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Friday, 26 May 2017

The Good, the Bad & the Morality Language Assigned to Food

“I’m going to be naughty and have a donut, YOLO.”


“I’m being bad today, I’ll have a biscuit.”


“Oh, you’re being good having a salad for lunch!”

You may have seen other bloggers and even myself in a previous post mention the problem with ‘morality’ language surrounding food and dieting, and the above are only a few examples of what we mean.  They’re seemingly harmless, inoffensive comments that people make around us on the daily, but this kind of talk about food does far more damage than a lot folks might realise.

Most of us don’t even think twice about saying we’re ‘being bad’ by treating ourselves to a food we enjoy, but the reality is that this one of the many symptoms of a society that values thinness and weightloss goals, and shames those who aren’t thin or at the very least aspiring to ‘health’ or a smaller, more toned body.

When we hear this kind of stuff, it’s almost always light-hearted and never really serious, of course, but this type of language is code that (when you add it together with everything else in our world that elevates thin bodies, dieting and pursuit of so-called wellness or fitness) eats its way into our subconscious, to the point where we can no longer even talk about eating certain foods in some settings without having to either justify it, or to admit to ourselves and those around us that we’re somehow less principled for eating them.

I know what some of you might be thinking – but some foods are bad for you, that’s just a fact! And you’d be absolutely right! Some foods are bad for our bodies (although usually just when consumed in large quantities), or are generally unhealthy, but how often do you hear the people around the office say it’s the digestive biscuit they’re snacking on that’s bad? Or the donut that’s a little bit naughty? Or the low fat yoghurt that’s good and well-behaved? You don’t… because they’re almost always referring to the people eating them, and deciding that they’re behaving either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on the item of food they’re consuming. If it’s a healthy food, congratulations – you’re good! If it’s an unhealthy food, you’re living dangerously at best, naughty if you fancy a cringe or you’re down right bad at worst.

The problem with this way of talking about food is that you’re assigning moral language to yourself and to other people based on what they’re eating. The same can be said for ‘cheat days’ in the fitness world – if you have a day where you treat yourself and eat something you enjoy that might be a little less healthy, you’re likening yourself to a cheater, i.e. immoral, bad, untrustworthy. In a certain well-known diet group (you know the one), foods you’re supposed to avoid are even called ‘syns’, as in, you know, some of the most immoral acts you can apparently do according to some religions…

As innocuous as this language can seem when you’re chuckling about it with friends or family or co-workers, it’s closely interwoven with a culture that doesn’t just fear but loathes fat, and upholds the dangerous ideas and stereotypes that ‘we are what we eat’ and that what we choose to put into our bodies somehow dictates whether or not we’re deserving of respect.

Implying that someone is ‘being bad’ for eating a cupcake might seem like nothing, but it’s actually one of thousands of tiny little ripples that feed the tidal wave associating fat bodies with being gluttonous, sinful and shameful. When pieced together these comments create a clear and harmful picture of thin bodies (i.e. those who are good and consume good, healthy foods) as an ideal we are all constantly expected to aspire to, while fat bodies (i.e. those who are bad and consume bad, unhealthy foods) are seen as unsightly and indicative of laziness and a lack of self-respect.  If you’re fat then you’re likely to be automatically branded ‘bad’ at first glance, but if you’re seen as trying your hardest to be ‘good’ and to have set weight-loss goals and be eating ‘good’ foods, then you can be redeemed.  Those who make a point of trying to be thin are elevated somewhat above those who don’t actively advertise to the world that they’re attempting to fit into the very small, lean mould we expect them to.

Regardless of whether or not a particular food or a person is healthy, we need to stop assigning praise to some foods and guilt to others – we should never be made to feel guilty for eating or inferior because we wanted to eat something we actually enjoy instead of something we’re supposed to feel like we ‘should’. That guilt is what can develop into calorie tracking, working out so that you feel deserving of food, low self-esteem, body comparison or in some cases, even eating disorders.  How often have you felt like you ‘need’ to hit the gym because you had a couple of these naughty foods and need to work off the extra calories to feel better about your decision to eat them?  I’ve lost count of how many times this has crossed my mind over the years, and it’s a product of this form of diet talk!

