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Learning to Reject Diet Culture, One Pregnancy at a Time

by News Times USA

I’ve always loved food. I grew up eating well; my mom is a fantastic cook, and the kitchen felt like the heart of connection, fun, and possibility. But from a young age, that love of food was complicated by darker, more difficult layers. I didn’t know the term “diet culture” then, but I internalized its notion of valuing thinness above nearly all else from a frighteningly young age. I was the tallest girl in my class and the first to need a bra. I don’t remember anyone explicitly telling me my body was wrong, but I never doubted that as a hard and fast truth.

So I turned to dieting to “fix” myself. Diets popped in and out of fashion, and I thought one of them might hold the secret to exorcizing my self-loathing. Instead, I’d find myself in bed with a box of granola bars in the middle of the night because—shocker—I was hungry. Our bodies are pretty brilliant, and we’re biologically wired to do everything we can not to starve. But when I did eventually eat, I felt like a failure. I promised myself to restrict even harder the next day.

Rinse and repeat, with boring variations, for many years.

For a decade now I’ve been lucky enough to be in recovery from an eating disorder. My struggles with food took all sorts of different forms, from anorexia to binge-eating to the frustratingly vague diagnosis of EDNOS—Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Recovery has meant slowly untangling my joy around food from far less pleasant feelings of obsession, fear, and shame.

Recovery has been a long road, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. It started with asking for help, which was terrifying. My eating disorder was my deepest, darkest secret, and I spent an enormous amount of energy pretending everything was fine. Hearing people speak out loud the things I could barely admit to myself—the things they did with food in the middle of the night, the sneaking around, the complicated calculations—was fascinating. I thought lightning would strike them from above and they would disappear in a clap. After all, these people were admitting the things I hadn’t shared with my therapist, my best friend, or my mom—the source of my most profound shame—to a room full of strangers. They laughed and they hugged. It was profoundly reassuring. Something rearranged itself inside of me; I was no longer alone with this enormous burden.

I was 24 then, and I’m 34 now. Since then I’ve had and left boyfriends, jobs, and apartments. I slowly built my life on a foundation of recovery, which is not to say I haven’t made a million mistakes along the way. But for the most part, things have gotten bigger and better.

In 2018 I married the most amazing man, and not too long after, I got pregnant. We were elated, but I also felt sort of shocked. It happened so fast! I had spent my whole life trying not to get pregnant, and here we were upending our lives on purpose. I ordered every single not-totally-silly pregnancy book I could get my hands on, and I couldn’t wait to approach pregnancy with earnest nerdiness. Having a baby was such a colossal life change, and books seemed a way into a huge unknown.

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