A Journey to Self Care, Escaping Diet Culture! (trigger warning #dieting)

How many times have you thought to yourself, if I just lost maybe 5kg I’ll be much happier?

If I just fit into my pre-wedding jeans, I’ll definitely live a more fulfilling life and not worry about a diet anymore, right?

Have you ever looked in the mirror and loved what you saw? Like truly, unconditionally loved your reflection. Not picked anything apart??

Yeah, me either.

I just thought I was like everyone else, hating on their flaws, I never realized I had a crippling case of disordered eating!


My whole existence has been a relationship of yo-yo diets, weight management programs, exercise overhauls, I cannot tell you the last time I ate something that I ‘felt’ like eating or listened to my body for a ‘hunger cue’ what is that?! I eat according to my plan or diet, or because someone who I paid an exorbitant amount of money to told me too.


Yep 35 years of my entire time on this planet and I had not learnt how to eat? More shocking than that, I hated myself and have never valued myself as a being. But ask anyone who knows me, who is Jess and what is she like? I know they would say kind, loving, generous, good mum, businesswoman, supportive, friendly, likes to laugh, genuine, …. happy. But is she happy? And what defines happiness?


For me, having a BMI of between 20-25. Yep, I am not worthy unless I can fit into a dress off the rack at any store because that is all I’ve known, and all that society tells us. I could never describe myself as anything like my family and friends would.


So, then I thought, what on earth is self-worth, and why don’t I have it? The shocking truth, the revelations came about in a twist of fate. Reading Goodbye Money Guilt from Shona Gates, I figured my journey into making money, wealth was simple and only had to do with my bank account and job…WRONG! I was lead down a dark and unnerving path to unravel what went wrong, anything and everything that might have impacted my attitude towards keeping money?


Tears were shed reliving some dark moments from my past. Bullying, the ‘harmless’ comments from family about my size at every gathering, all the TV shows with thin actresses, the toxic relationship straight out of high school cementing everything from my youth. That I was worthless because I was not thin. It hurts me to type it, I am still learning that this is false, I AM NOT WORTHLESS. I can have self-worth but my gosh it is a hard pill to swallow that the root of everything is in my head, I am not worthy of anything.


The process of discovering self-worth or the lack of it has not been an easy journey nor have I arrived at my destination, I have only just started. But I know this, there is a direct correlation between the constant need to lose weight, how I eat, diet culture, and my self-worth. But 35 years of bad habits need to be un-learned. Where does one start??


First – get off the damn social channels – if you are following anyone that is making you feel like shit, get off or unfollow. Diet culture is rife in society and it is not going away anytime soon. Think about every single aspect of our lives and tell me the last time you saw a normal woman with curves as the feature? The reason I do not value myself is because there is no-one out there doing everyday things or even AMAZING things that look like me, or anyone I can relate to! So, stop it, stop comparing yourself to everyone else because they are not you.


Secondly, read honey! So, I finished my Goodbye Money Guilt, I did end up manifesting a shit-ton of money (thanks Shona!) And then went on to read “Things they don’t tell fat girls’ By Jes Baker, Holy Shit that was a good book and goes into depth about how we are all programmed to think thin is good, fat is bad. If you’re fat you’re not worthy or you’re just plain lazy…but I am anything but. I inhaled that book (pun intended) hungry for more! (hee hee another pun) Luckily Jes had a whole list of books to educate on fat culture, health, self-worth…. you name it. Which is how I racked up a $350 bill on books from an online store.


I’m currently reading two further books – Health at every Size by Dr Lindo Bacon and listening to The Resilience project by Hugh Van Cuylenburg. These are opening my mind to body acceptance and gratitude, specifically that the excuse of “I need to lose weight to be healthy” is a myth. In fact, Dr Lindo Bacon provides a lot of scientific evidence that thin does not always equal healthy, in some cases being fat or as doctors would say being ‘overweight/obese’ prevents or helps eliminates some diseases, yep you read that right. The whole new idea of me being my size is ok and I won’t die of a cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes is absolutely blowing my mind!! It is not to say I want to eat all the things, on the contrary I want to learn about how to eat, and what foods are beneficial. But not to lose weight.


This leads to my step 3, intuitive eating. This is a new term I have only just learnt since being on this journey of discovery. Apparently, there is a whole intuitive movement that nutritionists and holistic health practitioners are promoting because we have lost our way. Like I said I have no idea how to eat, what to eat, when to eat and intuitive eating is learning to listen to your body, hunger cues, with the aim to satisfy your hunger. Easier said than done so yes I have books on those too which are in the mail (watch this space).


Finally, gratitude. I have started a gratitude journal. Nothing fancy just an old notebook, I aim to write 3 things daily with what I am grateful for. Don’t over think it, just verbalize them or acknowledge it somehow. The more I’m focusing on what I do have the less I focus on the ‘body’ I don’t have or the weight loss goal I haven’t hit. And I’ll say it again, it’s a work in progress I am not finished yet but since starting my daily gratitude my mood has lifted, I’m not snapping at the kids as much (I’m not perfect) I’m more resilient when things don’t go my way, my husband and I are actually talking more rather than just two ships passing in the night…..this whole journey of self-discovery, self-worth is grounding me to appreciate everything I have, I’m slowing down and you might like to say I’m smelling those damn roses.


If you would like to follow my journey or create your own to self-worth and un-learning all those bad habits – I’m on Instagram @jess_engles DM me I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you to Sal for the space to share my process and progress of self-discovery.