How young were you when you first dieted?
I was a very young 12 years old when I first jumped on the diet train, and I rode that train one way or another for ten years of my life. For the entirety of my adolescence and beginning of my young adult life, I wanted to change myself so badly to fit the idolized thin ideal that I was willing to do just about anything to achieve this goal.
I tried most everything you can think of to shrink myself, received praise when I did, and then gained back the weight I lost, only to start the whole process again. I truly thought I would be dieting, stopping, and repeating for my entire life because that is just what people do.
Did you ever ask anyone for help? Did anyone ever believe you?
I expressed my concerns with how my body looked and explicitly outlined my disordered behaviors to several health care professionals, but because I did not appear conventionally thin enough, I was encouraged to keep down this path and even given advice on how to do so. This was one of my catalysts for the birth of my eating disorder. If these people who were supposed to help me also thought I should be participating in diet culture, then who was I to believe otherwise?
This slope is far too slippery.
I know for a fact, know it in my bones, that dieting led to the development of my eating disorder. For me it wasn’t about anything else other than wanting to fit in with a thin ideal that our culture equates with beauty.
This is why diet culture is so toxic. It took a bright, happy go-lucky girl and made her miserable and obsessive about wanting to be thin that she chose this over just about everything else.
Dieting is a known risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
We now know from numerous high quality research studies that dieting and body dissatisfaction are known factors for developing an eating disorder. If we can prevent ourselves from being caught up in the trap that is diet culture, maybe we can free ourselves and teach others by example instead of them having to learn from our mistakes.
Do it for the younger version of yourself.
The next time you think about restricting your food intake in any way or aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror, picture a younger you who has never known the pain and heartbreak of dieting. See them in their innocence and purity and let it warm your heart. Make a promise to this version of you, help protect them from the torture that you know lies ahead. And maybe this practice can help you ditch dieting for good. Maybe your younger self can be your inspiration for the preservation of your future self. You’ll never know until you try it.
Brianna Petrucci is a recent graduate from the Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program at the University of Pittsburgh. She is passionate about bringing occupational therapy into the field of Intuitive Eating, HAES, and eating disorder prevention.