Don't Succumb to Diet Culture

Don't Succumb to Diet Culture

Guess what? There is no wrong way to have a body.
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Inside my college's library stands a large area of blackboard with offered chalk and the open question of "What is your New Year's resolution?" While the answers vary from "wearing make-up everyday" to "make a baby", one that stood out to me, among similar others, was "lose 15 pounds".

The New Year is considered a time for cleaning up your act and determined fresh starts; unfortunately, among the celebrations and cheer, diet culture runs rampant. While it may sound unfamiliar or difficult to truly explain, "diet culture" can be best described as "society that is so inundated with dieting propaganda, that it affects how we relate to ourselves and each other", as aptly put by Melissa A. Fabello in her article for Everyday Feminism magazine.

The article that you are currently reading is not intended to criticize the individuals dieting to sincerely better themselves. Instead, this is an article intended to defend you from, and point out, the culture and self-doubt that declares you are not perfect until you are tan, have hairless skin, and a "bikini body". (You might recall Protein World's controversial beach body ad of 2015.)

In all honesty, diet culture is not established to always protect your health. Various aspects of weight loss like Weight Watchers, diet pills, and different supplements do not exist to simply improve your self-image. Since 2014, you and 108 million others are benefitting a sixty-four-billion dollar system, as recorded by Marketdata Enterprises. If anything, diet culture enforces capitalism and encourages self-hate -- not the directions toward a healthy well-being or a safe and stable mentality.

Here is a little secret: despite what the media insists, there is no wrong way to have a body. Human bodies are too varied and special. They deserve better than to be categorized to criticize and shame: fat, skinny, pear-shaped, hourglass.. We, as people, deserve more than statements like "REAL women have curves", name-calling like "twigs", and photoshopped ads with unobtainable goals. Aren't we supposed to embrace diversity, and not discourage it?

As someone who once skipped meals, who still feels guilt for eating, and continues to struggle with her self-image.. At the beginning of 2017 (or any year prior), if you crafted a New Year resolution to lose or gain weight, make sure you pursue that goal out of self-love and respect for yourself. Refuse to succumb to the enemies labeled peer pressure, fear, and self-hate.

Your body deserves better than that.

Cover Image Credit: Everyday Feminisim

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5 Things I Really Wish I Knew ~Before~ Losing My Virginity

Advice to our younger selves.
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Everyone has a first time. We're all at different stages of our lives when it happens, which impacts how we approach the situation and how we feel about it immediately after and in reflections. Some people idealize their first time, some people regret it, some people feel nothing about it. I agonized over my virginity.

I wanted nothing more than to throw it at the first willing participant. I felt that it made me someone inferior to my friends who had already had sex, like somehow I was missing out on some great secret of life or somehow I was less mature than them. I spent a lot of time wishing it would just happen, and then one day, it did when I wasn't expecting it. I don't regret my first time, but because I had wished for it to happen for so long, I had built up this image in my head of how it would be that was completely unrealistic.

So, this is for those girls like me whose imaginations get the best of them. Here are some tips to ease your worries and prepare you for what it's really going to be like.

1. It's going to be awkward.

Not just the first time, every time. No matter how much porn or how many blogs or erotic fiction you read, you will not have any idea what you're doing. The other person probably won't, either. There are too many variables, and you're both so concerned with doing it well, you'll be focused on too many things to properly control your limbs.

2. Don't think about your body.

The angles that are required for things to work leave both participants in awkward positions with limbs in strange places. Don't look at your body; don't even think about where your limbs are. Just keep your eyes and mind on the other person and what they're doing and how you're feeling. If you're feeling bad, let them know, so you can change it. If you're feeling good, enjoy it.

3. Don't do it drunk.

Not even a little tipsy, at least not for the first few times. Alcohol throws in another variable and another reason your limbs are flailing listlessly on top of other unforeseen complications. Just wait until you've had a little practice to introduce alcohol into the mix. You want to actually remember your first time and understand what's going on.

4. You're not going to feel any different after.

I expected to feel a weight being lifted or some newfound maturity, but I really didn't feel any different at all. That's because I really was just the same girl as before. Finally having lost this imaginary flower didn't make me physically any different at all.

5. You're going to feel something.

There wasn't some profound emotional release afterward, either, but I did feel a little different. Again, not in the sense that something had actually change, but I felt different because I had placed so much importance on this, on having sex, and now it had happened. I wanted there to be some big release or celebratory moment, but really, I just felt the same. I didn't even feel a little more mature or experienced. I was positive that if I ever did it again, I would still have absolutely no idea what to do (which was true).

Cover Image Credit: Seventeen

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My Tattoos Are Helping Me Heal From My Depression And Anxiety

My relationship with my body and myself is improving every day, and I credit this as one of the reasons.

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I'm in recovery from an eating disorder, anxiety and depression. It's safe to say that mental health has become a significant part of my life over the last couple of years.

I have three tattoos which are all mental health related, and I like to think that each one represents a different condition I have and the struggles and triumphs that I've had in recovery. The first is a lotus flower on my arm, which symbolizes something beautiful coming out of darkness, as the lotus grows in dark, muddy water, and turns into something beautiful. This represents my anxiety, and all the dark days I've had with it, as well as all the beauty that has come from me dealing with my mental illness head-on.

My second tattoo is a Maya Angelou quote, "Still I Rise" on my ankle, which I got the first time I discharged from a higher level of care for my eating disorder. This tattoo represents my ongoing struggles with my eating disorder and the fact that even though I've been knocked down several times, I will continue to rise and fight this illness.

My last tattoo is a semicolon on my wrist, which is representative of my battle with depression. It is inspired by Project Semicolon which states that an author has the choice to end a sentence, but when they use a semicolon they choose to carry on and keep going. This is especially powerful in the context of suicide prevention, and my own personal struggles with suicidal ideation.

I believe that these pieces are helping me heal in a number of ways. First, I am extremely proud of how far I've come in my mental health journey, and I love to talk and be open about this experience. I feel I can wear this tattoos proudly, as almost battle scars that show where I've been and where I'm still headed. I feel a sense of pride looking at each of them every day, and believe they keep me going even when I'm struggling.

Second, my tattoos represent parts of my body that I actually truly appreciate, and enjoy. So much of my life has been me hating my body, and my eating disorder really contributes to that. My tattoos give me something on my body that I don't want to pick apart, and this has helped me progress towards body neutrality and acceptance.

Finally, my tattoos show that I am an ally for others struggling with mental health issues, and they also help start and continue the dialogue. Just recently I was out at dinner and explained to a family friend the premise of the semicolon tattoo and why it's so meaningful to me.

My family has known about this tattoo for almost a year and got a renewed understanding about depression and suicide prevention in my talking about it. I am so proud that my tattoos spark conversation about mental health and my own struggles, and show others that I am there for them as well.

I love getting asked about my tattoos, what they mean, and why I got them. They are helping me heal through some of the most challenging parts of this journey, and I'm glad to tell everyone who asks about what I've been through and to remind them that I am a mental health ally as well.

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