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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte McKernan

The price of diet culture

Have you ever refrained from an activity because you're unhappy with your body size? Maybe you skipped celebrating a friend's birthday to avoid the temptation of desserts, or you avoided going to a swimming pool because you didn't want to wear a swimsuit in public. Maybe you avoided sex with your partner or wore pants on a 100-degree day.

I can think of dozens of examples in my own life in a subjectively small body where I have opted out of something I wanted to do because of the opinion I held of my body.

Women are regularly encouraged to go hungry and avoid food (think of advice to drink a glass of water or coffee and to wait before eating) and we then blame ourselves for being preoccupied by food ("I am addicted to chocolate," "I was so bad yesterday eating all that food").

Living in a constant cycle of restriction and bingeing makes our incredible minds clouded and distracted. Quietly mad. As the lovely Christy Harrison says, "It's hard to smash the patriarchy on an empty stomach."

When we are starving, we are distracted. When we attach our value to our appearance, we second-guess our worth. It is easier to handle, control, manipulate people who are certain that something is wrong with them, especially when we then benefit from (i.e. make money from) selling them 'cures' that are designed to only keep them stuck.

Dropping out of diet culture is an act of defiance against patriarchal beauty standards. Rejecting these impossible standards and embracing our worth and value *beyond* our body allows us to take up the space we deserve and to demand to be taken seriously as equals.

When you notice a negative body thought threatening to hinder your life, question it. Who does it serve? Have you ever benefited from your self-hatred? Have missed out on moments, opportunities, years by listening to the messages designed to make you pliable and set you up to fail? Embrace your body not because of what it looks like but because of what it can do.

Charlotte McKernan is therapist in Fort Collins, CO, for individuals and couples.

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