DIET CULTURE, INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION, & FAT BIAS – MY STORY
You’ve heard of phobias before, right?
A phobia is an intense fear, usually irrational or discriminatory, of a thing, person, or experience.
But what about phobias that are so culturally prevalent that we don’t even know they exist?
Fatphobia is one of those phobias so normalized that most of us have never even heard the word.
Do you believe any of the following, in your deepest true mind?
- That being fat is ugly
- That being fat is unhealthy
- That being fat is a moral failing and indicates a lack of character
- That being fat means something about who someone is as a person
I used to believe all of these things about myself.
I was so steeped in diet culture that I didn’t even see why someone might want to challenge these beliefs.
I believed I wouldn’t be good enough until I was thin. I believed I wouldn’t be loved or considered attractive until I was thin.
Ironically, I was actually much thinner than I am now – but it didn’t matter because my fatphobia had me on a never ending quest to get smaller.
This quest consumed me. I thought about my body, my weight, my food intake, my exercise CONSTANTLY.
Weight was the lens through which I understood the world. Even when I wasn’t obsessing over my size, binging and purging and measuring and exercising, I was blaming it for aspects of my life that might otherwise seem unrelated.
I believed it was the reason for everything I wanted but didn’t have – romance, a coaching business, marathon medals, you name it.
This also meant that I viewed all activities in relation to whether or not they would help me solve my weight “problem.”
Meditation, yoga, cooking – these things were only deemed “worthy” of my time and attention if I believed they would help me lose weight.
In fact ironically enough the only reason I discovered thought work was because I enrolled in a weight loss program that promised to help me shed pounds with a combination of thought work and intuitive eating.
It was the last diet I ever tried.
Because once I learned that our thoughts create our feelings, that the size of my body was not ugly, wrong, or bad in and of itself…I got a glimmer of hope that if I resolved the emotional confusion that was equating thinness with worth, I might not actually need to be thin at all.
And that possibility changed everything for me.
It gave me a glimpse of what could be possible for my life if I stopped caring about my weight.
It led me to explore the Health At Any Size movement and anti-diet culture, where I started opening to new evidence that fat was not inherently bad or unhealthy.
It led me to create a framework for how to use thought work on body image and fat positivity.
Don’t get me wrong; this was not an instantaneous shift. It was a SLOG. I had decades of beliefs to challenge.
But this is how I know that thought work can change everything about how you see the world.
I went from spending literal decades of my life trying desperately to change my body so I could hate it just a little less…to falling in love with my body for real, simply by applying this work to my brain over the course of a year.
And though I came to this work out of desperation, I now see this process as not just a personal transformation, but a political awakening.
Before that period, I either didn’t know about discrimination against fat people, or I thought it was justified.
I didn’t know that:
- Weight discrimination is as common as race and age discrimination.
- It’s more common than ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability discrimination.
- Children as young as 3 years old exhibit weight bias they’ve picked up from their parents or society.
- Fat people experience discrimination in housing, employment, dating, health care access, and every other area you can think of.
- As with all intersectional forms of marginalization, fat bias has bigger impacts if you live in additional marginalized identities. E.g., if you are a woman you may experience discrimination on that basis. If you’re a fat person, you may experience discrimination on that basis. If you’re a fat woman, you are more likely to experience discrimination than either a fat man or a thin woman.
I literally couldn’t see any of this until I was willing to challenge the beliefs my brain was offering as truth.
Fat is ugly.
Fat is unhealthy.
Fat is impossible to love.
Simply learning the facts about fatphobia helped open my eyes to my own internalized belief systems and experience in the world.
And then thought work helped empower me to decide how I wanted to think and feel about all of this – the science, the statistics, the politics, my own body, my own life.
All while existing in a world where the political reality and other people’s beliefs, if I took them on, would confirm some of my greatest fears about myself and the world.
That I wouldn’t find love. That fatness is gross. That fatness = laziness and lack of willpower.
Because that’s what so many of us believe.
This transformation didn’t require me to believe that weight discrimination or sizism don’t exist.
I just had to believe that it wasn’t ALL that exists.
I had to believe that the one thing I could control was my own attitude – my own belief in myself, my own willingness to risk rejection without using it to confirm my worst fears, my own drive and determination and neural plasticity.
This is why I’m so passionate about using this work to undo social conditioning.
I lived through that process around weight.
And while this work still requires maintenance – my brain still offers some thoughts of “this would be easier if you were thin!” – 99% of the time, I truly do not think about my weight.
I don’t criticize my body.
In fact, I admire it.
I’m convinced there are amazing clients out there who want to hire me *because* of my body – or who don’t care about it one way or the other.
I’m convinced there are amazing men out there who want to date me *because of my body* – or who don’t care about it one way or the other.
I’m convinced my self-esteem doesn’t have to depend on what anyone else thinks of my body.
And you know what? Once I started believing those thoughts, I found so much evidence for all three.
I believe that my body is my superpower as a coach, not my downfall.
I don’t tell myself there’s anything in life I can’t have because of how I look.
I never used to worry I couldn’t get what I wanted in life because I was too feminist. I loved that about myself.
Now, I feel the same way about my size.
And because of that, because I did not accept society’s oppression as justified or acceptable or reasonable, because I decided not to let society tell me what I had to think of myself, I’ve been able to teach women all over the world to love their bodies too.
The world hasn’t changed yet, but it’s going to.
Because I’m going to change it, and the women I teach are going to change it too.
We’re all going to change the world – starting with our minds.