I want to talk about something that is one of the less obvious issues that perpetuates people being stuck in a cycle of yo yo dieting. This is the idea of the “good fatty”. What in the world is a “good fatty”? It’s the idea that if we are struggling with our weight as long as we are actively dieting in an attempt to lose weight we are ok by society’s standards. It’s the idea that as long as we continue with our dieting behaviors we can be considered acceptable within the diet culture. Or in other words, that although we may weigh more than the world around us considers “acceptable”, at least we are actively trying to lose weight by following this diet and that behavior makes us more acceptable to the outside world. What we really are talking about is a coping mechanism. Sadly, it’s a coping mechanism people who weigh more than our society considers ideal use in order to try and manage living in a fat phobic culture and all the shame and guilt that entails.
So how does this tie into ditching diets for good? Think about what this means for this person when they decide to not diet. They are still considered “big” by society standards, but without the protection from fat phobia dieting can provide. Imagine you go out to eat and finally decide to order the hamburger you really want instead of the salad you feel like you “should” have. What if someone notices and makes a hurtful comment? Tells you that you shouldn’t be eating that hamburger at your size or in any other way shames you for your food choice and your body? How is that going to make you feel? How is that going to impact the choice you make next time you go out to eat? What might it do for your future efforts at eating in a mindful way? Probably not anything positive. I can tell you in the case of many of the people I work with experiences like this are likely to trigger a return to the protection dieting can provide for them. They are going to be much less likely to make the choice they really want next time they go out to eat that’s for sure!
It’s also important to keep in mind that for those of us who are living in bigger bodies, this experience doesn’t just happen eating out like in my example. This can be an experience that completely surrounds their daily lives, from coworkers to family members feeling the need to make shame inducing comments about their food choices and body shape. It really easy to feel like eating what we truly desire is too vulnerable of a proposition in this sort of situation! Why would I ever worry about what my body is telling me it needs when I know if I don’t choose that salad, smoothie, etc I will be judged? How can someone truly discover and listen to their own food body intuition in this sort of scenario? It can be tremendously difficult because by doing so, we are essentially agreeing to rebel against the mainstream diet culture and receive all the back lash it may entail as well as deal with all the emotions that come up being a larger person in this culture that doesn’t accept that. In my mind, this is why it is absolutely essential to first work to build our own internal convictions around why we are making the choice to no longer diet before any attempt to begin working on the other aspects of eating in a mindful way. As long as dieting isn’t completely off the table, there is always a reason to turn back.
Any questions or thoughts around how this idea of needing to be a “good fatty” impacts us in our intuitive eating journey? Feel free to get touch!