“We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.” ~Brené Brown
I was inducted into diet culture in my early teens and then into the health and fitness industry in my early thirties, when my “fitness journey” had finally really taken off, and I ultimately became a personal trainer and nutrition and wellness coach.
Once we’ve given enough years of our life to diet culture, many of us begin to recognize the ways that it’s harming us and all the things it’s stealing from us.
Peace of Mind Confidence in oneself and trust. Well-being in all aspects of mental, physical, and emotional health.
My grandmother’s cookies.
It is the ability to eat what you want and not be afraid.
Trust in your body.
But we don’t notice all the ways “health and fitness” are promoted in our culture and how they do the same thing. And there are so many other things it steals from us that we often don’t think about or notice.
Connection was for me and my colleagues one of the most powerful examples.
The connection between myself and the others.
I didn’t start losing my ability to connect because of my induction into diet culture. It was due to growing up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father.
These industries had a monopoly on it and fueled, lit it up, then ran amok for many decades.
Connectivity is an essential human need. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love and belonging are right up there after things like food, water, and safety.
Connectivity is a part of our DNA.
According to recent research, the brain may process pain from feeling disconnected or rejected just like it does physical pain. Connection is key to nearly all aspects of our health, well-being, and wellbeing.
And while it may seem like we’re constantly connected, especially now through things like social media or video calls, it’s not actually the case.
Globally, loneliness is on the rise.
Chatting about what food we should or shouldn’t eat; commiserating over how much we hate our bodies, how much weight we gained, the latest diet attempt we just failed; bragging about how we did in the gym, how much weight we lost, how many steps we took, or how “clean” we’re eating—this isn’t connection. It’s not connecting with others, and it’s definitely not connecting with ourselves.
In fact, those things keep us from being able to connect with ourselves because we’re so focused on controlling external “shoulds.”
We may form friendships around those things, but they aren’t based on genuine connections.
Curating the picture-perfect Instagram feed, gathering around mutually hated or demonized “others,” and sharing memes or videos of the latest TikTok trend are also not the same as real, genuine human connections.
It’s all just filling space with mindless, external distractions.
It’s not truly allowing ourselves to be raw, real, and vulnerable. To be seen, heard, and valued for who we uniquely are as individuals—not just the perfectly curated image we present to the world but the messy, raw, and real parts we try so hard to hide.
We are most deserving of belonging and love because we have the parts that we fear.
I was able to hide behind many of them. They were a cover and a way to conceal myself. It was a mask. It was a role that I had, and behind which I felt safe and protected.
My “passion for health and fitness” allowed me to play the badass.
(In real life, I was afraid all the time.
It allowed me to play the inspirational “success” story.
It was actually that I was afraid of adding an extra ounce to my weight because of the validation and praise I was getting. It was ruining my physical, mental and emotional health.
The strong, fearless, confident “fitness freak” that could do anything she put her mind to.
In reality, I concealed the fact I felt scared, emotionally unstable, and so broke that I had to use the strength that exercise gave me just to make it through each day.
These roles were easy for me. These were roles I enjoyed, at the very least during my early years.
Don’t be afraid to do what is expected. Be what I’d seen get celebrated in others. Easy, right? Sure, until it isn’t.
My pain increased the longer the mask was on.
My efforts to preserve my external perfection by maintaining a flawless body and eating the best food I could, only made it worse.
Externally, I was doing everything “right.”
But in reality? In reality, I was a binge-eater, bulimic and clinically depressed. For many reasons, not the least of which because I was completely disconnected—from myself, my body, and from others.
I was so focused on trying to be something I thought I was supposed to be, so I’d be liked, admired, impressive, that I lost who I was and what I needed.
It was all I had in life and it didn’t matter to me anymore.
To trust other people, I have lost my ability to trust me. Please send me.
Actually, I was afraid of actually being seen.
Because I didn’t like myself and I didn’t believe anyone else would either if they knew the real me.
Therefore, I concealed what my body looked. The external strength I have. What I created.
It was exhausting, holy cow. The soul-crushing.
It is impossible to simultaneously worry about how other people view you or your body. You cannot micro-manage your image and try to control it. Check out these other sites.Connect to others and yourself in meaningful ways.
Because in order to keep up those appearances, you have to actively work to hide parts of yourself—large parts of yourself that you’re terrified will be seen if you dare take off the mask.
If you’re actively hiding parts of yourself, you’re not able to truly feel seen, heard, and valued… because you are hidden away. In a deep, dark corner of your soul, or worse, eating too much food.
After a while, You didn’t even remember who I was. My identity got so caught up in what I believed I was, a complete failure and completely unworthy of acceptance, and how I wanted to portray it (the best, most inspiring person). You Was lost.