Eating healthy or unhealthy, being thin or fat, or fit or unfit doesn’t define your character. At the end of the day, whatever you choose to eat, your food is just fuel. If you choose to fuel your body with healthy things like salads and quinoa and roasted veggies then that’s cool, but contrary to what this coded language we use to talk about food implies, it doesn’t make you better than someone who chooses to fuel their body with chips, beans and pizza. Further to that, sometimes these so-called ‘bad’ foods are exactly what we need at the time – I don’t know about you, but the occasional donut or burger can be great self-care and make me feel happy!

Eating unhealthy foods doesn’t make you any less deserving of respect and you most certainly don’t have to earn the right to indulge. Next time you think about calling yourself bad or your friend good because of what you’re eating, stop yourself. Remember that saying things like that can feed your own and others’ insecurities, and that food is just energy and not a test of character.

 You’re not cheating for ordering what you want when you’re out to eat with friends; you’re just treating yourself. You’re not bad for eating a cookie because you fancied a cookie with your cup of tea. You’re not naughty for eating a bag of Asda jam donuts all to yourself; you’re just living your best life and eating what you love. You deserve to eat nice things, and you should never have to justify it to other people or to yourself.

You do you boo, treat yo’ self.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review / Walden Natural Perfumes: A Different Drummer

Not long after I started to get more interested in perfumes, I received the latest press release for one of the latest additions to LoveLula, and was delighted to see that it was a new high end, cruelty free and vegan line of fragrances. The new brand, Walden Natural Perfumes, takes its name from the works of transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. The book itself is a reflection of simple living in natural surroundings, and walks the line between an autobiography, and a social critique of consumerist attitudes and attachment to the material, hustle and bustle world in which we live.

The brand shares much the ethos detailed in Walden – one that I can very much relate to as a nature lover who is increasingly feeling alienated and frustrated by the materialist ways of today’s world – and each fragrance is said to be made from only the finest natural absolutes, resins and essential oils. The perfumes are named after and inspired by quotes from the book, and were created with the themes of nature, spiritual awakening and solitude in mind.

Given the heavy links to nature and the natural world, I was very keen to see how they smelled since I’m someone who tends not to enjoy traditional perfumes; I find they smell too harsh, alcohol-based and manufactured (and just stinky and unpleasant). I did a little reading about each fragrance, and eventually selected A Different Drummer* to try, as it sounded right up my street.



This particular fragrance drew me in almost immediately, as it’s described as opening with a spicy blast of pepper, followed by cedarwood, amber, and finishing with sandalwood. I tend to prefer spiced, woody, earthy smells so it seemed like my perfect scent on paper. When I first tested it out, I must say – I wasn’t sure if it was for me! The smell caught me off guard, and was indeed quite strong and peppery, with an almost musky kick. Once it started to settle however, I noticed the other notes to it, and the fiery blast dulled down to a warm, spicy scent complimented by the clean, woody smell of cedarwood and the sandalwood notes. After a while of mixing with my body chemistry, it takes on a faintly sweeter dimension but maintained the warm, musky tone to it.

From what I know about traditional perfumes, this doesn’t last quite as long as some (but none can be expected to last the entire day). I can still smell it very faintly on my skin at the end of the day, but I’ve found spritzing a little bit on my sleeves or collar as well as my skin helps to layer the scent and keep it going for a little while longer.

Despite my initial reservations when I first smelled it, I’m extremely enamoured with it now and have been really enjoying wearing it. It lends itself well to the quote after which it’s named: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” It’s a truly unique scent, unlike anything that I’ve ever really smelled in a perfume before, and the way that it changes after a while of hanging in the air or of settling on my body throughout the day is so multi-dimensional. It evokes warmth, confidence and self-assuredness; a reminder to grow, follow your own rhythm and resist the conformity that our world so fiercely tries to box us into.

