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An open letter to Diet Culture from an Eating Disorder Specialist by Laura Phelan - @phelanwell

Dear Diet Culture,

Its been a while and alas we meet again. This time you are worth 62 billion dollars, how the f**k did you get here? Well let me tell you how, scamming people by wreaking havoc on their insecurities and convincing them they must shrink their bodies in order to live a happy existence.

Well I am here to tell you that quite frankly that is the biggest load of rubbish I have ever heard. Because here’s the thing, with 1.6 million people in the UK alone suffering from an eating disorder, 10 million women reported to be depressed about the way they look, I would say I have a case against you. Ever heard of set weight Theory? Its EVIDENCE that our bodies will fight to maintain a given weight even if this weight is tampered with or manipulated. This leads me to my next point which is Health at Every Size which, a weight inclusive paradigm, to move towards equity and access for people in all bodies, whilst also seeking to elevate the voices of those who are most marginalized. Unlike YOU diet culture, it seeks to change peoples RELATIONSHIPS with their bodies as opposed to demonising larger bodies and making everyone fear being fat.

I thought I would give you some more insight into how I know first-hand how damaging you can be, you see I myself developed anorexia at the age of 13-so I have been in recovery for over 12 years now. Prior to this I was quite shy, didn't have a lot of self-confidence and when embarking on what I thought was a "healthy eating regime", I didn't realise the drastic consequence it would have on my mental health. I soon became obsessed by calorie counting, over exercising and controlling what I ate, and you made that a lot easier to do. Off I would go to the shops knowing I could pick up any magazine and keep this obsession thriving with the next weight loss ad. Now a days all you need to do is turn on instagram to see how you have seeped into people’s lives. Luckily for me, through years of therapy support, family support and a conscious daily battle to fight the thoughts and behaviours that had gotten me so ill, I started to get through. I still longed to be smaller, I still longed to control my food and had severe body image and self-confidence issues for years after, but I knew I had to keep going. A life after recovery is a life of freedom and opportunity and these days, I look to show up in life in a much bigger way. I bet you hate that don’t you? People out there LIKING their bodies, no longer pumping money in to you via their self-doubt debit card.

See here’s the thing, just because I am healed and free from your grasp, doesn’t mean everyone else is, and oh boy do I want to change this. One of my biggest goals is to change the stigma attached to eating disorders in that you have to be in a thin, emaciated young female body to be struggling. They do not discriminate, they can impact anyone, at any age, at any time. I also want to change the rhetoric that our worth lies in our bodies in ANY WAY, we are so much more than what we look like, fat or thin, short or tall, healthy eaters or not! I know I have a fight on my hands but luckily, I am not the only one in the army of dismantling you. Just look at the growing HAES Community, the other professionals and advocates like myself, the Body Positivity Community and movements such as “ I weigh”, by Jameela Jamil.

You shouldn’t start something you can’t finish diet culture and let me tell you I and billions of others are here to finish YOU.


Laura Phelan's Article was featured on Balance Magazine Online during ED Awareness Week 2019



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