Today is International No Diet Day!
I have seen SO many great things on blogs, Twitter, and Tumblr today. So many beautiful celebrations of learning to love yourself as you are, instead of waiting for the “perfect body”. I want to share one article in particular. I found this via Twitter this morning, and it made me tear up a little while reading it. It has stuck with me all day, so of course I had to share with my lovely followers!
The Not-So-Sexy Origins of Body Shame, on Huffpost. Several passages struck me as particularly poignant, so let’s discuss them, shall we?
“Body trust is something we are born with and somewhere along the way it gets hijacked — by the culture, our parents, and health care providers to name a few. We never consent to this. We are far too young to know what is going on when the narrative about our bodies starts to change. So over time, we internalize peoples’ reactions and end up in this really disconnected place, believing that there is something about us that needs to be fixed. No longer are we innocent, for now we are responsible for changing what others find problematic.”
This is something I have been rolling around in my brain for a bit now…this idea that we are not born hating our bodies. We are not born believing we should be thinner/taller/shorter/have bigger boobs. Little kids love their body, I mean really LOVE it. They love their legs that let them run and play, their arms that give hugs, and their roly-poly tummies that hold yummy food. At some point though, we get hijacked. Our culture, our doctors, and even our parents (who are supposed to love us unconditionally, no matter what) start to make comments about our appearance, or about theirs or other’s appearances in front of us. We quickly learn to do the same. Girls as young as 5 now think about dieting. Children as young as 6 are being diagnosed with, and treated for anorexia. As quoted in the HuffPo article, Anita Johnston writes,
“Just as ancient societies had special rituals for girls at the onset of menarche to celebrate this rite of passage into womanhood, our modern society also has a ritual for adolescent girls to mark their entrance into womanhood. It is called dieting.”
Why?! Why is this the legacy we are handing down to our children? It’s because we don’t know any other way. We live in a culture that worships the thin, white, able-bodied ideal. We are bombarded every single day with ads for diets, pills, and surgeries to make us thin. We are surrounded by media that produces articles and shows telling us that we must loose weight and get makeovers in order to be valued by society. As the amazing Virgie Tovar puts it,
“When people say they want to lose weight, they often mean I want to be respected. I want to be loved. I want to be seen. I want liberation from fear and self-loathing. Weight-loss culture will never give us those things because it is founded on fear/hate-based systems like sexism, racism, classism and ableism.”
Because of the weight-loss culture we live in, parents (knowingly or not) teach their children that they must constantly be working to “improve” their appearance, that they can never be happy with their bodies. Parents begin to police what their children eat, begin to point them towards “flattering” clothes, and warn them against becoming fat. I think that many, if not most, parents believe that they are doing this from a place of love. They believe they are protecting their children by making sure that their child won’t be the one who is made fun of on the playground for being fat.
What if we could begin spreading the message of body love to parents? What if we could start teaching parents about Health at Every Size, instead of sending home body-shaming “fat letters” when they fall outside of the “acceptable” category on a chart that is bullshit. Especially since body-shaming does far more harm than good. What if little girls grew up watching their mothers and other female relatives appreciating their bellies and thighs and arms, instead of criticizing themselves? It won’t happen overnight, but imagine a world where we raise our girls to love themselves! Imagine a world where women and girls no longer bond over discussing what parts of their bodies they hate the most.
So today, on International No Diet Day, I encourage you to ditch the diet and learn to love your body as it is, right here, right now. And pass it on. Share the body love with the girls in your life, be they your daughters, nieces, or children of friends. Spread the word that everyBODY is beautiful and everyBODY deserves love and respect.