I look forward to applying A Different Drummer each morning, and am happy to say I will definitely be looking to Walden Natural Perfumes for my future fragrances. The packaging for each perfume is beautifully simple and elegant; a 50ml glass bottle, with a removable wooden lid that reveals the nozzle. The prices vary very slightly between fragrances, but A Different Drummer is £50 per bottle, which I would argue is reasonable and expected for a cruelty free alternative to high end fragrances.

To me, Walden’s fragrances successfully set themselves apart from the over-produced, sickly scented high street, high end perfumes that I’ve learned to hate over the years; these really do march to the beat of their own drums, and it’s a beat I can get behind.

* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the product was sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Fatphobic Problem in Plant-Based Living



Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard all about the Lush controversy. I won’t get too bogged down in the nitty gritty of the issue, but in an nutshell, they shared some rather insensitive ‘medical facts’ relating to obesity, lifestyle and early death on their Instagram feed. Ultimately, as Lush is a brand who has claimed heart-felt ethics, inclusivity and has used body positivity as a marketing tool in the past, it didn’t go down well that they were sharing content that – medical fact or not – alienated and shamed swathes of their own customers.

In the wake of those posts, a lot of problematic issues in various communities came bubbling to the surface. Slews of bloggers rushed to their defence, in one way or another, creating a divide in the body positive community between those whose body positivity extends only as far as healthy (read: acceptable looking) bodies, and those who believe that all bodies deserve respect and love irrespective of health.

Obviously, there is a lot to be said about that, but I’m not the one to say it today. Instead, I want to address a couple of different groups that intersect here – the vegan, plant-based and general ‘wellness’ communities. Given the circles I surround myself with in the blogosphere, it’s not surprising that a few of my fellow plant-based Internetizens had a few things to say about this, and honestly, what many did share didn’t surprise me at all.

Veganism and plant-based living have long been equated with fatphobia; a certain amount of it I would argue is created by those outside, looking in. A lot of omnivores have a certain image of those who abstain from animal products as being super skinny, athletic and existing with 1% body fat on nothing but veggies and copious amounts of fruit, and many of those same omnivores might dip their toes into plant-based diets purely for the supposed health benefits. Vegans who don’t fit this skinny, fit mould or who are just straight up fat occasionally find non-vegans questioning whether or not they’re really vegan, because ‘aren’t vegans all really slim and skinny and healthy-looking?’

That said, the nature of some of the arguments behind why we should go vegan leads plenty of those who promote plant-based and vegan living down a hella fatphobic road. The health benefits of a varied, plant-based diet are many – eating large amounts of certain animal products is correlated to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and, on the whole, dying earlier than those who don’t eat these things. Not to mention the fact that meat and animal products are also generally less nutritious than they were fifty years ago (thanks to industrial farming and animals reared in unnatural environments and on less nutritious meals themselves) and are also often hormone-, drug- and/or disease-ridden.

Given all of that, it’s only natural to want to spread the word about how eating fewer animal products and more plants can help to improve your health. I’ve felt plenty of major health benefits from going vegan myself; I’m more energetic, I look healthier and more radiant, my hair and nails are stronger, my IBS symptoms have improved and my hormones are less all-over-the-place than they were pre-veganism. How we go about doing that though, is where the problem lies.

Vegans and plant-based folks are often accused of fatphobia and bodyshaming because, well, they often are fatphobic and bodyshame. For some, fat bodies become a tool used to guilt and scare people into giving up animal products.  For example, I’ve seen a number of illustrations shared among the plant-based social media communities in the past, depicting fat silhouettes filled with illustrations of burgers, chips, chicken wings, donuts etc. contrasted with skinny silhouettes filled with vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Pro-plant-based cartoons and illustrations depict images like fat people lounging on sofas, stuffing meat-based fast food into their mouths with ‘ironic’ speech bubbles such as ‘I won’t go vegan, that’s not a healthy lifestyle’. The identities of fat people and the fact that they are living, breathing humans deserving of respect are stripped away, and instead they become a cautionary tale or a side-by-side comparison essentially to say ‘this is what a vegan body looks like, but this is what a body that eats meat and cheese looks like – yuck!’

