How do I resist the peer pressure of dieting culture?

(electronic music) – Hey everybody, it’s Amber
from Body Positive Yoga here. You can learn more about me and my work at I have a question today
from a follower online and so let’s jump right into it. How are you able to get to
the point where you learn to love and accept yourself
regardless of size? Although I endorse the
body positive movement, I do find it hard to
find that acceptance that I encourage in others and quite honestly, it almost feels hypocritical to me. I’m surrounded by friends
in a community who are all about health, fitness,
appearance, material things, getting a man, et cetera. I feel like Wednesday
Addams at her all white girl preppy school only she didn’t
give a shit (chuckles). It’s very hard not to fall into
the diet and exercise trap. I hear it every day how this
one is doing this challenge, this one has eliminated
this from their diet, this one’s doing Juice Plus and it’s all in the name of health, I am told. “If you did this or that,” they say. “Don’t you wanna have a relationship again “and feel good about yourself?” So no man is gonna want me
because I have gained weight is what I’m being told indirectly. I think exercise is
great when it’s enjoyable and not part of punishment. I’m really struggling with
this and not just with my weight and appearance, but feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere. There’s a lot going on here. I’m just gonna come out and say it: I think you need new friends. Seriously. The environment that
we place ourselves in, the people that we surround
ourselves with can have a huge effect on our
self-esteem, our self-worth, our definition of success. I heard you say in here that
you think exercise is great when it’s not out of punishment
and when it’s enjoyable, and it sounds like your
intuition is right here, that moving your body
that for the sheer joy of moving it and for the
way that you feel when you move your body, for
the good feelings that it brings up is the way
to go and not this sort of punitive, means to an end
sort of exercise that’s like, you’re not gonna catch
a man unless you run on the treadmill and burn off
parts of your body, right. So it sounds like the
people you’re surrounding yourself with are really
caught up in that fat talk and diet mentality,
diet culture mentality, and I’m gonna advocate that
you find a new group of friends to hang out with. I think that one of the
biggest things that we can do for ourselves if we’re doing
any kind of body acceptance or self-acceptance work
or trying to break free from diet culture is to really
create our own community. We’re not gonna get this
validation from the media. We’re not gonna get it
from diet companies. We’re not gonna get it probably from the gym where we work out. Sometimes they’re selling weight
loss and things like that, and so if you’re trying to
get off of that hamster wheel, you really do need to
get people around you, whether that’s in real life or online, who will support you and
who are going through the same things and the same journey. So these dieting friends
of yourself have definitely done that for themselves. They’re all supporting each
other in their cleanses or their elimination diets
or their calorie restriction or whatever, and it
sounds like you’re just in the wrong group, so for
those of us who are trying to do something that’s the opposite, of course you feel like you don’t fit in, because you’re having to
contend with a constant influx of people who are telling you the opposite of what you know to be best for your body, which is joyful movement,
which is probably intuitive eating, which is
listening to your body signals instead of taking the
input from some expert or some list of foods or
some prescribed number of calories and really
tuning into your body and finding out, what
does make me feel good? When do I feel well? When do I feel my best? And surrounding yourself with
people who can support you in that journey, whether
that’s a nutritionist who understands intuitive eating, whether that’s a
therapist who can help you work through some of the
baggage in the body shame that we’ve all grown up with
just as a fact of living in western society. Maybe it’s friends that
you start a weight neutral movement or exercise group
with that you can meet up and do different fun activities
without having to have the focus be on exercising
to change your size, shape or weight, but instead, to just move your body joyfully. And so I think that really
looking at your community and the people you surround yourself with and making sure that
the time that you spend, we all have such little
time to invest in people and things, we’ve all
got so much going on. The little bit of time that
you do give these people that you take their counsel,
that counsel should be something that lines up with the best self that you’re trying to pursue. I also wanna say that, you said, you are surrounded by
friends who are all about health, fitness, and then
it changed: appearance, material things, and getting a man. So, I wanna say, those
things are separate things. And health and fitness are great. Those are worthy goals to have. To be well in your body,
whatever that looks like for you, and to be fit, to be able
to move throughout your life and do the activities and
the things that you wanna do in your body, those are worthy goals. But appearance, material
