My journey with diet culture, body image, what I learnt and unlearnt

In 2018, for the first time, I started looking at the different kinds of diets and how they “helped” with weight loss and a more healthy (read skinny) lifestyle. As someone who was body shamed for most of my adult life, all these promises of a coveted skinny body really appealed to me.

In October 2018, I started off with a diet called Whole30 — no sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, or alcohol — and was pretty psyched about it. I even wrote a whole blog post dedicated to my journey through this diet.

You can read all about it here: My journey with Whole30: Results, what I learnt, and how I was challenged

Please bear in mind that this was 2018 me who was sucked into this culture of diets, bodies that had to be certain shapes and sizes to be valid, and such very deeply conditioned ideas. In addition to doing a couple rounds of Whole30, I also tried Intermittent Fasting.

What has it been like two and a half years down the road? I don’t think I’m happier or better off just because I tried and succeeded in following my Whole30 diet. I realized that the number on the scale would never make me any happier because I was only constantly going to try to push that “goal weight” and keep myself from eating foods that I loved just to achieve that goal.

Did I lose weight and how long did that last? I did lose about 25 lbs through my Whole30 journey and was able to successfully keep it off for about 2 years. But here’s where it gets tricky — I was so sucked into this number on the scale I wasn’t really sure if I was strong or healthy anymore.

How did it feel? The constant comments on whether I was on a diet, how I looked amazing after losing so much weight, on how “fit” I was becoming got me wondering what my purpose was behind doing all of this in the first place. This led me to some introspection and I understood that for me being healthy means being strong, and that means being able to do a 10 mile hike, carrying my 30 lbs puppy around when she’s tired, lifting boxes when I moved houses, and more. And this is just me. Feeling fit or healthy looks/means different things to different people and I’m not here to judge any of you for what it means to you, just sharing my realization. You do you!

I had the privilege of going to a personal trainer and training for the better part of 2020 whenever possible and tried to move my body as much as I wanted to feel happy! And now that my gym membership is over and I moved, I’m looking for new ways of moving and having fun with whatever I do.

Unlearning this toxic diet culture has been a really interesting and difficult journey and it’s definitely still ongoing. I know I still have a lot of deep rooted conditioning about how much I should weigh, what I should look like, what’s healthy & unhealthy, and more. My first step towards that right now is being aware of this conditioning and focusing it on having fun with food and exercise that makes me feel good at the end of the day rather than on making myself feel bad and punishing my body.