Warnings about the so-called obesity epidemic are rife in plant-based communities, because plant-based diets are viewed (understandably) as a solution to that ‘problem’. And this isn’t just vegans, of course, it’s the ‘wellness’, ethical and sustainable living communities too. Basically, any group of people for whom what we eat is a large part of our lifestyle and our view of the world around us. The issue here though, is the fact that folks who use this as ammunition in their fight to promote these lifestyles are often dehumanising other people. They’re reducing fat bodies to a societal problem to be solved, a symptom that can be cured if only you would only put down your bacon sandwich and pick up a green smoothie instead, and that is not okay.

For a start, at least in the vegan world, not every vegan or plant-based individual is healthy. You can be vegan and exist on little more than potatoes, Oreos and pizzas smothered in Tesco free-from mozzarella – that’s not healthy. Secondly, not every fat person is unhealthy. Regardless of whatever statistics you want to try to throw at me, ill health and being fat might be correlated in some circumstances but are not intrinsically linked; a fat person can eat well, get plenty of exercise and still be fat. Fat people can even suffer from eating disorders and, yep, you guessed it! still be fat. You simply cannot know just by looking at the size of someone’s body what their lifestyle and diet are like. Finally, and this is the kicker that has come out of all of this, even if someone is unhealthy it doesn’t mean that they are undeserving of respect and being treated like a human being.

It’s absolutely okay to use statistics and facts to back up the very real health benefits of giving up animal products, but what’s not okay is to use living, breathing people and entire body types as expendable props and horror stories to justify our arguments. You just need to learn the damn difference.

Sharing with a friend that those who eat a wholefoods, plant-based diet have a much lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who eat your average, animal product inclusive diet is totally cool. What’s not cool, for example, is the sharing of ‘shocking’ images of fat bodies and talking about how diet-based lifestyle choices are going to kill you and how going vegan would ease the strain of obesity on the NHS. Nor is talking about how obesity and being overweight is killing us all, and that ‘lifestyle choices’ (i.e. being fat) are a major cause of death, so 'lol go vegan!'. Nor is using the simple idea of looking fat as a cautionary tale for giving up animal products, and promoting thin bodies as a holy grail you can finally find if you go vegan or plant-based. In the first example, you’re sharing an objective statistic about the benefits of a plant-based diet. In the others, while they may be ‘facts’, you’re demonising and dehumanising an already marginalised group of people, equating body size with total body health, and reducing fat bodies to curable, medical conditions that are at best just lazy and at worst burdensome.

Those might sound like odd or extreme examples, but they’re all examples that I’ve seen. There are certain vocal members of plant-based communities who feel the need to comment on Instagram images of fat people, and share why they should go vegan for the sake of their health and appearances. There are plant-based YouTubers who tell their viewers that if you’re plant-based and fat, then you’re being lazy, not working hard enough and you’re doing it wrong. There are plant-based people who fight for the rights of animals to not be used as objects for human consumption, yet at the same time will reduce fat people to faceless fat bodies, unsightly creatures and problems viewed from a medical lens – essentially, turning them into objects, using the same tactics commonly used in the media used to scare the public and serve certain agendas.  Hypocrisy much?

If we can extend our compassion to animals and the environment, we should be able to extend our compassion to other groups of humans who are so often marginalised and mistreated by society. Veganism and plant-based diets have plenty of benefits without having to resort to turning fat bodies into objects to use to promote our lifestyles. If ‘but you can be skinny instead of looking like THAT’ or ‘but don’t you know obesity is costly and deadly and you’re less likely to be obese if you’re vegan/plant-based’ are the only arguments you can think of to adequately fight your corner then, honestly, you’ve got some problems with your ethics there, sort yourself out. Fat people are people; not statistics, not propaganda. Fat bodies are deserving of respect regardless of whether or not they are healthy, and fat people deserve more than to be treated like medical symptoms, deterrents or fucking wake-up calls.

