About the Episode

In this episode, Melanie discusses five ways to practise anti-diet work with compassion. She emphasises the importance of applying kindness and thoughtfulness as we navigate this challenging work. Melanie shares her personal journey with diet culture and how she came to embrace anti-diet work. She explores the practice of looking for and celebrating diverse bodies, recognizing the difference between wants and needs, dressing safely in a body-positive way, setting boundaries, and practising self-compassion. In this part of the conversation, Melanie discusses the concept of dressing safely as a tool to check in with oneself and reduce social anxiety and hyper visibility. She also explores the importance of reading fat stories and how it can help in practising anti-diet work. Lastly, she talks about the challenging but crucial practice of self-advocacy and shares personal experiences of advocating for herself.

Topics discussed in episode 002

  • Anti-diet work is challenging and requires boundaries, communication, and self-compassion.
  • Looking for and celebrating diverse bodies can help shift our perspective and challenge societal norms.
  • Understanding the difference between wants and needs is crucial in practising self-compassion and setting boundaries.
  • Dressing safely in a body-positive way can help us feel more comfortable and confident in our bodies.
  • Practising self-compassion is essential in navigating the complexities of anti-diet work. Dressing safely is a way to check in with oneself and consider physical, mental, and emotional feelings when choosing clothing.
  • Reading fat stories can be a powerful way to practise anti-diet work and challenge societal narratives about anti-fat stereotypes, weight stigma and body size.
  • Self-advocacy is important
    in advocating for one’s needs and preferences, even in situations where it may feel uncomfortable or challenging.
  • Offering feedback and making complaints can contribute to creating more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible spaces.
  • Each individual can decide which steps they are ready to take in their anti-diet journey and how they want to practise self-compassion.


00:00 Introduction to Anti-Diet Culture

03:19 Understanding Diet Culture

06:29 The Complexity of Ditching Diets

09:28 The Intersectionality of Diet Culture

11:14 Expanding Body Positivity

12:32 The Role of Journaling in Anti-Diet Work


Melanie [she/her] (00:01.134)
Hello friends, welcome to episode number two of The Culture of It All. I am thrilled to be sitting down and talking with you today because we are going to be looking at five ways we can practice anti -diet work with compassion. This is all about applying kindness and curiosity as we navigate this because one of the things I have learned over the last few years is that anti -diet work is not comfortable and I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

It’s never going to be comfortable when it’s quote not the norm, right? It challenges the status quo. It challenges societal norms. It challenges conversations that have become water cooler conversation and small talk. And so because we’re challenging that, it often requires boundaries, communication, things that can be really scary and really crunchy, let alone if you are in a larger or marginalized body.

Which is why today’s episode is important. We’re going to be looking at ways we can do this with self -compassion so that we can actually apply kindness and thoughtfulness as we practice this work. Before we get in to today’s episode, I do want to just let you know of any content warnings that may come up. First of all, you’re going to hear me use the term fat as a neutral descriptor. This is the way I tend to describe my own body. It is not an insult for me. However, this doesn’t mean you have to use that term.

and I use it in a generalized context as well. It doesn’t mean that this is an invitation for other people to call me fat. This is a boundary that I have created personally. I think it requires a lot of context. You’ll also hear me use the phrase plus size. Plus size I’m using in terms of usually fashion and clothing, which we do get into in today’s episode, and I will also use the term straight size, which is the term I use to describe anyone who is not plus size.

I am going to be touching on dieting tactics but again in a very generalised context. What I mean by that, I’m not going to be getting into fad diets or specifics of calories or anything like that but it does come up in relation to my own personal journey. And as I said I’m going to be talking about clothing and fashion whilst living in a larger body. So just be aware of that and if you need to take a pause on today’s episode look at the chapter markers and the show notes, whatever you need to do to take care of your own mental and emotional health.

Melanie [she/her] (02:24.814)
that is absolutely wonderful. Please do so and it’s absolutely okay to take a pause and just not listen to today’s episode if it’s not going to be the right one for you. If you are looking for any words or you have any questions about today’s episode you could always find me on Instagram. Also just a reminder there is a full anti -diet culture glossary over on my website at OutlawCreatives.com/glossary. So today’s episode…

five ways to practice anti -diet work with self -compassion. I wanted to start this episode with a brief review of my own journey because this comes up. These are five things I have practiced and continue to practice in my own anti -diet journey. This is something that I was doing unintentionally or I guess I wasn’t really aware that I was doing it or starting it for a long time. I didn’t have the language. I knew that I was fed up.

with dieting. I knew that I was fed up with the experience of diets and how they had kind of kept me capture for so much of my life. However, I was very much in this place of I’m not dieting but I’m still restricting. So I grew up with diet culture around me. I grew up on diets. It was something I knew so well that I made it my job.

