Diet and beauty culture are all around us, but the thing is they FEEL NORMAL. They are in the air we breathe, on billboards, in lunch discussion of diets, diet bets and competitions, in how much space weight management and managing our image takes up in our brains and in our souls.
Recognizing diet and beauty culture is a muscle we have to work. It's not always as clear cut. For some folks wearing makeup and experimenting with fashion is an empowering act of self expression. For others it's an obstacle course to feeling acceptable in society.
Some of us find joy and empowerment in how we move our bodies, others move their bodies to try and fit in a restrictive mold society created, some of us have experienced both ends of the spectrum. So here's the magic question that will clarify whether or not something is enforcing diet culture, for YOU, not for anyone else:
How does this really make me feel?
Is this liberating?
Does it feel expansive? Does it awaken curiosity and creativity?
Does this leave room for all the aspects of who you are?
Does it feel safe for me to be my full self? Who am I doing this for?
Okay that was seven questions, but the first one is the most directive. Here's the catch, though, don't just ask it once. Ask it every time you reach for concealer, lipstick, shaving cream, tweezers, hair dye, the food or body weight scale. Ask it every time you see a transformation photo, as you shift from one yoga pose into the next, as you complete a heavy ass deadlift or come up out of a barbell squat. Ask it when you feel the sun on your face, when someone talks over you, when you hit a submission in your martial art of choice, when you get in bed at 8pm or 10pm or 2am. Ask it when you're in your circle of close people, keep asking it over, and over, and over and over.
How does this specific thing make me feel TODAY? What does it tell me about myself and my needs TODAY? How can I hold more compassion for myself and create the space I need TODAY?
The more in tune you are with yourself, the quicker you'll spot what needs to go. Eventually you won't have to actively ask all the questions, you'll just know. You'll know the cover of that magazine feels reductive. You'll start noticing how much time your coworkers spend discussing their diets. You'll see where beauty and diet culture don't fit in YOUR life, specifically, because you've gotten to know yourself really well.
I am all about education. I think we should be readers, savvy consumers, resisters and sisters. I can list favorite body positive books that I've learned incredible things from. We can talk about ways to short circuit the beauty / diet culture mental feedback loop by engaging in embodiment and celebrating what we can DO and FEEL not just how we look. We can talk about the history of body positivity and fat activism, about the structural oppression folks in bigger (and non white) bodies experience. We can talk about the trillions of dollars spent in advertising campaigns by beauty and diet culture executives that are meant to profit off our insecurities and pain.
But if we don't do THIS step, none of those conversations will land. It will all still feel theoretical. It will just be something we talk about.
The beauty and diet industries profit not only from our insecurities, but from our lack of self knowing. They have a product for everything. They teach us we can buy a chosen identity through the perfect bouquet of products arranged in an appealing flat lay. Friend, I can tell you some of those products might be fun, but you're not in there. Who you are isn't distilled in a face cream, lipstick, self tanner, or skin lightening cream. There is no potion that will lead you home to yourself.
But some well chosen questions, practiced regularly, may provide trail markers.
So tell me, how do these things make you feel, really?
Write it down, journal it, post it, and if you do, tag me.
Let's keep walking each other home to the most potent versions of ourselves.