If you take away nothing else from this, then at least remember that as a movement that can benefit so, so many, it simply doesn’t make sense to alienate and exclude groups of people in the way that this approach to plant-based activism does. This type of behaviour and this use of other people as ammo for your cause does little to sway many towards plant-based living and gives veganism and plant-based communities a terrible, exclusive and uncompassionate reputation.

Basically, don’t be that guy.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

My First Cervical Screening

Cervical screening, smear test, pap smear, whatever you want to call it, if you have a cervix they’re important to have done. If you don’t already know, cervical screenings are a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix, enabling you to get them removed and often prevent cervical cancer. In the UK, they’re offered to all women aged 25 and beyond who are registered with a GP, and between ages 25 and 49 you need to have them done once every three years.

Cervical screenings themselves don’t actually detect cancer, but they do detect the abnormal cells that could later develop into cancer, enabling them to be swiftly removed with no harm done. According to the NHS, since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cases of cervical cancer per year has decreased by about 7% - clearly it’s something worth doing!

And yet, they have a pretty bad rap – it’s only been in the past couple of years or so, when people in my social circles have started to become more open and passionate about promoting regular screenings, that I’ve actually started to hear anything ‘positive’. Prior to that, it was all horror stories and tales of discomfort and awkwardness and embarrassment over having another person shove a plastic duckbill up your junk.

I must admit, although I preach booking in for screenings and looking after your vagina, cervix and everything else in that vicinity, I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I was first invited for a screening about a year ago. I didn’t avoid going out of fear or embarrassment, rather I was convinced that working full time and based on previous experience, I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment that I could actually go to at my GP, so I just kept putting it off. Much to my surprise, when I finally bit the bullet and rang up last week, they gave me a 7:30pm appointment just over a week later! So, I went for my screening.

The nurse was very open and honest, and made me feel perfectly at ease. She verified that I was on the implant (I am), asked when my last period was (it’s been irregular lately, I’ve had two in the space of a month and a half) and asked if I was aware of any possibility of pregnancy (I hope not). After that, she explained the process. Essentially, all the nurse does is lube up a speculum (a plastic device that slides in and can be opened slightly to widen the vagina and enable them to insert the brush), sticks it in, opens it, inserts the brush used to collect the samples, and once the cervix is found a quick sample is taken and you’re done. She didn’t mince words and warned up front that it doesn’t feel pleasant, but that I was under no obligation to power through it if I was really uncomfortable. She maintained that it was important that, especially as it was my first experience, I wasn’t horrified into not coming back again for my future screenings and needed to leave the surgery feeling comfortable and confident in coming back again.

I was already wearing an easy-access dress, so all I had to do was kick off my shoes, take off my underwear and hop onto the bed. Don’t do what I did and whip your legs open there and then – apparently the proper position is feet together but knees apart and relaxed, and I have no boundaries… But, once I was comfortable, she talked me through each step.

First she applied lubricant to the speculum, which isn’t really all that intimidating looking if you’re already sexually active and use penetrative toys, but maybe that’s just me. She let me know exactly when she was inserting it, and really the only major discomfort was when she opened it. That was probably the worst part of the whole experience, and even then it was only grimace-inducing discomfort and not something that I was desperate to recoil from.

Next, she inserted the brush. Contrary to what people suggest, you aren’t literally scraped with some horrible metal scraping device – it’s just a little soft, rubbery brush and it’s rubbed gently along the wall of the cervix. This was the part she warned me could take a bit longer and potentially be quite uncomfortable, because it all depends on how easy it is to find your cervix. It was an odd sensation, but I wouldn’t say it was awful. We chatted about it briefly afterwards and both agreed that it just felt off and not-quite-right as opposed to outright unpleasant. In any case, if there are no other positive things to be said about me, I at least have an easy-to-find cervix and the entire physical procedure of my cervical screening was over in probably under two minutes altogether, if that!