In 2016 I started my online coaching business. That online coaching business was in the health and fitness industry. It’s not lost on me that the very industry and culture I am now divesting from is the very industry and culture that I worked within, that I was actively supporting and I was part of the problem.

In 2017 I started working as a fitness instructor and a trainer at gym. I was plus size at that time and it was mentally and physically exhausting, not just because of the work and the hours but the way I felt like I was constantly on show. I felt like I was on show in comparison to the other trainers, people who were training in the gym. It was not lost on me that

Melanie [she/her] (04:49.87)
people didn’t want to work with me specifically and then there were people who did really want to work with me, typically other plus -size women. I burned out really hard and I realized that I was spending all of my time trying to make myself smaller and defend my size and prove my skills as a plus -size trainer. And I know this is really common with other trainers that I have seen and worked with. It is a constant

exhaustive journey to defend your ability and your skills.

In 2018 I left the fitness industry in pursuit of something that I was actually passionate about because it turned out that I wasn’t actually passionate about helping people lose weight. I wasn’t passionate about helping people get stronger or fitter. It’s a wonderful thing and there are plenty of people out there doing that work and I love that. I just wasn’t really passionate about it. I started doing it because it was something I had been doing for over 20 years.

in one way or another. It was something that felt, I felt intimately close to and it became my job. So at this time when I left the fitness industry, left all this behind me,

I was exhausted. I was burned out. I had grown up in this industry and I and I use that with air quotes. You can’t see me but I use this as air quotes. I grew up in that industry, in online business, which means that everybody around me, peers, friends, coaches, people I knew, everything was in the health and fitness industry. And it…

Melanie [she/her] (06:38.222)
I talk about this kind of part of my journey and I talk about this chapter of my business as realising I was in a bubble. It’s very cult -like. We are going to actually get a little bit into that in the next two episodes of the show. But it’s very cult -like. And once I left this bubble of health, fitness, coaches, coaches, coaching coaches, etc. I realised there was a lot of ways we could do things that were very different and…

I also started to see what was really going on in front of me and I started questioning again because this is a question I’ve had many times in my life but I started asking the question “Where are all the fat people?” or “Where are people who look like me?” Not necessarily just in this industry but where are other people who look like me?

Again this is probably a bigger conversation for another time, another episode, but I was really struck by the fact that I wanted to work with people who looked like me. I knew in that brief period of time working on in an online business, working in this industry, how much I’d struggled to quote be successful. How much I’d struggled to sell my services or to really feel as though I fit in. I feel like I…

I spent my entire life feeling like I didn’t fit in and I wanted to. And I found amazing people, people who I’m still really good friends with now, but I was still very confused because I still didn’t fit. Disclaimer, or um, not disclaimer. What’s the phrase I’m looking for?

Melanie [she/her] (08:40.174)
Spoiler! I never really fit in. Because really that’s just a construct, right? It’s a societal construct of fitting in. So I knew I wanted to work with other folks who looked like me. And interestingly enough, around this time in 2018, a friend of mine who, still a very dear friend of mine, a friend who…

Her and I grew up, again, in the online business industry together. She sent me this episode of This American Life. I had never heard of this show before and still to this day, this is the only episode of that show that I’ve ever listened to. But she sent me this episode and the episode is called Tell Me I’m Fat. And it first aired, I believe in 2016. And she sent it to me and this episode featured Lindy West, Elna Baker and Roxane Gay. And she said, this really reminds me of you.

At the time my internalised fatphobia, didn’t know really how to deal with that, but at the same time I was intrigued. I was interested. I wanted to know more. And I listened to these three stories. They gave me three very different looks at fatness and weight stigma, and a really broad look at diet culture. But this episode really stuck with me and I’ve listened to it multiple times.

the years because it was that first moment where I started to consider accepting my body as it is.

