I grew up during the late 90s/early 2000s, just as people were just starting to realize that maybe soda wasn’t all that great to have regularly for people’s health, especially kids. And so, like a normal fifth-grader, I declared war on the beverage and completely forbid myself from having it. And not only was I proud of myself for obediently ordering only water wherever I went, I was vocal about it.

Totally normal behavior for a 10-year old, right?

It is when we’re raised into diet culture that teaches us that food and exercise define us and give us a sense of worthiness.

How many times have you heard someone exclaim, proudly, how they don’t eat certain foods, have gone x number of days on some kind of diet, or that they only exist off “clean foods?” Has that made you feel compelled to compare yourself to them, justify what you do or don’t eat, or feel generally crappy about yourself?

Me too.

The same goes for exercise! It’s so common to have people tell you how often they workout, how far they’ve run, or how intense their workouts are. I have absolutely no problem with people exercising, but when talk about it is constant, unsolicited, or makes me feel worse about myself/others, I think it’s important to look at further.

We need to look at intentions. What is the reason behind this constant chatter, the need to tell everyone about their diet and exercise?

Our society has taught us that we should be celebrated for eating “clean” and working out every day. We look at health as something that makes someone worthy and morally “better” than those who don’t, for whatever reasons. And whether it’s said outright or not, it comes across as superiority from those who constantly use their food and exercise behaviors to validate their worth.

Are you talking about these things because of this?

My point from all of this is that we are worthy humans for so many reasons beyond what we eat or don’t and whether we exercise or not. There’s so much more DEPTH to us beyond that. In my recovery from my eating disorder, I’ve found that I have to focus on all the other aspects of why I’m worthy. I’m worthy because I’m a great friend, passionate about helping others, and simply because I am a worthy person. Food and exercise and the way we talk about them shouldn’t define our worth.

I encourage you to dive deeper than that and leave that conversation at the door.