After that, I just popped my pants and shoes back on and went on my merry way. The results will take about two to four weeks and are sent to my house directly; if there are any abnormalities, they will invite me to another appointment at a hospital to investigate further within ten days of receiving the letter. Because it’s a preventative measure that might save a life, they’re pretty hot on getting people in as quickly as possible. If I do have to attend an appointment like that and confirm abnormal cells, they laser them there and then, and then I’d have to go back for another look later, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

When I got back home, I did notice some bleeding, but this is apparently not uncommon and I expect it may be in part due to my irregular periods the past couple of cycles and the fact that I could be due for mine literally today.

All in all, the experience really wasn’t as intimidating or awkward as we can be made to believe, or as we make ourselves believe from overthinking. Provided that your nurse or doctor is warm and professional, you shouldn’t have a problem and the procedure itself is extremely quick in spite of the discomfort.

In England during 2014-2015, 6.4% of the 3,073,833 of those screened showed some kind of abnormality*. Not all of those may have been or develop into something dangerous, and 6.4% may not seem like a lot, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could be in that percentage, or my friends could, or my family could. In 2014 in the UK, around 9 people were diagnosed with cervical cancer every day, and cervical screenings – however awkward they may feel – are there to prevent that from happening.

If you’ve been putting off booking your cervical screening, I encourage you to bite the bullet and do it. It’s really nothing to be afraid of, and it’s an important procedure to look after your physical health and protect you from serious illnesses later on down the line. You can book yourself in for a screening by contacting your GP, and you can find out more information about cervical screenings in the UK on the NHS website.

* Statistics from Cervical Screening Programme for England, Statistics 2014-15

Monday, 17 April 2017

Why I Don't Like Diets



Like every other year, January was filled with diet-talk a-plenty and the past couple of months have been filled with people getting ‘bikini body ready’ and doing ‘summer shreds’, but one thing that I never really expected to see was, well, criticism of people criticising diets. Maybe I just wrapped myself up too well in my body positive bubble, but I had thought for some time that most people were in agreement that diets weren’t a good thing and that we should be challenging the system that promotes them.

Quick disclaimer though, when I say ‘diet’ here, I’m obviously (I hope) not referring to people who simply talk about what they eat – I talk about my diet in terms of the food I eat all the damn time on my blog because I’m vegan and that’s part of what I blog about. Other people may talk about their diets a lot out of necessity or to spread awareness because they’re gluten intolerant, because they’re recovering from an eating disorder, because they’ve got a bowel disorder, whatever. What I do mean here when I use the word ‘diet’ is dieting, overthinking, obsessing, restricting, eating in unusual, unhealthy etc. ways strictly for weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against health and fitness, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that dieting and healthy living are one in the same – they’re not. There’s nothing healthy about this kind of diet culture at all; it’s an industry designed to foster insecurity, to tell us that we always need to be a little bit slimmer and have to spend our money to achieve it. After the holiday festivities of December, in January we’re bombarded by ads for weight loss products and programmes, sold a future of being happy and beautiful if only we can drop a few pounds.  Then there’s a brief lull, before the pressure starts all over again to be fit and skinny for summer, so that we can look ‘good’ in a bikini.

If you want to start eating better and getting fitter and living a healthier life then that’s cool and I’ll always support people in their goals to live well! I did much the same thing a couple of years ago now, and I haven’t looked back. Making healthier lifestyle changes is a hugely positive step to take and can have a dramatic impact on your mental and physical health, and a changing body can also be a side effect of that. The difference between that and dieting though, is that one is a simple, healthy lifestyle change. A resolve to eat a lil’ healthier, get a bit more exercise, to treat your body better. The other, however, is an industry that encourages calorie restriction, guilt, excessive exercise, self-hate, shame, disordered eating and anxiety over numbers on a scale that, in reality, are little to no indication of your health or, yes, even your size.  They don’t care about your health or happiness, they just want your money.

