Recently I listened to a podcast episode called Trust Your Body on one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Sugars. In the episode, the hosts, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed, and guests, Hilary Kinavey, M.S., L.P.C., and Dana Sturtevant, M.S., R.D., discussed the never-ending cycles of dieting that affect so many women. One of the women who wrote to the Sugars talked about how tired she feels about “being on the roller coaster” of weight loss and self-esteem. I can relate to her struggles as I have been on the roller coaster myself for most of my adolescent and adult life.
The struggle with our bodies is so pervasive, oppressive, and multi-generational, as Cheryl Strayed asked, is it possible to ever be free of it? How can we dismantle the connection between morality, worthiness, and femininity with women’s body image? The hosts discuss how women’s appetite and desire are controlled by a male-dominated society. They talk about Naomi Wolf’s book The Beauty Myth that links women’s appetite for love, sex, money, food, care, etc. to women’s rights and equality in the home, in bed, in the workplace, and in the world. Women are hungry for so much more.
The Culture of Restriction
Yet, we starve ourselves. We starve ourselves of our needs and wants, our power, our potential, our worth, our rightful place in this world. This starvation is manifested in physical form by the way we starve our bodies. When we are chronically starving and unsatisfied, it is no wonder that we struggle with other mental health and physical health concerns as well. Dana Sturtevant is a dietitian and talked about how the healthcare system promotes the diet culture by focusing on women’s weight rather than healthy behaviors or social determinants of health and weight (e.g., socioeconomic status, access to healthy foods, access to spaces to exercise, stigma against larger bodies, etc.). Despite what the advertisement for weight loss products and programs say, losing weight is never the answer to unhappiness and low self-worth. Plus, 95% of people who lose weight on a diet will gain it all back if not more. The good news is, there is a different way.
Honoring Hunger and Desire
What if we honored women’s appetite and desire as what they are, as a hunger that deserves to be satisfied? What if we allowed ourselves to challenges society’s control of women and dictation of what women can be, should be, and want? What if we freed ourselves from the concepts of what is “good” vs. “bad,” what is “healthy” vs. “unhealthy?” What if we freed ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to free us? What if we trusted ourselves, our bodies, our intuition, our power? What kind of world would that be? A world that I want to live in.
Are you tired of the roller coaster of dieting and hating your body? Tell me more in the comment section below.