I'll never have a "summer bod" | Disability and diet culture
Something that my disability has excluded me from that I’m thankful for, is diet culture. Even though I can’t engage much in diet culture because of my disability, I’ve been reflecting on how it has affected me as a disabled woman.
Diet culture is another [ableist] concept we created to make people feel guilty about our bodies and eating habits. This culture completely excludes people like me, and other disabled people, creating mental health issues. If you don’t know what diet culture is, it’s a social construct that’s been popularized by the media that perpetuates the idea that your size & body shape matters most and your health is an afterthought. It makes your shape and size a part of your status. In other words, you diet to “get skinny” because that is the aesthetic we have adopted as the norm, instead of dieting for health reasons. This is very damaging.
I mentioned how this culture excludes certain disabilities and people like me. If it’s so damaging, why do I care? I used to feel very left out that I couldn’t engage with my friends about what diet regiment I’m on or my new workout routine or how I’m going to get that “summer bod.” I used to think, “wow, my already thin and fit friends focus a crazy amount of their energy and time talking about diets and changing their bodies, what about me?” I began to see the problem with diet culture when I realized I felt bad about myself for not being able to be a part of it. It goes to show how heavily we praise this culture and just how toxic it can be, when I felt BAD about not being able to engage in it.
I’m disabled and have trouble swallowing and just sustaining my weight, at times. No matter what diet regiment I’m on, I’m not getting abs or a chiseled beach body.
I’ll always have a disabled body and I’ll never fit into the Instagram swimsuit model subset, THANK GOD.
Although I felt left out of these diet narratives I couldn’t take part in, I’m thankful as hell that I chow my disabled ass down on a Big Mac with zero guilt while my friends order a salad, no dressing. Even still, diet culture has effected my own body image on levels I was not even aware of. What do people think about my body when they’re discussing how they’re going to get the “perfect” body, right in front of me? Inherently, it means that they think my body is not good enough, and never will be, even if they didn’t say it out loud or mean to offend me. It’s a fact, perpetuated by diet culture.
Diet culture says that disabled bodies have no place in a world where aesthetic is more important than health.
Let me tell you something, diet culture: DIVERSITY is beautiful.
For my entire life, I’ve been affected by diet culture and have watched my family and friends be affected by it. My friends commenting on their food every time we eat with words of guilt and regret, seeing them listen to advertisements about weight loss and googling that tea detox ASAP, etc.
Diet culture is a booming business founded on making people feel guilty about their body types. It’s society’s modern day segregation of social status via aesthetic; an arbitrary social construct.
Because of my inability to engage in diet culture, I caught up with it’s bullshit a little sooner than my abled-counterparts. People will say things like, “Well, of course you can’t diet Al, you need to keep your weight on to stay healthy.” This is ableism. It’s dismissing disabled bodies from a popular narrative, even if it is a harmful one.
I love living in the city of Chicago, where the diversity I’m surrounded with when I go outside makes me feel welcome to exist. Accepting and embracing diversity will take us one step closer to inclusion and will lead to the downfall of diet culture. I’ll never have a “summer bod,” yet I’ll be the first babe on the beach strutting my metal throne and disabled body in a bikini, no regrets. This summer, for the sake of disabled bodies and acknowledging their existence and respecting your body, don’t talk about how you’re going to get your summer body. You don’t know how it’s going to effect someone else’s body image. Keep those things to yourself. Be you in whatever body you have. Wear a damn G-string bikini because you’re hot. I’ll be cheering you on over here.
Diversity is beautiful.