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Resisting Diet Culture & Anti-Fatness

My initial relationship with food was one of enjoyment and nourishment, thanks primarily to my mother. I could and would eat until I felt full and push my plate away, whether I ate the whole dish or left some scraps behind. I felt comfortable taking the food I desired without fear of negative side comments about my body from the ones I loved. I ate to fuel my body for the playing and running and exploring and swimming I was bound for.

But our families are only briefly the sole influences on our lives and beliefs. I was in kindergarten the first-time neighborhood kids gave me a nickname to shame the fat on my body. In sixth grade when I saw my friends begin to meticulously peel the breading off their chicken sandwich from the lunchroom or skipping lunch all together. 19 years old when my first partner told me I was too fat to be attractive while emphasizing “concern for my health”. In my culture, and certainly in my head, it was clear that thinness was desired and expected.

"My initial relationship with food was one of enjoyment and nourishment...I felt comfortable taking the food I desired without fear of negative side comments about my body from the ones I loved."

What is Diet Culture & Anti-Fatness?

Diet culture is not just “being on a diet”. Instead, it’s a system of values and practices that champion thinness above all else, interpreting thinness as a signal of health, beauty, and moral virtue. And, of course, fatness as the opposite. You may recognize it when you hear folks brag about not eating all day or mandating the restriction of certain “good” and “bad” foods. It assumes that it is possible for everyone to become thin and that everyone should.

Anti-fatness is the foundation that diet culture rests on, encompassing beliefs, behaviors, and systems that demonize, marginalize, and oppress fat bodies. You may hear it in your own fears of becoming fat or when others tell you that you’re not worth loving or desiring until you lose weight. But anti-fatness also keeps fat people from accessing quality medical care. Diet culture hurts us all. And uprooting the anti-fatness that supports it and feeds it benefits us all.

Finding Our Way Out

To start, we can construct a culture that does not decide if you are worthy of dignity or love based on your size or health. We should question, unlearn, and call-out the attitudes and practices that do not serve us all, for the benefit of our own self-worth and the rights of others. Additionally, and fundamentally, know this: we are entitled to spaces to discuss and explore our bodies and feelings about them without the mandate of weight loss, dieting, or hiding ourselves.

“We live extraordinary lives, beloved by our families, partners, communities. Fat people fall wildly in love. Fat people get married. Fat people have phenomenal sex. Fat people are impossibly happy. Those fat people live in defiance of the expectations set forth for them. Their fat lives are glorious and beautiful things, vibrant and beyond the reach of what the rest of us have been trained to imagine. Let’s imagine more.” - Aubrey Gordon, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat

For You and Those You Love

You are worthy of every dignity, right, space, and loving experience. If you or someone you love find that you are struggling with feelings of worth or navigating issues of injustice and stress, reach out. I am happy to speak with you or we can support you with locating other body positive, affirming and inclusive providers. You, dear extraordinary reader, are not alone and there are people and resources to help.

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