In my previous post, Clean Out Your Closet and Improve Your Relationship With Your Body, I talked about the importance of clearing space both in your closet and your head.
I had a similar experience with another area of my house in need of a diet-culture makeover. No, it wasn’t the kitchen. It was my bookshelf. Admittedly, I love books and I tend to hold onto nearly every book I’ve ever owned, including my complete box set of “Little House” books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, that was given to me when I was seven years old. Like the clothes in my closet, I realized that the contents of my bookshelf didn’t necessarily fit my current life and could probably be donated.
As I began to box up my collections of old vacation beach reads, memoirs, classics and various other random genres and titles, some of which I had never even gotten around to reading, I noticed an alarming trend. One after another, I started pulling “diet” books from my shelf, some dating as far back as 1989. There were books about the latest fad diets of their time and books promising to teach me how to cleanse, detox and “purify” my body. I found books written by “medical experts”, warning about the dangers of too much sugar, too much fat, not enough fat, too many carbs and not enough carbs. There were books urging people to eat more meat and books espousing the dangers of animal products.
And there were cookbooks. So many cookbooks. I had cookbooks with recipes that were sugar free, fat free, high-fat, meat free, meat forward, low carb, no carb and recipes that were “5 points or less”, for those who were counting. There were diet books written by celebrities, functional medicine folks, famous chefs and everyday joes, who all claimed to have cracked the code to losing weight and keeping it off.
The underlying messages were all the same; you’re not good enough the way you are and we can fix you.
My head was spinning. Not only did I start to feel angry at the amount of money I had spent accumulating this “diet library”, I also felt manipulated by the $60 billion dollar a year diet industry preying and profiting on the vulnerable, selling the unproven promises of sustainable weight loss, health and happiness. In my continuing journey to recover from an eating disorder and break up with diet culture, I boxed up all the diet books and all the self-defeating thoughts that went along with them.
Slowly I began to rebuild my personal library with books that taught me about self-compassion and self-acceptance. I filled my shelves with books that encouraged me to value and respect my body, not hate it, and books that taught me that my worth as a human being was not related to the size of my body or the number on a scale. This was an important step in my personal recovery. When I began to immerse myself in positive and life affirming writings, the shame was stripped away and my experiences were validated. It helped empower me to take my life back.
If you’re ready for a bookshelf makeover, here are some of my favorites, in no particular order, along with links to find them and support independent bookstores:
Eating in the Light of the Moon – Anita Johnston, Ph.D.
Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison, MPH, RD
Befriending Your Body – Ann Saffi Biasetti, Ph.D., LCSW
Self-Compassion – Kristen Neff, Ph.D.
The Body is Not an Apology – Sonya Renee Taylor
Hunger – Roxanne Gay
More Than a Body – Lindsay Kite, PhD. and Lexie Kite, Ph.D.
Intuitive Eating – Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN
Untamed – Glennon Doyle
Dietland – Sarai Walker
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
Oh, in case you’re wondering what I did with all those diet books…
Well, I just didn’t feel right donating them and being responsible for perpetuating the lies of diet culture. Instead, I poured a glass of wine, sat out on my patio and enjoyed a nice, warm fire.
Cheers and happy reading!