I was bopping around my Facebook groups tonight when I encountered a post by a woman who was lamenting the abundance of “lifestyle” suggestions that accompany infertility advice. Her comment inspired this blog post because it really pulled at my heart strings.
As an eating-disorder clinician and an infertility specialist, I can’t help but see the way that diet culture infuses these “lifestyle” tips.
If you’ve ever googled “tips for trying to conceive” or “ways to improve fertility,” you’d be made to believe that if you exercise daily (but not too much!) and eat “clean” (a phrase I despise), that little blue line will magically arrive. And if you’ve been on this path for a while, you know that if this were true you would have been pregnant time and time again, because you’ve tried it all. I know I did…
It’s not enough that, as those who identify as women, we are bombarded by lifestyle “shoulds” through social media, tv ads, magazines etc. on a daily basis, but if you are a woman trying to conceive – forget it. You are low hanging fruit. They know that you would do anything and everything if it could just help you create that baby you’ve been dreaming of for so long.
So I am here to tell you, f*ck ‘em. Rebel, my dear. It’s the only way.
Every time a well-meaning friend, yoga instructor, or article tries to tell you to drink red raspberry tea, cut out carbs, eat high protein, do yoga every day, remove sugar from your diet – you look that person or font straight in the proverbial eye and say, “Not today, diet culture!” Because that’s what it is. It is society’s disturbing, insidious way of trying to keep us small and using our deepest desires as a method to do so.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t strive for a healthful lifestyle, what ever that means to us as individuals. Physically and mentally, it is important to joyfully move our bodies every day if we can. And we should eat a healthful diet that is appropriate for our physical make-up and specific medical conditions. But diets that cut out foods or components of foods willy nilly and label them “bad” and others “good” are not going to serve anyone. And they certainly will not convert one line to two on that dreaded monthly test.
I wish I could tell you what it would take for you to get pregnant. I don’t know because it’s different for all of us. For me, it was science and luck.
But I promise you, perfection does not get you pregnant.
So be kind to yourself, eat foods that make you feel good, dance to get your spirits up. I guarantee, that will serve you better than any “fertility diet” out there.
What is Diet Culture?
It can be easy to feel like you're the only one struggling in times of strife, and that makes the suffering even more intense. I have found podcasts to be an amazing resource for finding comfort in times of difficulty, to feel less alone, less weird, more human. And I know that many of my clients feel the same way.
Through podcasts, you can be a voyeur. You can listen in on candid conversations about any topic that interests you, and no one has to know. It's just you, your listening device of choice, and the open road. Most people start out listening to podcasts about current events, business growth or marketing, podcasts for entertainment and the like, but many have not considered listening to podcasts about mental health.
It turns out there are some great podcasts to help with the suffering so many of us deal with: depression, anxiety, ADHD etc. You can hear stories from other people and learn from how they've overcome difficult situations. The format is usually entertaining (there are so many podcasts out there, it takes some charisma to survive!) and, it's totally anonymous. What could be better?
So get some free therapy on your way to work, while you're out walking the dog, washing the dishes, wherever!
One of my favorites is Tara Brach's talk and meditation series. She is a psychologist and meditation instructor and she is a wonderful source of wisdom. Two of her most recent talks are about healing depression through meditation (Part 1 and Part 2).
And before I send you off to explore, I have a few more suggestions to get you started on the road to the wonderful world of self-help podcasting. Here is great a list of 10 Podcasts about Mental Health from the Lily, an extensive list of prenatal and postpartum / new motherhood-focused podcasts and eating disorder recovery podcasts (Food Psych is one of my favorites) from Player FM, and 10 ADHD Podcasts You Need to Kick off 2018 (a little late, I know).
You can find most of these podcast series on the podcast app that is already installed on your smartphone. And feel free to get wild and search for some mental health podcasts of your own! If you have a podcast you really enjoy and would like to share it with us, please do in the comments below.
Do You Have Fattitude?
Last week was eating disorder awareness week and Asheville was brimming with amazing programming, thanks to T.H.E Center for Disordered Eating of Western NC. I felt connected to and inspired by all the body positive clinicians (like my buddies at Asheville dietitian group Nutritious Thoughts) who are working to educate themselves and to serve our local community - to reduce stigma and increase self-love. What could be more inspiring than that?
I was particularly moved by an amazing documentary screening at the Grail Moviehouse on Friday night (side note: this theater is one one of my favorite Asheville haunts, and if you haven't been you should go and support small locals theaters!). Fattitude the Movie does an excellent job of providing important and compelling information about fat discrimination and in creating awareness of the prejudice that fat people experience. I would encourage everyone reading this blog put to go see it but, unfortunately, it still needs help with funding to get released in a way that makes it more accessible to the general public. If you'd like to help with this, you can donate here.
The movie opened my eyes to the fact that, while we've at least started a dialogue about racial, ethnic, and religious bias and discrimination, our prejudice towards body diversity remain largely unexamined. So much so that we just assume that it's fat that makes fat people "unhealthy" or prone to disease and completely ignore the fact that fat people often face enough bullying, harassment, and disgust in our society to create the kind of stress and isolation that often lead to illness and disease.
While it was hard to hear about the pain and discrimination experienced by the brave, bad-ass and beautiful speakers in the documentary (Lindy West in particular - she is amazing, check out her site here), it was ultimately a hopeful documentary with a call to action. First of all, we need to question our assumption that being fat means being unhealthy. Yes, many people are both fat AND healthy! It's true. And just like so many other studies that come out, the studies that link weight and disease are often politically motivated.
So how can we actively work against this bias? Well for one, we can follow some fabulous and fat trailblazers on social media and see how they are capable, healthy, and active people to be admired and adored (Tess Holiday and Virgie Tovar are great starts! ). And take the time to learn about how body politics play into our biases through blogs like Fattitude's Body Positive Politics.
Another action that Fattitude calls for is to encourage yourself, your friends, family, clients, whoever - to occupy your spaces and your bodies. To say "Damn the man! I will go to the gym in a sports bra if I want to!" and "I will eat a big dessert at a restaurant and look you dead in the eye" - no matter what your size or shape. Because being seen, being joyous, being loud, being colorful - that right belongs to EVERY body.
So let's show some Fattitude my friends! I'm ready. Are you?
Dr. Martine Jones (formerly Martine Luntz) is a clinical psychologist who serves clients in North Carolina, Florida, and internationally by providing support for relationship concerns, stress and anxiety, infertility, prenatal and postpartum distress, and life and role changes.