TW: Discusses diet and exercise, please skip this blog if these are difficult or triggering topics for you! 

Disclaimer: I am not a fitness or health professional, nor do I have any background in nutrition, this is just a personal, observational anecdote.

I first posted about this in October last year and it’s a blog that receives a surprising number of likes by diet or keto sites, despite the discussion being explicitly anti-diet in nature.

But perhaps I wasn’t explicit enough?

So let me be clear, fuck diet culture.

That includes all this ‘gut health’ ‘wellness bollocks’ that has sprung up over the last couple of years. They are simply restrictive diets with a shiny new coat of paint.

As a child who grew up in the era of ‘sins’, meal plans and ‘I can make you thin’ bullshit, I hate it. It ruins your relationship with food. When every person I know, especially women, are either on or off the diet wagon, when we can’t enjoy chocolate at the office without someone cracking ‘the diet starts Monday jokes’, when we have this notion that we must ‘earn’ food through exercise. When I watch everyone on this cycle of shrinking and gaining, misery and gluttony, over and over and over. Never mind that most of these diets were not made with a women’s hormonal cycle in mind, nor are they based on weight loss studies done on women’s metabolism (looking at you Keto and fasting diets). Never mind that these diets have commercialised your insecurities and what kind of business plan wouldn’t ensure itself a return customer? The more you fail at the diet the more they have your business, they are not on your side.

I. Hate. It.

But I am not immune to it.

As a ‘curvy’ girl I have lived my life being shamed for the way I look, when I have looked this way whether I exercised for 20 + hours a week or when an injury rendered me unable to do any activity. Diet culture has been bearing down on me my whole life, so whenever I went to the gym before, I worked to calorie goals. Whatever else I hoped to achieve, bigger bum, more toned arms, etc, was secondary to that goal.

Then, I had a trapped nerve in back and I was in agony. When it was healed I came out the other side with a body I did not recognise because it could not do the things it did before.

I had done gymnastics since I was three years old, I was a six old with a six pack, having a fit body is all I have ever known.

So, when I went back post injury, I was starting from zero in a way I had never done before. I didn’t know how to train that body because it didn’t move like it used to. It did not look like it used to. When I started working with a personal trainer and started exercising regularly again, for the first time in my life, the goalpost’s weren’t calories burned or inches loss.

It was the joy of movement again. Of feeling strong again. Of being able to trust my body. Of not feeling pain. Of not feeling winded going up stairs. Of not dreading days out with my friends because I would be exhausted and in sickening pain by the end.

I won’t lie, it has been hard work. It was a lot easier to motivate myself out of self hatred. It was a lot easier to get through a work out if the goal was to ‘burn off’ a chocolate bar I ate, rather than telling myself in years time I’ll be able to lift that really heavy plant pot off the top of my book shelf without having to hold on for dear life (which was a fun wee progress moment I noticed recently).

In the name of helping my body recover, I have been able to skip the gym when I was too tired or sore. There was no shame to motivate me but that meant there was also no shame in being forgiving of myself. This opened the door to consistency. If I had run myself into the ground like I used to, taking the ‘all or nothing’ approach so many people are guilty of when it comes to diet, health and fitness, I would have burned out and I would not have made the progress I have. I never had a ‘fuck it’ moment where I gave it all up for several weeks because I had one day where I didn’t work out when I was supposed to. I know goals like that can be motivational but not when they are used as a shame tactic.

It’s be really nice exercising and taking care of myself without the bitter taste of shame at the back of my throat. Without the angry voice in my head telling me that I had to work twice as hard because I gave myself a break, or ate something less on the nutritious side (remember there are no good or bad foods, nor are they inherently healthy or unhealthy, when you have nutritional balance).

So, let me celebrate the non-weight loss related achievements:

these are in order of how they came to me during this last year.

  • I can stand for an entire shower (oh, yes, it was that bad at the start)
  • I can bend over and pick something up off the ground
  • I can crouch again (thanks to ankle injuries, I haven’t been able to that in, like, 5 years)
  • I can sit on the ground without something to learn against
  • I can do the walk from the train station to work in 13 minutes now (it was 20 before)
  • I can walk around for 8+ hours and not be in pain
  • I have more energy than I know what to do with, despite being an insomniac
  • I can lift and carry things easily, without worrying it will hurt (at one point, I couldn’t pick up a kettle filled with water)
  • I can do higher weights in the gym than before my injury
  • I can now make fitness goals not related to injury recovery
  • I can look forward to any kind of movement that gets my body moving because it’s not something I must do, it’s simply something my body needs, like taking a vitamin, except I have to sweat a bunch to take it.

It’s really, really nice not to be watching the scale. Not to be writing down the inches in a note book. Not to be staring at that fucking red calorie count wheel on Myfitnesspal. To measure my progress in feeling good, rather than on something external like if I look any slimmer (which is a natural consequence of being able to lead an active life, so it doesn’t need monitoring obsessively). It’s really nice not to be zooming in on progress pictures.

Not that there is anything wrong with having weight loss as your goal and I recognise that for some people, it may be necessary for your over all health, I just think we should focus on the place that it comes from and the language any kind of meal plan you choose is using. There should be no shame in this house. Only the joy of fuelling your body better, taking care of you better. Living your best life. ANY activity is good, if the alternative is nothing. If one meal in three is good fuel for your body, it’s still better than zero. Progress for progress’s sake that does not recognise that you are human and will sometimes have a shit week, will bring motivation from a place of shame. It’s been a really nice year not feeling like that. So many people feel guilt and shame synonymously with exercise, hence why they will never enjoy it, or associate it with something good.

Which is why I wanted to share, again, how much I’ve loved not feeling like that. I didn’t set out to go on some fucking journey of self discovery, I just wanted to get fit again. This is the revelation I have reluctantly been forced into over the last year or so.

Once again, I will emphasise that I have no expertise in diet/ nutrition or fitness, this just a story from my life and about my feelings. I am a single adult with no children, so while I’ve tried to write this with generic enough language, it is still written from the perspective of someone who does not juggle exercise with other responsibilities.

I would also like to acknowledge that there is an ED which focuses on ‘health’ in an extremist way, so please be aware that this line of thinking can also become toxic, always seek proper help when you need it. I do not have an ED history or body dysmorphia, so I would also like to acknowledge that this blog is written from the perspective of someone who does not know what it’s like to struggle with those things and my opinions shared here may not be helpful to someone who does- I’m hoping the trigger warning at the top caught you but I wanted to make sure that was noted again.