Here’s a thing I stopped doing a few years ago: Shrinking into my (already small) airplane seat, giving up space that I literally paid for. Because a step toward rejecting diet culture—and much of our social conditioning as women—is starting to unapologetically take up all of ourspace.
I do want to acknowledge my own body privilege on an airplane—that my body is one that can be relatively comfortable in the one-size-fits-a-child average airplane seat. That is true, and I still sometimes found myself trying to be smaller. To not need the armrest, and surrender it to my seat neighbor. To cross my legs so they didn’t even get close to someone else’s space. Essentially, to be uncomfortable so someone else could take up their space.
There’s mindfulness of others’ needs, and then there is blatant disregard for our own. I highly value the former (especially in public spaces that are relatively easy for me to navigate), but not the latter.
As I gradually challenged the norms of diet culture—the culture that praises smallness, thinness, deprivation, restriction, and business; the one that tells us the “best” things we can be are thin, a little hungry, and “disciplined”—I saw how that culture is part of so many things we do. Like staying uncomfortable for a few hours on an airplane, like not speaking up in a group when we’re hungry and need a snack/meal break before someone else might, like saying we “don’t care” what’s for dinner when we actually have a strong craving for something specific. And those are just small examples! Just little day-to-day things that eventually (or quickly) add up.
Meeting my needs looks different every day, but I’ve gotten better and better at honing this form of self-care as I firmly reject the culture that told me I was being “good” by ignoring those needs.
This may look like prioritizing sleep/rest over movement, when you can tell your body needs rest.
This may look like ordering what you want off the menu, not the “healthy” option.
This may look like letting your body exist at the pool, without cover ups or sucking in or avoiding the environment altogether.
This may look like taking an armrest, taking a snack break, taking a solo trip, or cooking what you want for dinner, even if everyone else eats something different.
How can you start taking up space, and stop disregarding your own needs?
How can you start shifting away from the narrative that deprivation is “healthy” and toward experiences for satisfaction?
How can you challenge a story that smaller is “better” (or “healthier”) and instead write a chapter about fueling and honoring your here-and-now body?
I’d love to hear what this brings up for you, in the comments (if you feel comfortable sharing!).
I hope this is a summer of satisfaction and space, as you honor what you need whenever you can!
P.S. Not sure what it even means to feel satisfaction with food these days? Check out this podcast episode where me and an RD friend, dive into what satisfaction really means, and how to feel it with your food choices.