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  • Writer's pictureAnjali Raj

9th April


Hope you had a lovely and relaxing Easter weekend. In today's newsletter I have decided to address the topic of diet culture and it's effects on us. Early last month was Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Unfortunately I missed it then so I decided to take up that topic this week. It is one of the longest newsletters I have written. It's something that I need to address.

Podcast recommendation: This is the only part of today's newsletter that is off topic and hence I thought of addressing it first. The podcast which was supposed to go live last week is now available here. Dr Bryan McIntosh discusses the bottlenecks in health service delivery and the future of healthcare. Bryan is the Strategic Programme Lead: Placements (NHS) and has worked within the UK and the Scottish cabinet amongst many other roles.

Back to the main topic of Diet Culture....

Whether we know it or not, we are all in some way part of diet culture. If you are confused by what I mean by Diet culture, here is Christy Harrison's explanation.

Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

  1. Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”

  2. Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.

  3. Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.

  4. Oppresses people who don't match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.

Sounds familiar? Like I said, we are are guilty of at least one of the 4 above. You may say, "but Anjali, I only tell people to lose weight because I am concerned about them". If that's the first thought that came into you mind, trust me, I have been there too. It took me around a year of reading, patience, listening to my own body and unlearning, to realise that "concern for someone else's health" comes from diet culture too. Please look up the book recommendation. That book and a few others were life changing for me. If I look back at even as close as 2 years ago, I was so entrenched in diet culture. I was guilty of telling people all around me what is the right thing to eat, how starving is a good way to lose weight, why I was only talking about weight loss because I was concerned.. and so much more. What's ironic is that, from as far as my memory takes me, I have been a victim of diet culture myself. Around 2 years back, I went on a diet prescribed by a nutritionist and lost 10kgs. Did it feel good initially? Yes. Why? I felt accepted and the way people around me looked at me changed. Did it really feel good on the inside? No. I was hungry all the time. I was irritated and fatigued at the same time. My digestive system was a mess. My mental health suffered. I was sick very often. Why did I stick to it for around 9 months? I felt accepted. I am sharing this because this is something every chronic dieter goes through and it needs to stop. I wish I could go back and change those conversations where I put my body and mind through chronic dieting and made others feel guilty about their bodies. I cant, but I did what was the next best thing. I unlearned, and you can too.

Quote for the week: ‘As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.’- Kate Winslet

This quote strikes a cord with women everywhere. Why? Because it is true. I can honestly say that I don't think until probably a few years ago, I ever heard ANY WOMAN ever say that she loves her body. The conversation has always been about not being good enough.

Book I'm currently reading and Book Recommendation: Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison. It's one of the best books on Intuitive Eating. It addresses diet culture, fatphobia, social justice, health at every size and more.

She also has an amazing podcast called Food Psych. I would recommend that if you are not keen on books, listen to the podcast.

I have read this book in the past but I picked it up again this week because I needed a pick-me-up. Spring summer is that time of the year when the messaging surrounding you is all about weight loss and starvation diets.

In closing, if there is ever any resolution that I have made that I will stick to, that is to never ever diet again. I exercise because it makes me happy. I don't have to worry about food anymore because in the last year, I have learnt to listen to my body's cues on hunger and fullness, which in turn means that I rarely get cravings anymore.

I hope today's newsletter drives you towards at least trying to understand the impact diet culture has on our lives. If you want help with resources about this topic and support with unlearning toxic diet culture, feel free to reach out to me. Lastly, if all of this seems like ridiculous and absurd, it is your opinion and I respect that. However, do me a favour and please just do one thing for me- Dont push your opinions of health and beauty on anyone else other than yourself.

That's all for today. Hope you have an energising and restful weekend! See you next Friday!


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