To My Friends Making Dieting Resolutions for 2018
You’re going on a diet, and it makes me sad.
I know, I know. It’s not a diet. It’s eating clean, it’s fitness, it’s a lifestyle change. I’m not here to lecture you on how the diet industry has shifted and changed and morphed to sell you these things instead. I’m not going to ramble on about how capitalism has warped our ideas of progress and perfection. I’m not even going to tell you about the mountains of evidence that people who lose weight through crash dieting almost inevitably gain it back, and about the physical and psychological effects of weight cycling.
I’m not going to tell you any of that.
I’m just going to tell you how sad I am.
I see you posting photos of your body, of your body that is perfect because it is yours, and I see you calling it a “before” photo. I see you asking us, your friends, your Facebook community, to keep you accountable to your goals. I see that insidious feeling creeping into your brain that somehow, you are not enough the way that you are. Not pretty enough, not handsome enough, not strong enough, not thin enough, not loveable enough, not fuckable enough, not enough not enough not enough. And it makes me so, so sad.
Because I’ve been there. I’ve been there over, and over, and over again. Even before I developed an eating disorder that ruled my life for almost a decade, I would poke and prod and push at my body, staring in the mirror and wishing I could just will it into looking differently. I see you walking down that path, dipping your toe into that pool, and it feels like you’re about to dive headfirst in the same piranha-infested waters of self-loathing that took some many years from me.
And that makes me sad, and frustrated, and tired. It makes me feel like I suffered for nothing, like what I went through meant nothing, because it hasn’t helped me to protect you in the slightest.
Yes, I know not everyone who engages in weight-loss oriented eating or exercising will develop an eating disorder. I know that. And I hope, more than anything, that you never go through that. But seeing people make weight loss resolutions at New Years feels like I nearly died in a house fire, and yet every January people make posts about how great it is to disable your smoke alarms and leave a bunch of candles unattended.
If I’m being honest, and I want to be honest with you, it also makes me sad because I’m chubby. I’ve always been chubby. Even when I was desperately, desperately sick, I was chubby. And it’s that chubby body, that body that I’m working so hard to love, it’s that same body that you are so eager to change and fix and leave behind.
And I know you don’t mean for me to take that personally, but it’s hard not to — even now, years into recovery from my eating disorder, there’s that voice in my head that says, “Because they’re unsatisfied with how they look, you should be unsatisfied with how you look too.” But as much as I am tempted to follow that thought right down the rabbit hole, I know I can’t afford to budge even an inch.
At the end of the day, you and I both know you’re going to do what you want to do. And I want to support you in that; I want to support you all ways and always. But I see you laying the plans to wage a war on yourself, and I don’t know how to support you in that.
So in lieu of my support, there are some things I want you to know.
I want you to know that regardless of whether you “succeed” in your weight loss, I think of you as a success. I want you to know that your body is just one tiny part of who you are — a whole, unique, dynamic, interesting, worthy person. I want you to know that a before and after photo can’t possibly capture the changes in the size of your brain or your heart or your soul over the next year.
And I want you to know I will be here to tell you these things any time you need to hear them.
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Getty image via champja