It was a chilly February night in Austin, Texas when Kim Gould entered my small apartment. She was coming to record an episode of a mental health podcast I created with my friend, Mel, “But, Have You Considered Therapy?” We had a lot of guests speak on a variety of subject matter but this one was really about to hit home. For forty minutes, Kim introduced me to intuitive eating, the toxicity of diet culture, and her concept for a new fitness studio in Austin that would be size-inclusive and ED (eating disorder) aware. In a piecemeal summary, intuitive is based on lifting any rules around food, joyful movement, and recognizing health is not determined by size #haes. I immediately purchased “Intuitive Eating” as we recorded and proceeded to binge on the chocolate caramels she had left behind. This was the start of my true recovery.
I’ve struggled with self-harm through bulimia, binge eating, and constant dieting my entire life. At 12, I was in Weight Watchers. At 15, I was put on appetite suppressants from a ‘medical professional.’ At 21, I was purging twice a week. At 29, I got a health coach and I lost weight and then turned back to Adderall to keep up the progress. At age [fill in the blank], I was extremely unhappy with myself. When I was introduced to intuitive eating, it scared the shit out of me. How could I trust this body? When I’m left to my own devices, I have no control. How can I listen to myself? I started to follow intuitive eating practices and immediately went back to appetite suppressants (aka my safety zone of dieting). But I kept at it. I started listening to “Food Psych,” a podcast by Christy Harrison. I kept going to therapy. I kept people around me who were body positive. Then one day after six months of living in ED nebulous, it clicked. I can’t tell you what clicked but all of a sudden, my mental model of how I thought about my body and the world around me shifted.
I was giving so much time, energy, and money into diet culture, a system built on body standards that are inherently racist and sexist. This system wants to keep me focused on so-called ‘wellness’ and shiting blame to myself as a failure. The veil had lifted. My weight does not determine my worth. I had heard it so many times but it had now seeped in. I was finally able to achieve not body positivity but body neutrality. For the first time in my life, at 30 years old, I felt free. I ‘woke’ up and said to myself:
I am a privileged person in a lot of ways: white, above-average income in tech industry, educated, and so on. When the veil lifted, I started to look I had been subverting diversity and inclusivity by propagating diet culture. Not only that, I had a newfound hunger and energy that I wanted to dedicate to social justice instead of trying to alter my body. I had heard DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) but had never really grasped how it could play a role in my workplace. I decided to conduct my own discovery mission. I attended an event at The Riveter, a co-working space in Austin called “Diversity of Thought.” After the event, I was able to grab an hour with one of the speakers to talk about how I would begin my pilot program. I started to follow thought leaders in the space and purchased books. I even spoke on a panel “ The Impact of D&I Panel with ATX design leadership” for a Fresh2Design event.
In the podcast, I had always see common threads of accessibility and diversity in mental health but I started to document them. One of my favorite quotes came from our guest speaking about her services focused on the Asian-American community:
In the photo above, Mel and I presented a talk on advocating for yourself in the workplace at the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas. During the talk, we had a young Latinx woman discuss her struggles to be taken seriously when talking to a man and/or a white person. Her experience is valid. We let her know she’s not being difficult or crazy. We gave her some tactics for confrontation but in the end, Mel and I needed to listen to her experiences and hope her managers would make the space and empathy to listen as well.
In my year of recovery and discovery, everything started to connect. How could I start putting this into action in the same way I had found ED recovery?
Currently, I have a pilot programmed lined up at my current role. I plan on continuing my discovery through events, more desk research, and formal education. I look forward to this next year as I follow a plan for ‘intuitive living.’ I’m happy to have conversations around DEI which include but are not limited to mental health issues, eating disorder discussion, and weight stigma. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Please feel free to leave suggestions on resources I can add to my continuing education on DEI.