Have you ever thought about how a fish swims in water but probably doesn’t realize that there’s water all around it? There’s just so much water everywhere it looks that it can’t know that it’s in water until it jumps outside of it. That water is culture and the culture I want to talk about is diet culture.
I’ve been swimming in the waters of diet culture for as long as I can remember.
Looking back at photos of myself, I’ve always been a chubby kid. What we know now is that chubby kids most likely make chubby adults because some bodies are just genetically predisposed to be on the larger side. The diverse human race has bodies on a bell curve—some people are in the middle majority, some on the smaller left side, and some on the larger right. If we didn’t have those people on the sides, everyone would just look the same, which is a) impossible, and b) boring.
I think I started my first “diet” (“lifestyle change,” “wellness journey,” whatever you want to call it) at age eight, which only makes the new invention of the Weight Watchers, or, I’m sorry, WW’s, child weight-loss app for ages 8+ hurt even more. If I had access to this app at that age, I 100% would have downloaded it, and it 100% would have messed up my relationship with food and my body even worse than it already is (because most people’s relationships with food are messed up...remember the waters of diet culture?).
Feeling like my body was never good enough, even when I was at my thinnest, had me obsessing over food, how clothes fit me, whether other kids liked me—you could say that it put a big damper on my childhood.
This ages 8+ thing is a real “hook ‘em early” scheme that sends shivers to my bones. How dare you try to encourage weight loss in children who are STILL GROWING. During puberty, children are expected to gain weight. Don’t even get me started on how someone’s weight is not indicative of their health status and how health isn’t a moral obligation!
Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. This feels personal to me. I’m not a kid anymore, but every time I feel body insecurities come up, I can see myself as a girl and all the times people told me that my body wasn’t good enough—someone commenting on what I was eating, seeing girls with bodies like mine as the losers on TV shows, my family offering to go on Weight Watchers with me, starving myself so that I ate fewer calories than I burned...the list goes on.
This body-shame thing runs deep.
These messages are still being given to children (and adults) every day, and this Kurbo app only makes it worse. In less than 10 years, the number of kids under the age of 12 who have been admitted to the hospital (reminder: that’s only those who received professional help) for an eating disorder rose by 119%! Children shouldn’t be worrying about the way their bodies look—they should be focused on school and their hobbies and their friends and their families.
Let’s teach children that people come in all shapes and sizes, and let’s teach them to trust their bodies and their intuitions, not fight them. It took me a long time to realize that my body does not equal my worth and that my body is beautiful just the way it is.
Diets don’t work. Why do you think so many people go back on diets? Weight Watchers is not a health company—they are a tech company. They’ve developed a product that banks on the large majority of people who go on diets gaining the weight back. Exploiting children and teenagers for long-term customer profit gain is disgusting. Weight Watchers, and so many companies, brands, stereotypes, and false facts, only perpetuate what we call diet culture.
We aren’t born hating our bodies—we are taught to. We aren’t born with complicated relationships to food—we are shown them.
I’ve been swimming in diet culture for way too long, and now that I’ve popped my head above the surface, I can see how murky the water really was. So come on out with me. Start following more accounts on Insta that are body diverse and promote self-love and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. Read some amazing authors like Virgie Tovar and Jes Baker, or listen to some dope podcasts like Food Psych or She’s All Fat Pod (start with season 1). It’s easier to breathe on dry land.