How can we live healthy, happy lives in a culture that values weight loss above all else?
I don’t think I am the only one who has ever Googled “how to lose weight FAST” in a panic at 2am. I searched this question many times, and boy did I find answers. I quickly learned that the internet is for more than cat videos. It also hosts a deadly culture of body perfectionism, food restriction, and self hatred. This culture goes far beyond our society’s usual offenses of passing heavily photoshopped images off as real bodies or promoting a different fad diet every week. I’m talking about entire blogs, sites, and trending hashtags that actively promote disordered eating.
These sources taught me how to “fix” my body. Thanks to the sinister advice they provided, I was an expert in restricting my food intake, taking diet pills, and drinking enough coffee to make a horse shake all by the age of sixteen. I did not see my behaviors as unhealthy. In fact, I was incredibly happy that I had finally found “advice” on how to lose weight the way I wanted to – quick and easy.
However, when the diet pills and starvation stopped working, I dove deeper into self hatred and began to engage in even more dangerous activities in an attempt to lose weight. I quickly developed a severe eating disorder and it controlled my entire life. Online communities applauded my ability to purge after every meal and workout for hours at a time. I felt a sense of achievement every time I skipped a meal or purged after one. My so-called “friends” online were in support of my behaviors. We shared tips and tricks on how to deprive our bodies of the nutrients it begged for.
Now that I am in recovery, I am hypervigilant of things that promote unhealthy body habits. With my eyes now open, it is no surprise that body issues are so prevalent. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with images of the “ideal” body that is only possible through digital alteration. Fad diets are promoted online and on television promising fast, unsustainable weight loss. Growing up, our bodies are scrutinized and often made the center of dinner conversation. On my most vulnerable days, it seems like everywhere I look I am met with pressure to hate my body. Being comfortable with who you are is truly a radical act these days.
The good news is that the internet is a biiig place. For every site that promotes shame and unhealthy behaviors, there is another dedicated to recovery and body positivity. In my journey to cut out body shaming and sinister fitness advice from my life, I have stumbled upon many amazing sources of body positivity and eating disorder-informed advice. Below are some of my go-to sites when I need a reminder that my body is not the enemy.
Katie Wilcox turned her passion for self love into a social movement and blogs about topics ranging from triggers to delicious recipes. She also hosts workshops which teach others how to embrace themselves in healthy, positive way.
Proud2BMe is a organization dedicated to building a more confident nation. This site features real stories written by young adults about their struggles with body image and disordered eating. Proud2Bme also engages in outside advocacy and education.
Kelvin Davis is a style blogger who aims to change the conversation about sizing, fashion, and men’s bodies. His “dapper” blog is full of style inspiration and body positivity.
You’ve probably heard of plus-size model and body icon Ashley Graham. She’s currently taking over the modeling industry and on the way is encouraging people of all sizes to love and treat their bodies well.
NEDA is a national organization dedicated to eradicating eating disorders. The organization’s blog features a diverse range of stories and advice on topics related to body image and disordered eating. It is a great resource not only for those struggling, but also for their families and friends.