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Diet Culture Made Me Believe My Secret Wish Was Out of Reach (Until Now)

I absolutely hated my fat body. I was taught to. I thought that I deserved to be punished for not fitting into society’s expectations of thinness. I have so many rolls and valleys in all the wrong places. I thought I was suffering the consequences of my bad behavior and lack of self-control. All of this is the result of messaging from diet culture — a set of beliefs that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health and well-being).

Every doctor I saw about my back problems or pain insisted the solution to my problems was bariatric surgery because I was not in control of myself and needed to be punished into restriction. My problem was my lack of self-control and not the truth that my body was sick.

I opted to not have surgery. I felt it was too drastic of a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I just knew I could get thinner (and everyone said I could) if I could be successful at one of those diets that I had repeatedly “failed” at before. If I just had enough willpower.

The doctors said, “we cannot help you.” I took that to mean that I would stay in pain the rest of my life. I resigned myself to never walking around a park, going on a hike, touring a museum, traveling to view a different city somewhere around the world or playing my beloved sport, softball. This depressed me but I thought all along that I deserved this fate as society insisted.

I discovered the Principals of Intuitive Eating a few months ago and my whole outlook on life was altered.

I began to learn about diet culture and how I was a victim of it. That my doctors were wrong and that they had given up on me for no good reason. I could in fact become pain-free without losing any weight. I could regain my freedom. I could access happiness. I could have joyful movement.

I decided to go to physical therapy for my back again and I knew this time I could commit to it because no one was going to tell me I was destined to fail. On the first day at intake, I told my provider I was no longer trying to intentionally lose weight and I did not want her to encourage me to do so. She agreed. I was relieved.

After working together for a few weeks, I noticed my pain increasing. Not just in my back, but in other spots as well. I could not figure out what was going on. Why was I getting worse?

It finally dawned on me. Now that I no longer thought that my pain was punishment for being in a larger body, my body began to wake up. Soon, enough everything hurt. My body was saying, “we want to be free from this pain and want to live a full life.” I was no longer dissociating from my body pain.

I realized that if I was going to enjoy movement, I was going to have to heal a lifetime of physical and emotional pain that diet culture had fed me. This mental freedom has led me to wish for and plan for a better future for myself. A future I never would have imagined a year ago. I want joyful movement and to do all the things that others do with their bodies without pain.

I told my physical therapist that I have always had a secret wish to tap dance. I see local studios have adult tap dance classes for beginners and I have always wanted to join. I was convinced this was out of reach for me. She said it was possible and a reasonable goal. The previous thought of going to class with thin white bodies scared me but now I have no hesitation. My body is good just the way it is, and I have just as much right to be there as they do.

I have a long way to go to heal but one day I will be in tap dance class, I guarantee you.

Photo by Isiah Jackman on Unsplash