I Don't Know if I am Horton or One of the Whos

Who didn’t like Dr. Seuss when they were a kid?  Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Fox in Socks!  All great books with rhythm and rhyming.  It was when I was a little older, maybe a pre-teen or a teen that I realized there were some messages in his books, sometimes quite political.  It was somewhere around then that I really decided I liked Horton the elephant.  He shows up in a couple of books.  If you aren’t familiar with these books, I think it is worth your time to go to a library and read some of them.  Of course, there is nothing like reading these books out loud, so if you decide to do this in the library, whisper! In Horton Hears a Who, Horton the elephant hears a tiny sound and learns that there is an entire community the size of a speck of dust that needs help.  Now, the way I see it, there are many messages from this story.  But this week, I really started thinking of how I feel like I have a tiny little voice that no one hears….or maybe I am Horton who believes in the message and everyone thinks I am ridiculous.  Either way, at times, it is hard to keep moving forward. Specifically, I am talking about an anti-diet message.  Diet culture is everywhere!  E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E!  I can’t scroll through a Facebook feed, flip through a magazine, or watch a television show without some kind of reference to the need to be on a diet, lose weight, or “make healthy food choices.”  (I put that last part in quotes because it is code for diet!).  I can read a fiction book and it refers to “sugar addiction,” and I can read a self-help book that refers to the need to change our bodies and watch what we eat over and over and over and over.  I can read a non-fiction book about depression and find numerous self-referential references the author makes about his own body being “overweight.”  (And again, I put that last word in quotes because what in the heck is the weight over?)  And then I can’t interact with a casual friend or acquaintance, without some kind of sentence like, “I’m trying to be good and not eat the cookie.”  I don’t have room to give you all the examples in an average week….or even day….where I interact with these type of things. Here I am with my little voice saying, diets don’t work!  In fact, the body will fight hard to regain that weight and sometimes more.  And calling it a “lifestyle” or “wellness” is usually code for a diet.  And don’t be fooled that you can tell anything about someone’s health by looking at their body!  Diet culture perpetuates a negative message that is internalized that we need to focus on food and body like that is all that matters.  Diet culture says that we cannot trust our bodies.  Diet culture is making billions of dollars a year on us hating our bodies not trusting our bodies, and believing that the next program or choice will be the magic formula for being happy with ourselves. Here I am with my little voice saying, people are people no matter what size…and we need to back off of thinking people need to change their body’s size and shape!  Maybe I’m Horton because no one believes me.  Maybe I am one of the Whos in Whoville.  I just know that I am bombarded with it at every turn.  I once drank the diet culture kool-aid, y’all!  I know it is hard to push back and I’ve been pushing back for over 7 years!  I get tired of pushing back, when so many around me are purple from the kool-aid! As an eating disorder therapist, I see some serious problems that diet culture creates, and I try to help de-program the message.  Diet culture may not be the entire cause of many eating disorders, but it certainly perpetuates it.  I seriously believe we all would benefit from rejecting diet culture, regardless of our propensity to go toward disordered eating.  Listen to your body and trust it.  Sometimes we need someone to help us learn to listen and trust our bodies again, but it truly is an amazing body right here, today!  It came into this world knowing when to eat and when to stop eating. One thing I know….if I am a Who and want to be heard…it helps if we all get together and get louder.  If you are wanting to reject diet culture, find your people and get with them….it makes our voices louder, so that the Hortons will hear us!