Brain Space and Big Toes: A Reflection on Diet Culture

It was a great Monday morning, as far as Monday mornings go. I snoozed my alarm a few times, kissed Ben goodbye as he left for work, snuggled with the dogs and ate a chocolate cake donut. But when I went to open the back door to let the pups run around outside, the stars in the universe must’ve aligned just right because I somehow almost completed severed my nail from my big toe.

After some simultaneous crying and laughing in disbelief and in pain, I went to the doctor. Aside from the very unhelpful and definitely sexist jokes that I am sure he doesn’t make to his other patients (“Now your pedicure will be cheaper since there’s only 9 to paint!” “Try not to jam it again; you look like someone who will scream!”), there was one moment in particular that I can’t stop thinking about. Right off the bat, with my big toe oozing blood and who knows what else down my foot, I was told to step (or in my case, hobble) onto the scale so they could take my weight.

And I did it. Without hesitation. And I did not even ask how this was relevant (because how was it?), or explain that movement was excruciating so let’s just do what’s absolutely necessary (which you’d think they would’ve known), or let them know that I just went for my checkup not even a year ago so can’t they just use that (because even if I lost weight or gained weight, we are back to the same question). Why is this relevant? Why is what I weigh relevant? To anything?

These questions, and their answers, take up far too much brain space for me and every woman I know. Brain space that weighs us down. Brain space that inhibits us from happiness and healthy relationships. Brain space we could be using on literally anything else. Sometimes I like to imagine myself in an alternate universe where weight doesn’t exist and a calorie is a metric for how yummy something is and scales are only for mermaids. Instead, I am routinely asked to get on a scale so a number can be written down both on a piece of paper and in my subconscious. A number that no matter how hard I try to erase it, I remember.

I am really proud of how much I have pried off the hungry claws of diet culture from my safe and squishy body. It was not easy and is not easy. It takes a village and also is a completely personal process. So while hearing the number didn’t ruin my day, I am aware of the fact that it does for millions of other women. And as much as I like to believe I have freed myself from diet culture’s suffocating grip, here I am writing this article. Clearly, I am not immune either. That’s because it’s nearly impossible to identify in the moment when and if you are ingesting something toxic. I can hardly tell and I literally studied this in college. Diet culture is a pervasive and sneaky mother fucker.

Now, let’s compound this with the fact that we all haven’t left the house in over a year. We have been inside, hiding for our lives. We’ve been mourning and crying and shocked and scared and so pissed off. We’ve baked and we’ve puzzled and we’ve TikToked. We bought some plants and then bought more plants when the first round died. And all the while, we’ve been online. To quote Lily Allen, we have become weapons of massive consumption. We are reading and listening and watching. And even if we don’t think we are being impacted by media, we are. Gwyneth Paltrow ate a piece of bread and it made headlines. Memes making light of the fact that our pants no longer fit “because brownies” go viral and are shared amongst women because it makes us chuckle and feel understood and maybe a little less ashamed. It seems silly, but it matters. It seems like something we could brush off, but is actually really clingy.

While our brain space is already fully occupied by these vicious thoughts, we are also being yelled at to LOVE OURSELVES!!!!! Do it! Right now! You don’t?! Why not? What’s wrong? Be grateful! Be humble! Be confident! Our bodies have done so much for us! We are still here! Girl! We are “healthy”! Let’s celebrate by slouching and snapping a photo of our tummy rolls! Alas, freedom!

It takes up so much SPACE.

It’s powerful and beautiful to embrace what makes you you and to reject unrealistic beauty ideals. It feels good. I’m not saying not to do that, and I’m not saying not to love yourself. I LOVE me. I love me so much!!! But I don’t love myself because I love my body, and I don’t love my body because my body looks or works a certain way. I love my body because my body exists. And by existing, my body is worthy of love. At any shape and size, in sickness and in health. And even still, sometimes I don’t love my body. I can say I’ve never been happy about a pimple or ingrown hair and never will be. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ecstatic about my elbow. I’m trying not to care when I gain weight. I don’t love the fact that I will have 9 toe nails for #hotgirlsummer. But I don’t let it consume me and I don’t feel like a bad feminist because of it.

I weigh 192 pounds. I’ve gained weight this year and every year before that. This should not be liberating to write (but still it is, a little) or read. This should not be a declaration of my feminism or womanhood. I’m not intending to pressure other women to yell their weight from the mountain tops. These simply are the three numbers one scale displayed one second of one day. There is no weight to my weight. I have learned that and am still learning that everyday. This post is a reminder to myself and hopefully inspiration to others that our bodies are just our bodies. They’re doing their thang, and are gonna keep doing their thang no matter how much brain space we dedicate towards them. So I’d rather use that space for something else. For creativity and love and pleasure and silliness and good. The only aspect of my body that I am giving brain space to right now is my toe. Because that shit hurts. Everything else just is what it is. In the most blissful, liberating way.

One thought

  1. Amazing! I enjoyed every word you wrote, it made me stop and think about it all as I can relate so much to this.

    Like

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