Prompted by Murder of Goths - on dieting

Go read this post from MoG.

TW diet talk.

Whenever I find myself writing a War and Peace length comment on someone's blog post I know it's time to say my piece on my own blog too, hence this post. My thoughts on this subject are long, complicated and very personal and I'll unpack them as calmly as I can.

Your opinion on dieting within plus size/fat acceptance/body positivity circles is likely to be strong, no matter which camp you fall into. Whether you're completely pro dieting in fat circles, have an 'each to their own' mentality or think 'hell naw, that doesn't belong in our spaces', the chances are your thoughts on dieting are deep-rooted, passionate, and in some way define who you are. It's no wonder it makes us fall into camps, predominantly those who diet and want to talk about it everywhere, and those who feel diet talk shouldn't be in fat spaces.

Before I say more, let me tell you about my dieting history. I was a fat baby, a fat toddler, a fat kid. My mum was fat and had been bullied by the people who should have loved her most. She took me to the doctor as a child to be put on a diet as she wanted a better life for me than she'd had. Being put on a diet before puberty messed with my head. (I can't remember exactly how I old I was but I know it was before I started senior school). Of course as an adult I can look at it objectively and know she was trying to help me, but at the time it made me feel like I was deficient in some way. I wanted to please my mum so I went along with the diet, and I dieted until my mid-to-late 30s, long after it was for her.

A particularly horrible time of it was when I was in my teens, about 17 years old. My boyfriend was a dick who started dating me when I was fat then pressured me to lose weight (ugh, eff off mate) and combined with my previous dieting history it sent me to a nasty place. I was also having trouble at home - my mum was in a bad relationship with a violent and dangerous man who lived in our home. I was struggling with really poor mental health. I developed what I now know to be an eating disorder, except I called it a diet. It got so bad that I was only eating fruit and carrots and would get drunk so I didn't notice the gnawing pain in my stomach. I lost weight quickly as you'd expect, and everyone changed around me. I was still me but more men approached me, and girls who hadn't had time for me before suddenly wanted to be my friend. It was a really weird place to be in and it made me realise how shallow the world is.

Back then in my youth the only real health concern was from my GP - it wasn't like it is today, where everyone thinks they're a doctor. Back then dieting was about aesthetics and not so much about health. I'm not going to touch on dieting for health except to say there are unhealthy thin people and healthy fat people. I'm not going down that road - it's none of my business why someone diets or what they hope to achieve from it.

I wish I could say I snapped out of dieting a long time ago and lived happily ever after, but it took nearly bleeding to death in 2011 for my 'fuck it' moment to happen. Before then, what diet didn't I do? Slimfast. The Cambridge diet, where I had such bad hunger pains I couldn't stand up straight one day. Weight Watchers, Slimming World. And after each and every one I piled on more weight. But still I played the game, as it's what you do isn't it? Isn't a woman supposed to be utterly fixated on her looks? I mean, that's all that matters, right?! (If you're detecting sarcasm, well done).

When I found plus size blogging I found fat fashion bloggers and radical fat acceptance bloggers. My pocket went to fatshion bloggers, but my heart - oh, my heart - it went to rad fat bloggers. There wasn't anything wrong with ME, just society. It was OK to be me, whatever form that took. I discovered feminism, a thing I'd had with me since that eye-opening time when I lost weight at 17, except I never knew what to call it before. I now knew my worth was more than the size of my arse. I clung onto these things like life rafts, for I'd been drowning for over 25 years. I stopped dieting, learned to love myself from all angles, found my clan.

But within this clan were people like me - complicated people with long histories like me, and yet not like me. They'd had their tough times and likely had some experiences similar to me, but their experiences of dieting may have been positive. Mine really wasn't. I've been really judgemental in the past - it's hard to separate my experiences of dieting away from everyone else's and understand it may have brought good things to some. My opinion has softened over time knowing that body image is fraught with highs and lows and messages pumped out from the cradle to the grave about who gets to be worthy, who gets to be beautiful, who gets to exist without shame. But even though I know people's decisions to diet are based on their own pain, I still get dragged back to the place where my stomach always rumbled, when I was weak with hunger and obsessing about every morsel that went into my mouth. So yes, I get that lure dieters get - to shrink, to gain widespread approval. However, is it right to do it in plus size circles?

Over time my attitude has softened from a place of judgement to 'each to their own'. However, a little concern for people who will ALWAYS struggle with food and weight is golden. It isn't enough for some to be a 'You do you, and I'll do me' person. There are some who demand the right to talk about dieting in plus size spaces, and if you disagree you're considered a fascist. Because you protect yourself from going back to a bad place you're 'unsupportive'. Because you want people to be conscious of where they say these things you're selfish and cramping their style.

I used to be in a couple of Whatsapp chat groups with various plus size bloggers and plus size people. It was up and down, as any clustering of people can be. Not everyone is going to get on all the time, especially not when messages are pinging across by the dozens a minute and it's hard to tell who's talking to whom. It's easy to speak out of turn and stick your foot in it. I did it a couple of times with regards to my views on dieting and I suspect I've become persona non grata to a few people since. People should absolutely do what makes them happy, but they can't MAKE me enjoy it. I have muted several people who are avid dieters who trigger that part of me I'm trying to forget. The part where I flay off my skin, scream 'I'm not good enough!' and go back to obsessing over the scales, inches, pounds, bites, forkfuls.

These people (who I like) are not important enough to send me back to that. No one is.

I WILL NOT be that person again. I'm protecting myself from great hurt, but because I don't want to support that aspect of other people's lives, I'm a pariah. Or it feels that way. Maybe I'm paranoid - it's hard to tell with my mental health sometimes. I know I felt a lot closer to the community at some point, and once I left the Whatsapp chats less so. Maybe it's the dieting thing, maybe it's something else (like out of sight, out of mind).

For me, triggering goes on when people bring a LOT of diet talk into my spaces - and by my spaces I mean my social media feeds. I do unfollow/mute people who devote a lot of time to diet posts - let's say the magic number is 50%. If someone posts photos of their face/kids/animals/other interests half as often as they post diet stuff, I'll probably keep them around, but if they become consumed with dieting (as many dieters do because they're hangry all the time) I won't. It's not just triggering, it's boring. If they mix it up and are fun to follow despite the slight triggering I'll probably keep them around, but definitely not if they lose 2 pounds then start body shaming fat people because they're already mentally divorced from their own body type. Understand that it's a cumulative effect. If I have one person per social media channel enthusing over their new diet it's no biggie, but when I have a dozen and it feels like every other post I see is about dieting it quickly starts to fuck with my mental health.

Sometimes it feels like if I'm not cheering every dieter on, I'm a different breed. It's not enough to like them as people, I actually have to go out of my way to congratulate them on doing something which takes me back to a really bad place to be considered worthy of their time. Please don't take my long and complicated history with dieting, weight, self-image, and make it about my feelings for you. Even if you were my best friend, I would put my own wellbeing first. I stay away from people who might accidentally harm me even if they think I stay away as I don't like them. I just like me more. If I could say one thing it would be: Do what you have to, but don't treat people who are surviving eating disorders badly because they won't give you the kudos the rest of the world garnishes you with for dieting. You don't need our acceptance cookies - you have the rest of the world for that. You will be clapped on the back for that literally everywhere else on earth.

And as to the insidious way dieting is creeping into bopo spaces, and the way brands react to newly thinner plus bloggers, holy cow, we have a whole new clusterfuck. That's another blog for another time.

Where do you stand on this?
L xoxo

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