True life: 90s Diet Culture

I am a child of 90s diet culture.

Atkins, weight watchers, Tae Bo VHS. I took step aerobics classes and played sports and constantly felt like I was supposed to be losing weight.

Foods were morally good and evil. I felt shame for eating chips and hid to eat an entire bag of popcorn. At friend’s houses I wouldn’t finish food because no one else was.

I remember once in 6th grade I competed in a poetry festival, and I got too small of a size because I had no concept of my body.

7th and 8th grade I was in school musicals and remember the costumer eyeing me up and down- unsure of what they were supposed to do with me.

(Though, thank god for choir robes).

Going into high school and playing tennis and short skirts and trying to find prom and formal dresses in plus sizes that weren’t grandma style.

(I dreamed of the day to shop in the same stores as my friends).

It just seemed that whatever I did nothing worked and none of the weight stayed off.

Everything felt worse. The doctor felt terrifying (honestly still) because it felt as if every single one of my problems would have been solved if I lost weight.

Shopping for clothes was absolutely no fun. Trying piece after piece on because plus size clothing in the late 90s/Early 2000’s was atrocious (on top of women’s sizing being a dumpster fire).

Looking back on my life from 5th grade to graduating high school, I realized that there are very few moments where I felt strong, powerful, beautiful. The ones that come to mind right away are all from my senior year of high school.

As I went to college, I realized that something had to change. Maybe I had to change? Maybe I needed to be a different person? Maybe I was just boring as my own self? Maybe I just needed to come out of my shell?

So, I tried.

I ended up living with beautiful women, who had all the boys coming at them and quickly fell into step as the fat friend who constantly felt like a third wheel.

I was just never enough. Not talented enough of a singer, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough.

Not enough coupled with a helper personality trait led me to try to earn love and friendship and honestly probably be used for my kindness more than I like to admit.

And then, I remember stepping on a scale somehow the end of my first semester junior year.

I hated the number I saw.

I hated myself a lot.

When I came back from winter break, I went head on into losing weight.


I burned every single calorie that went into my mouth and then some. If I could go back and find calorie counts I’m sure what I would find was that on a normal average day I was only allowing myself maybe 1,000 calories. I was tracking everything I ate. I was starving myself. I was working out at least twice a day and if I didn’t work out-I didn’t eat.

Because I was 19-20 I obviously lost weight.

I continued over the summer and when my senior year in college started, I was the thinnest I had ever been (and have ever been).

And I started to take up some space.

I hated it.

I had spent the entirety of my life being told to not take up space. To make myself as small as possible. Every time I had taken up space in my big, oversized body throughout my life it had ended in tragedy. It had ended in me being made fun of, or being less than, being not picked, not enough, still being too big.

Since my senior year in college, which was at this point 14 years ago, I’ve gone up and down in my weight. I’ve lost weight traveling and living internationally. I’ve gained weight through stress and moves and *cough cough* pandemics.

But now, I’m realizing it’s not about good and bad food. It’s not about fat= not healthy.

It’s about knowing who you are and what you need to do for your own self.

(and honestly what I usually need for myself is to actually eat food.)

It’s still a journey. I’m still not the best at it. But I’m learning. I’m also learning to eat what I want to eat. Like tonight I had a salad in a mixing bowl and two pieces of toast and now I’m eating green olives and drinking a glass of wine.

I don’t currently have a scale. I’m still a little terrified of going to the doctor. I’m still affected by fat shaming.

But if something doesn’t fit- it doesn’t fit.

If I want to eat chips- I’m probably going to eat them.

If I am not feeling beautiful- I try to realize why.

If I want to buy the damn two piece or short skirt…I buy it.

It’s still a journey. I still have food anxiety and have to remember not to call food good and bad.

But I’m learning.

That’s it.

Bottom line:

I am a child of the 90s diet culture and I am still learning.

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