(204) How do I fit in without dieting? (with Rachel Millner)

Julie Dillon

Do you notice how much bonding happens over diet talk and body bashing? Do you already feel different and rejecting diets makes you feel even more out of place? Guest expert Rachel Millner says, “Community is important” and reminds us to “keep focusing on what we are pursuing: freedom.” Listen to more on the latest Love Food Podcast episode.

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This episode’s Dear Food letter:

Dear food,
     Hello! I’m so glad we’ve spent some time over the past few years working on our relationship. I grew up in a household with a severly anorexic sister and an eating disordered mom, where you were considered dangerous, addictive, and a symbol of weakness. Though I love my family deeply and in so many ways, before I went to college, I became very fed up with two ideas in particular they used to police me: first, that I must appear feminine, and second, that I must be thin so I can be “healthy” and attractive. Before I left home, and even more after, I experimented with violating both these rules. Years later, I am learning that they are related in ways I never realized.      From my family and society in general, I learned that being thin, talking about restriction, and obsessing over appearances are cornerstones of conventional femininity. So much of what the women in my extended family do together revolves around appearances. On vacation, we go on hikes where we don’t even talk because we don’t want to slow our heart rates for the exercise-tracking watches (I’m the only one without one), and connect and catch up doing hair, makeup, or going to the nail salon, where inevitably boyfriends or the pursuit of them are the thing everyone from the extended family considers common ground for conversation. I don’t relate to so much of this. I consider myself pretty femine, but being gay and avoiding diet culture seem to isolate me. Doing both of them at the same time just compounds this effect: not only am I not traditionally feminine because I’m not straight, I try not to compensate for it by constantly maintaining the southern-charm appearance that my family values so much.     

It’s hard, though, food. I feel like such an outsider, and dating women who are thinner than me just makes it harder. My last girlfriend and my current girlfriend are both naturally very thin, and the inner voice that wants to compare my weight and looks to others’ is even louder when the person I’m looking at is a romatic partner. I’m very open about this with women I date, and my girlfriend says she loves me at my exact size (I’m so lucky), but I can’t help but feel jealous. One thing that helped was having sex with women of my own size. I think being queer gives me the unique opportunity to value my own body because I can see a woman who looks like me and think, “she’s about my weight, and I think she’s gorgeous!” Lately, this just isn’t enough for me though. It’s exhausting having to prove my femininity to myself and my family all the time. It’s exhausting having to prove that my weight is okay to myself and my family all the time. I’m a woman with a body that I use to feed, move, and connect – shouldn’t that be enough? I know it should be, but I can’t help but feel shame every time I eat a dessert, and I know it’s damaging our relationship, food. I love my girlfriend so much, but her thinness and genuine innate love of vegetables make me feel comparatively shitty to the point where I am emotionally eating, which just makes me feel worse. I really want to continue along the path to peace with you, food, and I hope someday I can eat and love without fear.


Here, queer, and full of food fear

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to LoveFoodPodcast@gmail.com. 

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