Breaking up with toxic diet culture

“It’s not a diet it’s a lifestyle” the words that will fall out of most trainers’ mouths when they advise you on how to lose weight. It seems that I have always dipped in and out of diets but I always subconsciously end up back in the same place. Short-term diets with low carb counts, high protein intake, and exercise routines that leave me in stitches (not from laughing) and tears since my legs can’t seem to master the art of mountain climbing or doing a burpee (I still consider this torture).

A year in and out of a state of isolation means that I have really had time to properly assess my relationship with food on a physical and mental level. As a teenager, I was worryingly attracted to the idea of putting myself under the most ridiculous diets that would involve massively reducing my calorific intake to an unhealthy degree, seeing food as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and creating a really toxic relationship with my body. Breaking up with toxic diet culture honestly liberated me now I don’t rely on that industry to fuel the image I have of myself. 

The body-positive movement has done so much to liberate all bodies and to remove this stigma that one size fits all especially when used to promote quite unrealistic European heteronormative standards. If I press my fingers into my hips I can feel where my bone is- even if I wanted to I can’t ever change the way my bone structure exists and nor do I want to. It has taken me years to reach a point of self-acceptance. It’s so easy to get validation from friends but ultimately without embodying it yourself it’s impossible to authentically love who you are. Seeing my body less as an object of affection and attraction and more as a vessel that moves me to places and keeps me healthy and nurtured has helped me detach from the mentality I used to have. I don’t care about body size or what a scale says- to have a body that you can use to do whatever you want whether that be hiking, pole fitness, or yoga is incredible. Don’t undersell yourself to yourself  (one cup of lemon water and a MadFit workout has made me feel like some low-key influencer…a joke of course…maybe). 

One of the greatest mental shifts you can make is in choosing exercises that you actually enjoy. It sounds so simple and most people probably do this but I used to make myself suffer so much through routines that I just despised because in my mind I was weak if I couldn’t follow through. Now I focus on what brings me joy, I have particularly been vibing with Yoga with Adriene, Popsugar Hip-Hop Fit, MadFit, Chloe Ting, and Kukuwa Fitness. It goes without saying that everyone is different and what works for me might be a bad idea for someone else. I see my time working out as something that is all for me.  Get absorbed in moving, laughing (if like me your co-ordination is also shit), and having your attention on something far removed from social media. 

As for food it’s still a work in progress as my period approaches I know I will get cravings but I’m so tired of the outdated narrative that food is either inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Of course, there has to be a certain level of understanding when it comes to food groups but totally eradicating any food group can have adverse effects on your health. Ultimately, you know your own body so I would always advise people to take information from the internet with a pinch of salt especially from people posing as experts that may not be as qualified as their self-proclaimed status may suggest. Focusing on flavour and what your body wants can really help re-orient your relationship with food. In the morning, I drink water and wait till I feel the urge to eat and from there I really try and figure out what would feel good in my body. You may read this and think I sound extra but normally I’m in such a rush and so often I can eat food without really considering how I feel or what would actually nourish me. I totally appreciate that if you’re a busy person it’s not always the easiest situation but since starting to either prep or have an idea of what I want to eat when I go into work has made a huge difference. 

Taking a more well-rounded approach to health and fitness has made me feel really sad for the teenage Em that would get so beat down for eating treats or having pasta (god forbid!) It’s crazy to consider how many meals I would eat and feel bad for.

Growing up and just feeling more attuned to the needs of my body has made me appreciate food and exercise in a totally different way. Embracing making my own food, taking ownership of the exercises I do, and giving myself the breathing space to accept that my body is literally just a body (it can and will change and I will cherish it regardless). It hasn’t been easy and this perpetual state of anxiety with lockdown and working has both helped and hindered my relationship with my body. Gaining weight across my years at university and when my Grandad died felt like an anchor around my neck and I reached such lows with my own self-worth. It’s so easy to type this out and hope it reaches someone in need of a boost but actually practicing what I say is a whole different thing. 

All I would say is tread lightly with yourself and whatever you do, do it for yourself, and as far as possible surround yourself with proper support. I love Instagram but I have struggled a lot with finding pages that I felt were the right source of inspiration for me- it’s easy to fall down a wormhole but don’t feel alone if you do. 

I realised I haven’t signed off my blog posts in ages probably because it makes me feel a little lame but sending you all love and positive energy from my bed! 

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