Now what I didn’t know was that was going to be a journey and that was going to mean navigating body change. And as I said in episode one, it’s… I personally feel that it’s how we respond to that body change that’s the harder work, or it’s work that is more complicated. Now in this episode Lindy West talks about her 2016 book Shrill. It’s become a TV show. I haven’t watched this show yet.

Melanie [she/her] (10:50.958)
I have it to watch when I need to watch it. But she shares her experience of ‘coming out as fat’. And this was that one of those like light bulb moments. I sat there thinking, shit like this is, this is exactly how I have felt over the years. This is how I felt in the fitness industry. That people wouldn’t work with me because of the size of my body.

People stared at me, people questioned my ability and my skills because of the size of my body. Yet no one really wanted to talk about my body. No one wanted to just own up to the fact that, hey, I’m plus size, I’m fat. Like this is the reality of it. And at the time I was really unsure whether I wanted to label myself as a plus size coach or plus size trainer because…

I felt as though by doing that it was just an invitation for more labels to be applied.

Looking back I feel that that possibly is some internalized anti -fatness as well, and now I’m more than happy to talk about the labels that I want to apply to my own body.

But I felt so connected to this story. I felt so connected to the idea of coming out as fat to your friends. The idea that…

Melanie [she/her] (12:20.654)
We don’t talk about it. It’s not so – We didn’t talk about it. And it’s still not really spoken about. Just because I’m sitting here chatting with you and I try to surround myself with as many people as possible who are also having these conversations, it doesn’t mean that it’s the norm.

this is one of the reasons why I started this show and really really delved into this work is because I felt so seen for the first time and I wanted to find more of that.

One of the things that Linley –

Melanie [she/her] (13:05.774)
One of the things that Lindy talks about in this episode and in the book is looking for other fat bodies.

And this was really the first step that I took. The first practice I had. And…

I don’t know if I did it perfectly. Is there a right way? No. Uh, I think it was a lot harder back then to find creators, artwork, people who looked like me. But as I said, it was the first time I started to consider accepting my larger body, and it really helped me to reflect on things like my childhood, my teen years growing up in a larger body.

conversations that happened around me, the restrictions and rules that seemed to be applied to me but not to my straight -sized friends. It really had me reflecting on my friendships growing up, not being able to shop in the same stores as my friends, feeling as though I had to just stand in the change room as whilst they all tried clothes on and described themselves as fat.

I thought about my education, the way I’ve been treated differently. I thought about sexual relationships, all these things that were impacted over the years. And these were things that I had became, became very used to, right? I was conditioned to almost ignore the weight stigma and the anti -fatness that was around me.

Melanie [she/her] (14:51.47)
Now as I started looking for more people, specifically online because that was the easiest way to apply this, I looked for more fat bodies online, I also started to unfollow diet and weight loss adjacent accounts. People say that no is a complete sentence. I say unfollow is a complete sentence. I made the decision to unfollow diet and weight loss adjacent accounts.

I started asking myself questions if or when I felt triggered, right? Why, why do I feel this triggered? Is this account an account that I really want to get behind and support? And look, there was a lot of grey area for a long time. There was a lot of people who I wanted to believe in and I wanted to support them because they were online friends.

I would say 95 % of those accounts I no longer follow. Incidentally because during Covid, oh there was a lot of weight stigma. A lot of weight stigma. And a lot of…

the truth, their truth, things I had never seen before. So as I was unpacking my own anti -diet work, as I was really starting to see where I was heading and where I wanted to be putting my time and attention and energy, I saw what they were putting theirs. Unfollow is a complete sentence. And I will also say part of this compassion that we can apply to this,

is it’s okay to question things. Now I’m like chronic overthinker. I am a chronic, chronic self -doubt. But it’s okay to sit back and be like I’m not sure how I feel about this, I need to think about it and come back to it. There’s nothing wrong with that. This is your, this is your work, this is your journey. Take your time.

Melanie [she/her] (17:04.11)
By doing this it builds self -trust. It helps us to… it’s like that first piece of rebuilding self -trust. We can trust ourselves to make decisions about who we choose to follow or unfollow online. And honestly that’s a really… a much safer way of doing it before we start to apply this to our friends, families, peers in real life. This is a really safe way of doing it.