Completely disconnected. I am completely disconnected from myself and other people.
What I wanted or needed didn’t matter because my entire existence was being driven by fear and the disconnection that causes.
Fear of rejection or abandonment should I cease playing the role.
Fear of weight gain and not looking “good enough.” Fear of not beingIt’s good enough. Fear about the effects of binging on my health. Fear of the consequences if I let go of micromanaging each bite of food and allowed my body to be a trusted source of nutrition.
Fear of judgment
And every time I turned around, there were diet, “health and wellness” cultures swooping in and stoking those fears.
Eventually, I recognized that I couldn’t keep it up. I couldn’t keep playing the role. It was exhausting and had broken my heart. I couldn’t keep caring about trying to be impressive or accepted. To be healthy and happy with my body, I needed to take responsibility for myself.
It was necessary to reconnect with myself in order to achieve this. It was time to get rid of the junk that kept me from connecting and to learn to reconnect.
First with myself, because how could I ever truly connect with others if I didn’t even know who I was when I wasn’t playing the role?
How could I lose all the weight and food? If I was enslaved by my fear and obsessions that keep me from being myself?
So I started working on being present with myself, not an easy feat when you don’t much like yourself. However, it was essential.
I started getting curious and practiced connecting with my body, my thoughts, my emotions, my needs… my inner world.
Who were you, actually?
Is there something that truly matters to you in your life?
You don’t need to believe what I said. should eat or do… what did I need?
Did I truly come here to hate myself and obsess over the things that destroy me? To fear real, meaningful connections with other people.
Would it be possible to find a solution? InconditionallyAccept myself and what is happening to my body. Would that make a difference in how my body was treated and the way it showed up to the rest of the world?
Was it me? wantWhat to eat? Forget what I was “supposed to” eat; what did I want? Was it affecting my mood? What did you want from your body?
It doesn’t matter what size or weight it should have, but how would I like it to feel? What were the effects of my habits and thoughts regarding exercise and food? Are they harming or helping? How could I learn to change them if they weren’t?
Then I began to be more deliberate about my actions, thoughts and beliefs. Making choices I was kind and loving helped me feel happier about myself and the world. Anything that wasn’t helping me live or feel better, and more connected with myself, could have no place in my world anymore.
After feeling connected to my body and myself, I began working towards connecting with other people.
That’s still something I find difficult and am learning to do, but I’m still practicing. Baby steps.
What I discovered when I began to reconnect with myself is how much my experience with my alcoholic father affected me as an adult.
This experience taught me the importance of people being scared. They’re scary and unpredictable. It also created abandonment issues, and it’s where the fear of not being good enough, and the feeling that I needed to play a role to be loved or accepted, had actually begun. It was no wonder that I struggled to connect.
I share this story because I’ve come to realize that most of us have an underlying fear around not being good enough that started in childhood for one reason or another. These predatory industries are able to sneak in every corner of the world and capitalize on our fears with empty promises that only make matters worse.
Food obsessions and weight loss are an escape.
A socially acceptable, surface-level distraction that keeps us so externally focused and consumed that we spend most of our adult lives not even knowing that we’re disconnected—or that we’re living in fear and we’re just trying to “fix it” by making ourselves feel more socially acceptable.
Yet, it is causing us to be more disconnected. Both from ourselves and other people.
Because we’re hiding behind diversions and masks.
Now my mask has come off.
It conceals my belly roll. I have wrinkles. Gray hair is my preference. Although I have dark hair I color it to look darker. Sometimes I just don’t want it.
Mine is like all other bodies.
All of this does not mean I am going to let go. This means that I allow myself to be just Be.
I’ve overcome a lotI have done many things, yet struggle with others.
I have made many mistakes and even failed. Often, actually.
I’m exceptionally good at some things and full-on suck at even more.
I can’t do everything myself. Sometimes I need support and assistance. I’m still not very good at asking for it, but I’m working on it.
All of that simply means that like you, I’m human. And I cannot connect with myself or anyone else if I’m trying so hard to be impressive that I’m not being real.
So I don’t anymore.
About Roni Davis
Roni Davis, founder of E-CET, draws on over a decade’s professional education and experience as well as her personal healing journey. She guides women in identifying and changing their thought patterns and behaviors that lead to food and weight problems. Clients learn to trust themselves, be compassionate, have compassion and love their bodies and break out of unhealthy eating patterns. Check out her Why We Eat video series.
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Tiny Buddha’s post How Food Obsessions and Weight Disconnect Us and Why It Is So Harmful originally appeared on Tiny Buddha.