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

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

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

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