Is It “Healthy Eating” or Fatphobia in Disguise?
Although you may be keeping up with the latest health trends, or spending hours learning about nutrition, that doesn’t mean your ‘healthy diet’ is coming from a place of health. Is fatphobia what is truly driving your dietary choices? And if so, what is fatphobia in the first place?
Let’s take a look at what fatphobia is, where it came from, and how it could sneakily be manipulating your lifestyle and eating habits – as well as how to break free from it once and for all.
What is fatphobia?
At its core, what fatphobia is is an irrational fear – or even hatred – of fat bodies. It is a fear of being fat, and even being around fat people.
What is fatphobia? It’s weight discrimination. It’s the improper assumption that people who weigh more are physically, morally or intellectually inferior.
And it needs to stop.
Fatphobia is what makes many people associate fatness with laziness and being unhealthy – but often that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
Many people are overweight because of genetics or medication or having children. Many exercise religiously and eat a balanced and nutritious diet – and are still overweight. But really the reason doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t be policing other peoples’ bodies, or even our own.
Repeat after me – “My weight has absolutely nothing to do with my worth.”
But it’s really hard to remember that in a world obsessed with image. In a world where sneaky fatphobia is what so many of our societal structures are built around.
Fatphobia isn’t always obvious. It isn’t necessary verbal or written fat-shaming. It can be so much more subversive than that.
Weight-related discrimination exists everywhere. In the workplace, at school, at restaurants, at the mall and even at the doctor’s office.
Take the size of school desks or fixed restaurant seating, or theme park ride seats for example. There are presumptions about how big a body should be, and sometimes that leaves bodies out.
The same goes for the fashion industry. It’s incredibly difficult to find the latest fashions for bigger fat bodies, and even if you do, fatphobia is what makes people perceive overweight bodies differently for wearing them.
When a thin person wears a tank top no one bats an eye. When a fat person wears one – it’s brave. When a thin person wears yoga pants, they look athletic. When a fat person wears them, they are often perceived as sloppy.
And it’s incredibly hard to find formal and professional clothing in large sizes. It’s as if the world is sending out a message that only people with certain sizes and shapes belong in the business world, the elite, or even in important cultural moments – like weddings.
What is fatphobia?
It’s what makes it more difficult to date when people are ashamed to be seen with you.
It’s what makes it harder to get a raise when employers associate fatness with laziness.
It’s what drives overweight people, average weight people and even underweight people to restrict and diet and starve their bodies – for fear of the consequences of fatness.
Fatphobia is what established the need for diet culture. Fatphobia is what ruins a person’s relationship to their body and to food. Fatphobia is what causes a rise in disordered eating year after year after year, and is one of the main causes of binge eating.
But it wasn’t always that way. So what is fatphobia’s point of origin?
Sometimes it helps to take a look at where we came from to understand where we are now with our bodies.
Where did fatphobia come from?
We will have a better understanding of what fatphobia is when we learn where it came from.
Before the 20th century, being thin was not in fashion. A thin person was perceived as poor or too lazy to work for food. Conversely, if you had enough to eat that you were amply sized, you were seen as well-off and hard working.
Back when food was scarce, having an abundance of food – and an abundant body – was a sign of wealth.
Over time, however, food became more available. With an easy access to sustenance, work patterns changed, and suddenly being overweight was no longer a status symbol.
By the late 19th century, doctors started trying to persuade people that they would live longer if they were thin. The market was inundated with weight-loss aids add and diet products, and soon being thin was viewed as the more stable and attractive way to be.
It became even worse after World War II, when the fear of fat finally started to mould meld into what fatphobia is today.
According to the book ‘Fat History,’ by the 1950s, psychologists began to say being fat showed ‘maladjustment and insecurity,’ and that fat people were ‘miserable, self-indulgent and lacking in self-control.’
But the expectations of the ‘ideal body’ were unrealistic at best. Being constantly exposed to these ridiculous standards of beauty has spelled disaster for the physical and emotional well-being of people of all ages and weights the world over.
We are breeding disordered eating, self-loathing and fatphobia from a very young age. In ‘Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention,’ a study revealed that 40-60% of girls aged 6-12 are dissatisfied with their weight and terrified that they would become fat.
This is not healthy.
We obsess over our image and think that we would be prettier and happier if we just lost some weight. We try every diet in the book and restrict and restrict but it doesn’t work.
