.
– When I think about the implications this had on my own sense of worthiness, on my sense of safety in the world, on my sense of purpose—or lack thereof.
– When I think that only NOW I’m able to see that, she too, had bought into all that crap about our bodies being something that had to be “fixed”, that the restrictions she put on me were only her way of protecting me from being rejected in a diet-crazy world.
– When I think that only NOW I see what terrible feelings of insufficiency she must have suffered to end up dieting her sense of joy to the bone and drinking her sharp mind into oblivion.
– When I think that, for all those years—even long after her death—I was convinced it was HER that rejected me, and that this must have been the direct effect of me having come out wrong, somehow a mistake, or simply not the daughter that she wanted.
– When I think of the decades I spent hating on my body, spending insane hours on treadmills/ellipticals/stairmasters, on diets, on shameful binges, suffering in silence, trying to meet society’s beauty standards…
When I think of all this, I first want to swear like a mad Italian coal-worker on Meth, I want to yell and scream and raise hell.
But—for as much as I love using foul language—I won’t.
Because my anger is only a very thin shield to cover up a sadness that’s almost unspeakable.
In my heart, there simply aren’t any swearwords to be found for the pain and the grief that hides behind all the misconceptions that my life, her life—so many lives!—are built upon.
The unlaughed laughter, the uncaressed skin, the unexpressed joy, the unbaked cakes, the uncelebrated lives, the unlived dreams.—I’ve lost too much.
The world has grown none the wiser. Diet-culture is ever-present, it’s all around us, it’s sneaked into most of our conversations, the ads, onto all the magazine covers, into the subtext of every rich meal, every unpretentious picture taken and every judgment of a person by their looks.
Diet-culture seems out to get everybody.
Those it gets, it leaves feeling unworthy, sometimes desperate, certainly “at fault“.
That’s bad enough.
Those, however, who had had hurting souls to start with, risk not only to waste a lot of time, energy, money, and self-worth, but also their… yes, their lives.
My mother was one of them. Growing up in a messed up home, she never knew a feeling of inner stability. Looking back, I can only guess how overwhelmed she must have been by life itself. So after endlessly trying to slim-fast her way into feeling loved and—of course—never succeeding, she handed over the reigns to her second “ally“, alcohol, and drowned her feelings of unworthiness in so many glasses of wine that the Gods lost count.
Eventually, I lost her.
She died without ever having seen that she was, in fact, utterly lovable, that there would have been support, had she not believed that she wasn’t worth it. This lack of self-love was quadrupled by every one of the diet-lies she bought into. That set of lies didn’t come cheap. Nor for me, nor for her. It cost me my childhood—an unsafe and utterly unpredictable, often violent chapter of my life. It cost her all of her relationships, most of all the one to herself and to her daughter. And it cost her her life.
Shortly after she died, I started to gain some weight (well, I finally had the freedom to eat!) and was so freaked out that I went on my first diet.
“Mom must have been right,” I thought. “I can’t be fed normally.“
Yes, I’ve survived some terrible things and saw scenes that I wish I could delete. But I made it out of there alive. Only, instead of feeling proud, I found fault in myself. I never drank, I was never in debt, I never did drugs (apart from some exploratory detours there in puberty), all of which I consider myself lucky for—it could’ve happened to me just as easily as to the next person.
What I got hung up on in a very bad way was the message of diet culture. I felt awful in my skin all my life. There was a time when I wanted to cut off the flesh on my tummy, my thighs and my butt, because I felt too ugly for the world. I would have given everything for a different body. Until very recently, in fact. Up until I was 40 and hit rock bottom.
I literally spent DECADES running, restricting, binging and shaming myself into the ground, in a desperate attempt to change myself into a more“beautiful“ version that would be worthy of love.
See, all those years, I never even questioned whether what I read and heard and believed was really TRUE! I let my own self-respect slowly, over years and years, rot away in diet-culture-hell.
Two years ago, I started to wake up to another truth. And I am only now building up the courage to really—not just intellectually—get out of that narrow prison cell I made my life to be, and STICK it to all of those toxic messages.
And since I’m a surviver, I want and WILL make it out of this mess.
I want to be able to say “I love myself, no matter what society tries to tell me” before I take my last breath.
Not just for myself.
But for my mother.
And every one of those countless women who never had the privilege to see that it was never THEM who were at fault.
Maybe now you see why, today, I’m too sad to even be angry.