Melanie [she/her] (17:34.094)
So as I started to look for more fat bodies, I was really curious why I would see other people’s bodies, other fat bodies, so differently to the way I see my own. Yes, we are all different, absolutely. And I think this is a really interesting thing where…

came up recently with some online friends who i’ve never met in real life, realising that i just assume everyone is like the same height as me. So realising that everybody is not the same height as me, um, i have to apply that, right? I have to apply that to everyone, not just people i know. And recognising that people’s bodies are different, we know this, but why do i see their bodies in such a different way?

what I mean by that is I would look at these bodies and feel something really positive. I would look at the way they were dressed or if they were in a bikini or a swimsuit or underwear and I would think wow they look amazing.

there was that moment where I’d say but if I was wearing that I wouldn’t feel the same way. Why is this? Why, why do I not see that my body even is neutral at the time? I couldn’t even get there. And I started to learn about the difference between female gaze and the male gaze. I started to see people talking about this online. Again this was a

kind of introduction to the idea that when I am looking at their bodies I am seeing it through my own lens, I’m seeing it through my own gaze. I have respect and adoration and I think they look beautiful, sexy, whatever it might be. But when I look at my own body I’ve been conditioned to look at it in a certain way, by society, by diet culture, by patriarchy.

Melanie [she/her] (19:34.83)
Yes I am my own worst critic, I think we’re all our own worst critics, but it goes deeper than that. It goes so much deeper than being critical of myself. It is the way I’ve been conditioned to see my own body.

Melanie [she/her] (19:52.654)
So I have some questions, some kind of prompts for you to think about. There’s going to be a few as we go through this episode, but with this first point, this first practice of looking for bodies, looking for larger bodies, looking for fat bodies, looking for body diversity, there’s a few questions I want you to ask yourself. And these are also in the show notes, so you can always grab them there as well. Think about describing how you feel.

you’re looking at this body right. We’re going to take the pressure off yourself, it’s not looking at your own body because that relationship is definitely, probably, definitely likely more crunchy. But how you feel when you’re looking at this body, if it’s artwork or a photograph, how does it make you feel?

Are these feelings different from your own body?

I wonder why that is. Right? Remember, applying curiosity to this, no judgment. I wonder why that is. I wonder why.

Melanie [she/her] (21:01.006)
How does this artwork/photo/influencer make me feel?

Do I feel a deeper connection to myself or my body, or do I feel disconnected from what I’m seeing?

Melanie [she/her] (21:21.454)
Again, as I said last week, with any journal prompts that I ever share with you or writing prompts, take what resonates, leave the rest. If these are not the prompts you need right now, that is okay. That is absolutely perfect, exactly where you need to be. There are more prompts throughout this episode.

So the second practice, and this was a big one, and it definitely came in stages, is asking myself what do I need?

Melanie [she/her] (21:55.246)
What do I need?

Melanie [she/her] (21:59.662)
Have you heard the saying, when I don’t get what I want, I usually get what I need? This is a really common… I mean I slightly butchered it for the point of… for making my point, but this saying is very common in personal development, self -development work. It’s this idea that the universe, or whatever it is that you believe in, has our back, right? This idea that when we’re like, I want this, and then it doesn’t happen.

right, we don’t quote manifest it and it’s like okay I didn’t get what I wanted but I got what I needed and I think it’s a it’s a way of us being able to look at there’s always a lesson there’s always an opportunity for learning and I do believe that I do believe that there are always ways in which we can learn there are opportunities for learning there are opportunities for growth and progress.

Melanie [she/her] (22:54.766)
But I think when it comes to our bodies…

and anti -diet work, understanding what we need is a powerful tool. Now, I will be honest, I didn’t start this work in relation to my body. It was actually a few years ago I was using this in my business. So at the time I was running a marketing business, a marketing boutique agency, and I would sit down with my clients and I would be like, so what do you need from me?

that just felt like a very normal question to ask. What do you need from me? You’re paying me to market your business. What do you need from me? Like what do you need from my business, from my work, from my skill set to help you achieve your goals? And as I sat down with a client who has become a very dear friend she said to me, no one ever asks me that question.

And I was like huh okay. It’s like no one ever asks me what I need. And it really, for some reason, that really stuck with me for a long time. And again I applied it across my business. I realised how powerful this question could be. Asking someone what do you need? And honestly applying it to my business that was low -hanging fruit. That was easy for me to do because I was doing it day in day out.