A lot of folks try to argue that there are benefits to these types of ‘dieting’ but, come on, when you so much as look up the dictionary definition it’s all about pure and simple restriction with the purpose of weight loss. Look up synonyms and you see things like eat sparingly, eat selectively, abstain, fast. There’s nothing wrong with altering what you eat and how you live for the sake of your physical health, but ‘diets’ and the restriction that they promote simply aren’t healthy. What most fail to realise through no fault of their own, is that restriction not only often ultimately leads to failure when trying to lose weight, but also poisons our relationships with food in a long-lasting, dangerous way.

I can understand why people who have resolved to go on a diet might be frustrated by all of the criticism flying around; those of us who are against dieting can be quite vocal about it and it’s easy to see why some might take it personally. It’s a criticism of a choice you’ve made for yourself, so it’s bound to rub you the wrong way. That said, at most a dieting person is annoyed and feels awkward and a bit singled out. Diet talk and promotion of dieting on the other hand is incredibly toxic for those around you, and upholds the damaging status quo that we should all be aspiring to weight loss, that success comes with weight loss, that happiness is attributed to weight and that the food we eat is an indicator of our morality (i.e. ‘being good’ vs ‘being bad’ depending on food choices).

 Diet talk and bikini body seasons are dangerous times for people who already struggle with food and body image, and we’re all already inescapably subjected to weight loss ads and encouragement to diet simply from the media that we have no choice but to consume – we don’t need it from all sides in the office, online community and social circles we surround ourselves with too.

When people say ‘I don’t care about your diet’ or criticise diet culture, it isn’t necessarily intended as an attack on those who wish to lose weight. It’s an attack on the industry that teaches us that our worth is measured by the size of our waistlines, and that being skinny should be a goal we all aspire to regardless of the costs. It’s an attack on the industry that is responsible for and continues to promote eating disorders and other mental health issues associated with body image. Hell, on the day that I first sat down to write this months ago, a so-called ‘body positive’ model and ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) had been criticised for using her platform to promote her restrictive weight loss and exercise plan for crying out loud.  (She has since apologised and taken it down, I believe, but come on!)

If you want to get fit, to eat better, then do it!  It’s an intensely complicated subject, but a desire to change your body or to get fit doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t love yourself as you are.  There isn’t necessarily any shame in wanting to change your body (although the dream would certainly be to live in a society where everyone is comfortable and happy in their own skins as they are). But, if you’ve decided to try and lose weight, you also need to be critical of why that is and to remember that if your end goal is to simply look thinner, it can’t really be just for yourself.

A desire to be slimmer does not and simply cannot exist in a vacuum – it’s the product of a society that pushes thinness and beauty on us from such a young age that children as young as three are now known to be affected by body image issues. A wish to exclusively lose weight (not to get fit, to get healthy, to eat better, to get stronger, to get better at running, to take up a sport etc. – just to lose weight, to get smaller, to be thinner) can never just be our own because our aspirations to be smaller are intrinsically linked to the messages our society feeds us associating thinness with being ‘better’.  These messages can be as obvious as fatphobic advertising or as insidious and subtle as the sea of super slim bodies that dominate our screens.  They tell us, in no uncertain terms, that to be thin is to be happier, more beautiful, more successful, more intelligent, more worthy of being loved, more able to love ourselves.

I don’t like and will never support diets because messages like those should be challenged, not inadvertently promoted.

If you’ve chosen to make weight loss a goal, please take care of yourself. Don’t listen to the diet talk and don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into thinking that you are only worthy of taking up space if you manage to shed a few kilos. Don’t over-exercise or listen to the people that tout it as a great method of weight loss, and don’t believe the lies that people and brands tell you about restrictive diets being a key to slimming success. Eat healthy, don’t let yourself go hungry, be active, be patient (physical changes take months or even years of work, not the mere weeks diets would have you believe) and, most importantly, remember that whatever your goals, your beauty, confidence and whether or not you deserve to go ahead and live your best life now are not defined by your size.