Jette Virdi on why she’s shutting down other mums’ conversations about restricting food and judging bodies…
I can tell I’ve pissed them off. The hushed silence and the looks going from one mum to the next around the table. And I purposefully don’t explain why I’ve said what I’ve said. I don’t have the energy to educate women my age, who have felt discouraged about their weight their entire lives, why it is not right that they should be talking about this shit in front of our three-year-old sponges. I mean… kids.
“Could you please not talk about diets or losing weight in my house?”
Honestly, it’s quite a hard sentence to say out loud to a group of people, mums no less, and full of school gate whispers and judgement. I know we say we shouldn’t judge and yes we shouldn’t, but we do. And we judge because it triggers something in us. It literally is “there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s me”. And being triggered is really hard to acknowledge because it does take a lot of soul searching to accept that I react this way because of past patterns and how I’ve been treated.
Let’s take for example where you get the idea that food was bad. Was it because your mum or dad used to say something like “let’s be naughty and have a piece of cake?” And may have followed it up by saying “a minute on the lips is a lifetime on the hips, so let’s not tell anyone” Or something along the lines of having to exercise to get it off, or negate eating it.
When was a piece of cake bad? When did eating a piece of cake make you bad? The HSE says on their website that between one and four percent of people will be affected by an eating disorder, but let’s be realistic and note that a lot of people will not realise they have an eating disorder so the figure is most likely far higher.
Just to clarify what an eating disorder is: According to Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, “Eating disorders are complex psychological disorders that affect every aspect of a person’s functioning.”
Have you been negatively impacted, physically or mentally, by a way of eating? Perhaps restricting your calories for periods of time has made you feel sad and shit? Perhaps you deny yourself a piece of cake, or certain foods, and it makes you sad when you see someone else eating them. Or perhaps when you do have a piece of cake you talk negatively to yourself for extended periods to times. All of these things, if they happen, are considered an eating disorder. Celery juice diet! Cabbage soup diet! All of these things are tied up in different words but they are mental and physical concerns.
It’s no wonder we talk so much about weight; it’s ingrained in us isn’t it? The patriarchy telling us to look this way, look that way, you’re too loud, you’re too fat, you’re too you.
The hashtag #weightlossgoals has over 2.9million posts on instagram – this is the world we’re growing in, teaching our children about, and I think it’s important to clarify that weight loss doesn’t mean more health. A lower weight doesn’t make you better. A lower weight doesn’t mean you deserve a better life.
You can be healthy at EVERY SIZE. Let me say that again – you can be healthy at every size. The HAES (healthy at every size) approach is “a continuously evolving alternative to the weight-centered approach to treating clients and patients of all sizes. It is also a movement working to promote size-acceptance, to end weight discrimination, and to lessen the cultural obsession with weight loss and thinness. The HAES approach promotes balanced eating, life-enhancing physical activity, and respect for the diversity of body shapes and sizes.”
Recently a friend of mine (who’s also a badass non-diet nutritionist) asked on her Instagram “do wellness advocates understand your complex needs or are they selling you a false promise via a simplistic solution?” And it was like a bomb went off in my head. Wellness and all the various forms of it – yoga, training, all of it is so general and bland, when each body is so unique in its ability to process food that how can one form work for every person. It just can’t.
So that’s what I’m teaching my daughter. That you can be healthy at every size. That cake is not naughty. So when mothers come into my house and start talking about food being bad and naughty, or that they’ve got fat over the summer and they’re on a restricted diet, I shut it down. I don’t need my three-year- old learning words that change food from being exciting and new and a delight, to bad and naughty. I don’t want my daughter learning those patterns. She will have plenty of time throughout her life to navigate the world of food and exercise.
But when I say, “Could you please not talk about diets or losing weight in my house,” it feels to me that the other mums don’t understand why. Perhaps I should clarify my position, but I’m exhausted from clarifying my life. Why I chose this, did this, don’t do that, won’t do that. I find it toxic for myself – and I can at least understand and acknowledge that my weight doesn’t define my worth (even though some days it still does) – but my daughter doesn’t have that capacity yet.
One mum comes up to me later after school drop off and says, “Thanks for stopping that conversation about weight the other day. I have an eating disorder and it’s so triggering when people talk about weight for me. Thanks for being brave and standing up. I’m going to do that too, next time my friends are talking about weight loss”.
I was left speechless that this woman had shared such intimate information with me when I didn’t even know her last name, and also proud that I’d emboldened her. And it left me thinking that we just don’t know what other people have going on, so next time you talk about weight with your friends or how you hate your legs or your arms, don’t. Don’t make us define our worth by your standard.