Body acceptance & diet culture – you can’t have both.

As a patient in treatment for anorexia, I had a classic paradox: mistrustful and compliant.

Ana takes away the ability to trust anyone except her. She convinced me that my treatment team just wanted me to gain weight, but they didn’t really care about me. I doubted every piece of information they gave me, whether it was a therapeutic approach or my latest medical results. I knew they were spinning it to make me sound really sick so I would stay there and be scared and follow their orders.

This mistrust completely butted heads with my very classic perfectionism that is extremely common for those with anorexia. I was always a good girl. I needed my treatment team to like me. I needed to be the best client who did everything right the first time, followed my meal plan to a tee, and was a model for other patients.

The Paradox

The paradox for me was that there was no way to please Ana and my treatment team. As an only child, I have ALWAYS been a pleaser. I made the honor roll. I never sneaked out. I did my chores. I think I was grounded maybe twice ever. Getting in trouble actually freaked me out.

Then there I was with full-blown anorexia in a residential treatment center. There was literally no way to win. I would either piss off Ana or my treatment team. I couldn’t stand the thought of either, thus became the impossible task of trying to somehow do both: hold on to Ana while convincing my treatment team that I was getting better.

It didn’t work…these two could not co-exist.

  • I couldn’t come up with a daily intention that was honest.
  • I cheated (and lied) on my weekend passes, telling them I took the bus home when I actually walked.
  • I “jogged” in the shower.
  • I ate just what I thought was needed to get the 90% meal compliance, including 80% food and 10% Ensure.
  • I negotiated with my dietitian to get her to tell me my weight once a week.

And many, many more sneaky strategies to try to get away with as much as possible to please my treatment team while making peace with Ana that I was doing enough to not gain weight.

In the end, I left after 6 weeks of residential with my therapist telling me that because I wasn’t motivated, I had to go. While recovery had some victories in res, Ana was overall pretty happy with my performance and determination to not gain weight once I was out.

While my recovery has come a long way in the past year, I find the same paradox to be true…

Pro-tip: you can’t either.

A year into recovery and I still struggle daily, wanting to believe with all my heart that diet culture is a lie and my body is perfect simply because it’s my body while also holding onto the thin ideal and comparing myself to cultural beauty standards.

I think most of us struggle with this, whether we’ve had an eating disorder or not. Messages of skinny is best and you’ll only be happy once you’re thin (a moving target, by the way) infiltrate our minds constantly, while we have to search to find the body acceptance messages.

It’s a daily decision to choose how to live. You can’t balance both. Or, as Jesus said it, “You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24)

Some days, I still choose Ana and diet culture. I’m not proud of those days. But more and more, I want to choose to accept this body that God has designed and given me.

This body God has designed:

  • Is fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and
  • Is to be a living and holy sacrifice for God, offered in worship and ready to do His will (Rom. 12:1-2)
  • Is a temple of the Holy Spirit, created to honor God (1 Cor. 6:19)
  • Is a family heirloom, a gift from my parents and grandparents who have passed away
  • Is half of what my beautiful daughter inherited
  • Grew and gave birth to a healthy baby via natural methods in less than 6 hours
  • Allows me to make a living helping college students thrive
  • Has allowed me to play sports I love
  • Accidentally ran a half marathon

Which master will you choose, body acceptance or diet culture?

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In recovery from anorexia and depression as a 40 year old wife and mom of a toddler. Discovering who I am and hoping to help others along the way!

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