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Loving yourself is an act of rebellion: on diet culture, nutrition and exercise

Every single day you are faced with this message, over and over, in a million different ways; you need to change/ fix/ improve your body. It is a problem that needs to be “dealt with.” The fitter/ thinner you appear, the worthier you are. 

This is also called diet culture.

According to Lauren Strapagiel of Buzzfeed news, diet culture it is “an insidious and pervasive way of thinking about body size that assigns a moral virtue to some types of bodies (namely smaller) and types of food, but not others.”

These subliminal messages come at us at all hours of the day, both internally with our own thoughts and conditioning, and without, in the world around us.

What are some examples of diet culture?

Think of the phrase “clean” eating. What ideas, words and images do you associate with the word ‘clean?’

Now think of the words “guilty pleasure” and “cheat meal.” What ideas, words and images to you associate with those two phrases?

Does the phrase “clean eating” make you think something along the lines of purity? Godliness? Moral superiority?

And what about “guilty pleasure” and “cheat meal?” Guilt? Cheating? Gluttony? Shame? Sin?

“Always ask yourself: who profits off my insecurities?”

We’ve been conditioned to label foods “good” and “bad.” And worse, we have been conditioned to think that the foods we consume somehow means something about us. Like, the cleaner the food, the better you are, the “dirtier” the food, the more of a trashcan of a human you are. Here’s the thing. Food is food. You are worthy and loved and important and valuable. Your value doesn’t rise when you eat a carrot and fall when you eat a cookie.

Diet culture has told you that if you have control over your diet and your body, you will then have total control over your life and your own happiness. Like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, all your dreams come true when you finally eat perfectly, work out perfectly, and achieve that “dream body.”

Here’s the thing.

There is a big difference between eating mindfully and healthfully to fuel your body, than eating restrictively because you believe your body needs to change and shrink to be worthy.

There’s a difference between exercising to sweat and celebrate the fact that you can, and the joy of being alive, than punishing yourself with gruelling workout routines because you feel like your body is a problem needing to be fixed.

There’s a big, big difference.

When we start to restrict “bad” foods because we want to be more “good” this can start to fuck with our heads very, very quickly. This can open the doorway to all sorts of life-threatening disorders.

But where is the line? Where does an interest in nutrition cross the line into disordered eating and thinking?

According to therapist and CEO of Mindful Counseling Tiffany Roe, the desire to eat healthy becomes unhealthy when:

  • it inteferes with your functioning
  • causes you distress
  • creates suffering: you lose time because of it, you experience guilt, loathing and fixation.
  • it becomes obsessive

There is nothing wrong with eating foods that make you feel good, feel alive, feel vital.

There’s nothing wrong with eating foods that provide you enough energy and carry you through the day, foods that help your body operate in a way that feels really, really good for you.

There’s nothing wrong with getting interested in nutrition and what you put in your body.

Healthful eating should be joyful, a way of relating with your body and giving it what it needs, so that it feels good to move around the world in.

This is exactly why we created the Nutrition section in the Salty Club, to explore new ingredients, play with tastes and textures. We don’t encourage restrictions and banning, we encourage balance. Tell us not to eat something and it’s the only thing we’ll want to eat. Balance keeps the mind, body and environment happy. We don’t believe in magical food, we believe in variety. We believe in gradual integration. Not restriction. Not banning. There are no “bad” foods and “good” foods. We want your mind and spirit happy too.

Get back into your body and move it because you love it. Guided yoga videos and meditations from your own desktop, laptop or tablet >>

It’s a similar situation with exercise.

Movement is good for your mental health. Sweat reminds you you’re alive and hearing your blood pound in your head and move through your body reminds you you have a body that can do incredible things. That can be extremely empowering and boost creativity, productivity and overall quality of life. Getting more physically capable to say, paddle out on bigger days in the surf, or run further, or box harder, or just move through the world feeling more embodied and stronger can be extremely gratifying. Movement itself is amazing. Having fitness or exercise goals is amazing. Wanting to see what you are capable of and expand your capacity, is amazing.

Gruelling hours at the gym punishing yourself because you think you’re a problem that needs to be fixed? Not amazing.

And that’s why we share surf inspired training and guided yoga videos through The Salty Club. We believe in making movement the celebration itself, rather than the means to an end of some far off future happiness where you have your “dream bod” and everything is perfect. They’re all 28 minutes or less, because life is for living and you have stuff to do outside the gym.

Celebrate your ability to move with short, high intensity, fun surf-inspired workouts today >>

“There’s nothing wrong with exercise, as long as you don’t hate yourself when you don’t do it.”

We are  whole, flawed, complicated, powerful, magical, strong, sensitive,  beautiful humans. W e are much more than what we eat and how much we exercise. We use these things to add value to our lives, so we can move through our day energized, give ourselves more fully to our loved ones and our projects, stay in our bodies, and generally feel good.

But we don’t let them control our lives or dictate our worth.

You’re worthy any day of the week. No matter what you’re eating or how you’re moving.

Here are some amazing podcasts to listen to if you’re interesting in learning more on all things body image, diet culture and learning to love your body in a society that tells you not to:

  • Under the Skin with Russell Brand: Shame, Pride and Breakdowns with Jameela Jamil

Listen here

  • Therapy Thoughts Podcast with Tiffany Roe: Episode 18: Orthorexia

Listen here

  • Reclaim with Thais Sky: Health at Every Size with Carmen Cool

Listen here

About the Author:

Caitlin is a journalist and writer from Australia. She’s into collecting and sharing the stories of other human people. Mostly women’s stories. You can find her at @caitlincreeper

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