That’s not because we don’t have self control – it’s because diets simply aren’t sustainable. And because restricting is one of the leading causes of binge eating.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Sometimes restrictive eating is sneaky. It’s labeled as ‘healthy eating’ or a ‘lifestyle change.’ But could your ‘healthy’ diet actually be just another side effect of fatphobia?
How “healthy eating” can actually be fatphobia in disguise
‘I eat healthy’ is not a healthy statement. It’s a statement that is firmly rooted in diet culture. Diet culture tells us how we should look and what we should eat and gives us hundreds of rules that make it impossible for us to hear our body whispering what it really wants.
When you say ‘I eat healthy’ you are still stuck in an idea that foods are inherently good and bad, and that healthy good is ‘good.’
But food should never be personified. It is simply food, just nourishment we give our body for energy.
If you choose any diet, no matter how ‘healthy’ you think it may be, to lose weight – it isn’t good for you. Diet’s are not proven to help you lose weight. In fact, diets drive many people to emotional eating and weight gain in the end.
Why, you may ask? When you tell your body that certain foods are off limits, your body’s survival instinct tells it that it is being starved.
It doesn’t matter if you are eating plenty of other things – if you label foods as negative, your body will crave them, and this causes binge eating habits and other disordered eating.
In fact, there is a lot of disordered eating hidden among even common diets like being vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.
It’s one thing if you are undertaking these diets for ethical, spiritual, or actual health reasons (i.e. celiac disease) – not everyone needs to heal their relationship with food.
But even these diets touted as ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ can be harmful for your body and psyche if you’re doing them to lose weight.
Take it from me.
I used the world of health and wellness as just another form of restriction.
I tried every diet in the book and then tried them again. I counted calories and joined weight loss programs and exercised religiously to try to achieve the body I wanted. I was so desperate to lose that last half stone that I thought would change my life.
And I was changing my life in my weight loss journey…but not in a positive way.
I was stressed, anxious, and didn’t even realise how often I turned to food for comfort, sabotaging all my gym and diet efforts and requiring that I start again.
I was always worried about what I was eating and talking to myself negatively, and eventually all my dieting and restricting turned into an absolutely out of control binge eating habit.
I never would have imagined that what started with a ‘healthy eating’ journey would end up in a disordered eating one.
But disordered eating commonly begins when you decide to lose weight by eating only organic, vegetarian, low-calorie or low-fat foods, etc.
Maybe you spend hours researching nutritional information to determine what you can and cannot eat.
This creates exaggerated emotional distress when it comes to your food choices. You cause yourself anxiety, and then shame if you don’t follow your ‘healthy diet’ perfectly. You may try fasting and cleanses and cutting out entire food groups in an attempt to be ‘healthy.’
This isn’t the way to true health.
Why are you trying so hard to be ‘healthy’ in the first place? Do you actually think you would be content with your body if you lost XX amount of weight – or would you find something new to critique?
Fatphobia can cause us to believe that losing weight is the only way to find love, success or happiness. We start to equate weight with our worth as human beings.
No diet, no matter how ‘healthy’ it may seem, can fix this.
Sometimes, it’s important to heal from the inside first so you can love your body for the blessing it is and restore your relationship with self as well as with food.
You can do that with emotional eating help and intuitive eating.
What is intuitive eating? It’s a set of tools and principles that help you ditch the diets forever, look in the mirror with confidence again, and find your way to food freedom.
Doesn’t that sound great?
Then let’s begin.
Say goodbye to fatphobia and hello to food freedom
Every person – regardless of their age, ethnicity, gender, beliefs, sexuality, shape or size – should live a life free from discrimination.
And I don’t just mean discrimination from others. I mean discrimination from themselves too. Because oftentimes, we are our own worst critics.
When we buy into fatphobia and the diet culture, we believe our bodies to be imperfect and untrustworthy, when really our body is the only thing we SHOULD be trusting.
Well it’s time to learn to trust your body again. To let go of the rules and she shame and the guilt and the self-doubt. It’s time to find food freedom.
If you want to understand more about what food freedom is, and how you can get started on your food freedom journey, come check out my FREE webinar on food freedom.
A food freedom program can help you to say goodbye to diets forever and feel your very healthiest inside and out – it certainly worked for me.