My Eating Disorder Doesn’t Erase My Complicity with Diet Culture

I perpetuated fatphobia. I was part of the problem.

Hanna Brooks Olsen

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Photo by Markus Avila on Unsplash

As I tenderly rinse out a glass jam jar — which this time I will not keep because I have an entire cupboard that contains leaning towers of metal lids and rows of glass vessels of various sizes and, if we’re honest, lingering smells — I think about a handful of things.

This first, of course, is “are we sure this one isn’t a keeper?”

The second is “I hope that glass is actually recycled as easily and often as I’ve been made to believe.”*

And the third is “it’s kind of wild that I didn’t eat jam for like a solid six years.”

It wasn’t just jam. There were long — like, really long — periods in my life where I didn’t eat butter (or a vegan butter alternative like this absolute GOAT) or peanut butter or most cheese or sandwiches made out of two pieces of bread, or nuts of any kind, or almost any sort of dessert unless it was really socially necessary. It was terrible. It made me miserable (and I mean that both as an adjective for me and for the way I was to be around).

And that is because of Diet Culture.

Diet Culture: A Fever Dream

Diet Culture — an all-encompassing term for a system that is deeply harmful, wildly lucrative, essentially hereditary, and actively steeped in racism and colonialism — is a sort of folie au deux. Except it’s a madness held not by just two people, but instead, by millions and millions. It’s a shared psychosis, a fever dream that a lot of people are finally beginning to wake up from.

It’s system that touches almost every element of our lives, from housing to entertainment to finances to our health, and one that I was not only abused by, but deeply entrenched in — and, even more embarrassingly, a cog within.

I’ve been thinking about this for years, but it’s been on my mind a lot since I absolutely tore through Aubrey Gordon’s new book. Gordon, who is also the co-host of the indispensable podcast Maintenance Phase, has been, for years now, patiently explaining the nuances of concepts like internalized fatphobia, health and weight bias, and the many misconceptions…

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

I wrote that one thing you didn’t really agree with.