What Diet-Culture Recovery *Really* Looks Like

I’m back from my honeymoon, although I must admit I never wanted it to end.

We were in Oahu, which was incredible and romantic and such a needed recharge—I was also off social media for 2 weeks, which seriously gave me life—but also occasionally messy and imperfect and unpredictable, like life itself.

I could just tell you about the gorgeous parts, which far outweighed the messy ones, but as my brilliant pal Jes Baker points out in her latest book, Landwhale (which I finished devouring by a pool), being a diet-culture-recovery advocate who never shares their messiness can lead to unrealistic expectations of what recovery really looks like.

It can make people think life in recovery is 100% sunshine and rainbows, which it most certainly is not (although the sunshine-and-rainbows-to-gloominess ratio is definitely WAY higher than it was in the throes of diet culture).

So instead, I’ll tell you about our trip to the breathtaking Hanauma Bay, the island’s top snorkeling spot, where I had a mild panic attack when I couldn’t figure out how to breathe through my snorkel at first.

And I’ll tell you about the unbelievable view of the Pacific from our balcony at the resort (thanks to my in-laws for hooking that up), where I had another panic attack when a giant bug wandered onto the scene.

I’ll tell you about how I ate a dodgy room-temperature Spam Musubi because it was delicious and I pride myself on eating anything, but soon thereafter I got terrible food poisoning, which then led to a crying jag because being sick freaks me the f*** out.

I’ll tell you about the time I sat on the beach with a piña colada, trying to get my happy vibes back after seeing our professional wedding photos for the first time and having a moment of body-image BS from diet culture—because even the most ardent anti-diet activists sometimes have bad body-image days.

And I’ll tell you about Fumi’s, our favorite shrimp truck in Kahuku, a super fun day trip where my husband did all the driving because I’ve recently developed major anxiety about my own ability to drive on freeways, for obscure PTSD-related reasons that I’m still untangling.

So lest I ever come across as having it all together, let me assure you that I do not 😂 I love my life more than ever these days, AND sometimes I still have mental-health challenges just like anyone else.

I share this to show that all of us, no matter how far we’ve come or what we do for a living, are human.

We all have our stories, and we all have our reasons for going into the careers we do.

When it comes to those of us who make anti-diet activism our life’s work, many of us have gone through our own history of disordered eating and body shame, and we’re forever changed by that experience.

Once we get to a place of peace with food and our bodies (which includes the occasional bad body-image day, because, again, not 100% sunshine and rainbows), we feel pulled to help other people get there, too.

That’s what drove my guest on this week’s episode of Food Psych to the work she does now.

These days Fiona Willer is a badass anti-diet dietitian from Australia who lectures at universities all about Health at Every Size, but as a teenager and young adult she struggled with body shame and binge eating.

She shares how her efforts at “clean eating” only made the problem worse, how learning about mindfulness helped her heal her own relationship with food and her body, and what it’s like to be a lecturer teaching a radically different paradigm than her students are used to.

We also talk about how scientists are human, too, and how it affects the outcome and interpretation of research when their perspectives are influenced by diet culture (as most are in our society).

It’s a great episode, and I know you’ll love Fiona as much as I do, so be sure to check it out here or wherever you get your podcasts!

Here’s to recovery, in all its messy glory, 

P.S. If you’re craving support and guidance from fellow humans on your journey to peace with food and your body, come check out my intuitive eating online course and community. It’ll help you break free from diet culture so that you can get back to living your life—ups, downs, and all.

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