things, getting a man, those are not really related
to health and fitness. (chuckles) So if your goals are health and fitness and to be well in the
body that you have today, I don’t think those
necessarily have to be related to these other pursuits. Now if you want to change your appearance, or look at the way you
dress or the way you present in the world, that’s
fantastic, but I wanna say, from one bigger girl to another, that a lot of times when
people give you advice or that they’re concerned for your health, in this vague health
reason, and they want you to lose weight for your health,
I think most of the time that means they just are
uncomfortable with the fact that you’re fat, that
you’re in a bigger body. And actually, unless they’re your doctor, and unless they’ve seen a chart with all your health markers on
there, they really don’t have any idea whether you’re healthy or not, and you don’t really have any idea whether they’re healthy or not. You can’t look at someone
and tell if they’re healthy or not. Weight and health are
two different things, they’re not mutually exclusive,
and so I think it’s good to practice critical thinking,
and when we receive these messages that we need to do
something for our health, let’s not just take that at face value, let’s really examine that and say like, well what do you mean by that? And to really keep in mind
that you need to define what healthy looks like for you. Because it is an individual
thing, health is a spectrum. It’s not a bulls eye on a target, right, health looks different
for each and every person, and I think that’s really
important to remember in our individual journeys
toward whatever healthy looks like for us, and
whatever you’ve agreed with your doctor, your
caretaker, your care providers, that is healthy for you,
because it is individual and it’s different for everybody. So don’t let people say that
you need to do this and such for your health without really questioning a little bit further,
and often, their argument or their advice can fall apart. We have culturally sort
of sanctioned ideas of what healthy looks like and honestly, it’s a moving target. We see on the cover of
tabloids all the time, like one week this actress
has cellulite on the beach. Oh my gosh, needs to do
something about her health. And then two weeks later, they’re like, ah, she’s anorexic. She needs to eat a sandwich. Like same person. It’s a moving target; no
one wins in this game, so health based on
appearance is really like, it’s not data, it’s not
anything that can be definitively declared
and so I encourage you to challenge these folks
when they come at you about health and see if
you can really drill down to what’s behind that argument, and often, it’s appearance based,
it’s based in fat phobia. It’s based in cultural
beauty standards which are totally arbitrary and
which change all the time. And so you really need to
understand first of all, what healthy looks like
to you and be able to stand your ground and
say that you’re doing what you need to do for your health. The other thing I wanted to say was that, even if you don’t proactively
seek out new friends, or that’s not something that
you can do at this time, you can be known
(chuckles) in these circles as the person who is not
really cool to talk about dieting or weight or
fasting or juice cleanses or detox or any of this crazy stuff with. So I used to work in a corporate office, and I worked with a lot of
women, and we all know that many, many women bond over fat
talk, about self-deprecating about their bodies, about
diet and calories and food and exercise and blah, blah, blah, same stuff you’re dealing with. And I often, when this
would start, I would either change the subject and
talk about something else, or if it was a particularly
persistent person who always wanted to talk about
food and weight around me, every time they would bring
it up, I would start to say, “Oh my gosh, what’s going on in your life? “This is so boring. “I really don’t want to
talk about dieting anymore. “It’s really just not something
that I’m interested in.” And you say that enough
and that person may not take a hint and be like,
“Oh, maybe it isn’t “that interesting to talk about dieting. “I should really examine that.” But they won’t talk about it around you. And so, I think that, the
core of the message that you sent me was like, I
really don’t fit in anywhere. You can build your own
community where you do feel like you fit in, but the other thing is, you don’t have to fit
in with these people. You can determine that your
life is gonna be different, and you’re blazing a
different path than they are. You’re not gonna be basic. You’re not gonna be obsessed
with diet and food and weight and all that stuff. You have better stuff to do. So be known as the person
around your office, around your church or your study group or whatever it is that is
doing more interesting things than obsessing over body
size or calories or whatever. I know you are a vibrant
and amazing person, and I think that you
should not be afraid to let that shine out into the
world and let these people know that you’ve got better
things to do than to count the calories in your
juice cleanse or whatever. I hope that helps. If you have questions, let me know. If you have comments
about how you’ve mitigated these types of issues,
please post them below, and I’ll see you next time. Thanks.

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