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  • Writer's pictureRachel Bennett

It's not a diet.....

A few weeks ago, the social media trolls started up big time. I was being criticized specifically by a few different women (whom I will not name because it's not worth it) for promoting a diet culture. They said what I did promoted poor body image and obsessive food behaviors in other women and I was to be shamed. Personally, I was deeply deeply offended. Because I know diet culture. I have a long history of it. There was no arguing with them and honestly I don't think it was worth my time. But it made me think about my own journey and experiences with diet culture. Because I have an extensive history with it.

See, about 30 years I started dieting. I'm about to turn 43 so you do the math. I did it all. First it was whatever my mom was doing. Then it was whatever my friends were doing. Then it was anything I could get my hands on. I was obsessed with losing weight, but never successful. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And every diet would always end up in disappointment and I would quit. Always left questioning why I couldn't ever succeed and would I ever be happy in my skin. I felt like a failure. I felt shame for the things that I ate, and how much of it I ate. I was jealous of my friends who were naturally thin and blamed my state on being big boned or genetics. In my mind there had to be some reason that I couldn't lose weight that had nothing to do with my own personal actions. It fed my anxiety issues and I had a really poor self image. That issue, I don't believe stemmed from my size, but my lack of (perceived) ability to change anything about it.

Then 6 years ago I started focusing on being healthy, but still treated food like a diet. I was either on one or off one. But one thing I'd changed was activity. I found a love for working out and weight lifting. And that finally made me feel like I could accomplish more. I was becoming one of those "sort of" annoying healthy people who loved going to the gym and sweating. It also started my obsession with athleisure, but that may be another blog post completely. Even with that sense of accomplishment, I still hadn't tackled the diet head space.

Fast-forward 3 years later when I found out that it's not about dieting. It's about creating a healthy lifestyle. I think I'd heard about that along the way, but I'd never really understood how. And because I didn't understand how, I still treated what I ate like a diet. Now, this change in eating that I'd found actually had results. And it worked. And I lost 45 lbs and was able to keep it off, but even once I got to my goal weight I still treated food like a diet. That "diet brain" was really tough to shake. I lived in that headspace for another year. And then something happened! I was challenged to change my way of thinking. And ya know what? I started to work on my mind. My central operating system between my ears. And whoa!!! Food was no longer an obsession. I started to understand why I was making the decisions that I was making (or letting my impulses take over). And once I understood that a bit, I was awakened. And changes really started happening. And I felt so much more in control and it was all about taking responsibility for the state that I was in.

So back to the diet culture accusations. And why I think they are wrong. If what I do, and what I promote, was a diet culture, then how do I explain all of the changes that I've made that have nothing to do with food or an obsession with appearance? See, when I began taking radical responsibility for my choices it wasn't just about food. It was about seeing the things in my life that I needed to change to get healthy (body, mind, and finances). Here's a list of other things that have changed besides my waistline.

  • I stopped mindlessly online shopping

  • I connected more with my friends and family

  • My self talk was more about my accomplishments instead of what I didn't achieve

  • I became a much more efficient employee

  • I learned how to prioritize (and I became a priority where before I was last on the list)

  • My anxiety hit the bricks

  • I set goals that were beyond what I thought were possible and worked to get them (like half marathons or being promoted at work)

  • I set healthy boundaries

  • I started paying off debt (because I'd stopped that mindless online shopping)

  • My family started getting healthier

  • I learned what happy actually feels like

  • I stopped making excuses and started making changes

  • I learned how to be grateful for challenging times, because I grew from them

  • I stopped avoiding the "tough stuff"

All of this was not because I lost weight. I lost weight because I'd taken responsibility and built healthy habits. And I've kept it off (actually trimmed down a little more). See, what I've realized is that health is not about being skinny. Health is about a quality of life. It's about thriving and not surviving. And what you may see on social media may be a lot of "before and after" pictures that show a change on the outside, but what really changed was on the inside.

So all of that said, I'm grateful for the trolls. Note, I wasn't very thankful in the moment. I was pissed about it and deeply offended. But, I'm grateful that they pissed me off because it caused me to step back and think about what I do and why I do it. And I don't promote diet culture. I promote health. I coach people on how to make healthy choices, because when they do they get healthier than they were yesterday. And that's what it's all about. So don't think you're going to stop me from being an "annoying healthy person" you stinkin' trolls. I'm gonna keep truckin'. Because, who knows? There might be yet one more person that I can help change the way they think so they can take control over their life. Lord knows we need it now more than ever.

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