The StepMill is my favorite cardio machine workout of all time. It’s this tall revolving staircase-like machine that mimics climbing moving stairs that gives you an incredible cardiovascular workout while strengthening your legs AND it’s functional! If you’ve ever seen me use it you have seen me either writing while using it or reading and huffing and puffing! Loving every second of it. I’m often inspired during workouts so I bring a journal with me in my gym bag to capture my inspirations. Also, inside this bag you’ll find: a magazine or two, a pen, business cards (c’mon I’m a small business owner, I need to be ready for all opportunities), lip gloss, water bottle, towel and gum. You know, what I consider to be the essentials.
After pressing start and the interval program button “Rolling Hills” on the StepMill, I finish writing in my journal about a business idea I had earlier while running on the treadmill. Next up was reading one of my magazines. One of my favorite things to do is hit up the gym and get on the StepMill and write and/or read. Honestly, this is on my Happy List. What’s a Happy List? A list of things, places, events, etc. that makes my heart happy. Reading a magazine while climbing mechanical stairs is on this list and that works for me. THIS time though I made a slightly different decision how I was going to approach my reading. I read the magazine through a diet culture lens. It was a conscious choice for me to do this. I decided to practice identifying diet culture in this magazine. It would be the first magazine of many of this practice. I have been working on identifying diet culture on the internet and now adding in print publications.
Prior to going to the gym, I had completed research on diet culture for my upcoming body image workshop so it was on the forefront of my mind. I proceeded to look at the cover of the magazine. In the title was the word health but all I saw were diet culture messages all over it. As I carefully eyed each page and its content including the advertisements, I could now see the diet culture but also still had a few tugs back to my old programming.
In past years while reading health and fitness magazines, which at one point, I had seven subscriptions, I would read them cover to cover and take in all the messages as they were without challenging them. I loved getting them in the mail, toting them to the gym, dog earring pages that I thought had helpful information and cutting images out for vision boards. Looking back, I see that information was not helpful to me but instead it was damaging, contributing to disordered eating behaviors. I now see how I literally bought in to diet culture and that I fully participated in diet culture.
Reading a health and fitness magazine for the first time through this new lens was eye-opening and educational. I highly recommend it. It’s a great exercise to dismantle diet culture and begin to shift back to a health mindset. Admittedly, the term diet culture was not part of my vocabulary until sometime in 2017. Terms like thin privilege, fatphobia and fitspiration are now fully on my radar and in my vocabulary because of their prominent role in diet culture, they show up in my research for articles, workshops and also in my own body image work.
Now, I am in the process of rewiring nearly 20 years of programming. It’s going to take time. I know I used to preach and teach some of this diet culture to others including clients. I am sorry. I now know better and commit myself to continue to grow, learn and be better. I am challenging my ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and continue to be curious about outside messages and investigate my own patterns. I continue to read, research and learn from others including experts in the anti-diet culture and body acceptance community. This is me actively practicing recognizing and dismantling diet culture. It’s intentional daily work with no finish line. The diet industry is built on our insecurities, fears and failures and its messages are everywhere. This industry is powerful in such a way that they make you think that the failure is your fault but we too can be powerful. We have the power to make choices, make different decisions and carve a new path.
When we see a different perspective, we can learn and grow and begin to walk the path of body acceptance. I don’t hate diet culture. I simply recognize it now for what it is and its potential damaging effects. I don’t support it but also remind myself I once was deep in it and pulled others in to it too. When we begin to heal from our past it may not be the only path or the right way for others but it can be a way to move forward. Healing from past restrictive behaviors and thoughts is a process that can lead us closer to a place of body acceptance and feeling our best from the inside out. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org about my body image workshops to learn more about body acceptance through mind-body connection)
I don’t have a solution to diet culture or have all the answers. Do what feels right for you as you find your healthy balance, whatever that means for you.
I can confidently say now though, that I have my eyes, my mind and heart wide open to receive more kindness, growth and compassion for myself and for others.
Notes: I have one magazine delivered to me by mail now, can you guess which one? The first person to email me the correct answer will get a FREE signed copy of my book. (One day I will have a book published! I dream BIG!)
Join me for my next BODY IMAGE workshop on June 22nd, pre-registration is required. Email me to be one of the first to pre-register! Space is limited.
Look for my article on diet culture on newsstands in June in Optimyz magazine. You can purchase your copy at Indigo/Chapters, Shoppers Drug Mart or Superstore/Loblaws across Canada.