And I know one of the things that comes up when I talk about what we need, right, whether it’s in business or applying it to our bodies and our anti -diet work, is what the hell is the difference between a want and a need? So there is this concept that I’ve used in business before called a have need want list. And when I look at it from this perspective, the way I see a want…

Melanie [she/her] (24:57.55)
or a need. I see a need as something that

is much more… is much more intimate. Right, it’s usually very personal. In some cases it can be something we are afraid to ask for because it’s a need. It’s…

something we might feel, oftentimes we feel either ashamed to ask for that or it comes with a huge amount of emotion. So an example is like I have to eat.

And then the questions I like to think about are what do I need? What do I want? What’s the difference?

So we can apply this as individuals in our own lives, but the reality is that society and its expectations, they focus on what we want, and usually that want is wrapped up in this idea of having it all. Honouring our own needs is challenging because it asks us to put ourselves first, to self -advocate and challenge the stereotypes of, quote, doing it all.

Melanie [she/her] (26:19.47)
So why is it harder for us to recognise what our own needs are? We’re told to focus on what we want.

Growing up we are told to focus on what we want in life, in relationships, in career and goals. Typically it is laid out for us as if it is easy, that we can get what we want. It’s easier for some of us.


What we want is often.

again wrapped up in this white picket fence, this idea of what we want but within these margins. What we want but it has to look a certain way.

Melanie [she/her] (27:09.326)
Our needs don’t look a certain way. Our needs are personal, they’re individual. They’re way more vulnerable than what we want. What we need in that moment is usually more vulnerable than what we want. When we say “my needs aren’t being met” these are connected to emotions. Now, honouring our needs, it comes up in the intuitive eating framework.

it’s part of that work. And despite having focused on this work for years in my business and applying it to myself felt awkward.

Melanie [she/her] (27:52.846)
was a practice. It is a practice. It is something I practice on a regular basis because diet culture doesn’t give a shit what our body needs. It instead demands that we focus on what it wants, right? It demands that we focus on what it wants and what does it want? It wants control.

Melanie [she/her] (28:15.694)
Asking ourselves what we need in any given moment should not be so audacious. It shouldn’t be so uncomfortable. It is a beautiful practice and it challenges diet culture.

ask you to think about like what’s your low -hanging fruit. If asking yourself what you need on a regular basis doesn’t feel like something you can do or it’s something that feels a little bit crunchy, ask yourself what your low -hanging fruit is. Like where can you practice this easily? Somewhere where you’re going to be able to answer the question.

Melanie [she/her] (29:25.742)

Melanie [she/her] (29:32.462)
So now when I’m experiencing discomfort with food, movement or my body I try to pause and ask myself what do I need? Because sometimes we need something from an external source. We need help or support or more information. Sometimes our needs aren’t going to get met. Sometimes we’re not ready to create a boundary or communicate what we need. That’s okay. This work is never perfect and we can reflect on that.

as an individual situation.

Melanie [she/her] (30:08.398)
The third way in which we can practice anti -diet work with compassion.

Is this concept of dressing safely? Now before we get into this I want to acknowledge that clothing and fashion is not as accessible for larger bodies. Many brands do not carry plus -size clothing, some only carry their plus -size clothes online. Plus -size clothing often costs more money, is limited to certain styles and isn’t actually made to fit larger bodies. You can check out a post on Instagram…

and in the show notes for a list of my favourite size inclusive stores, including some pros and cons that I’ve experienced. Just bear in mind I am based in the UK. I will make that obvious in the show notes as well, where certain stores are UK based.

Melanie [she/her] (31:02.03)
I love fashion. I went to school to study fashion. That’s again, that’s probably another good episode, another time, another story. But I went to school to study fashion. Guess what? I didn’t feel like I fit in. But I’ve always loved fashion. I’ve loved it as a way to express myself. There were long periods of time where I just didn’t express myself through clothing and it has been a

hell of a journey to get back to a place where I feel like I can do that and trying to find these size -inclusive stores, places that create clothing that I like and that fits my body or looks good on my body or I just feel comfortable in or feel safe in. So what is this concept of dressing safely? I like to think of dressing safely as a tool.

for me to check in with myself on any given day.

Melanie [she/her] (32:08.558)
It’s connected to my physical, mental and emotional feelings on that day as I’m getting dressed. It allows for physical and mental changes without passing blame or shame. And it acknowledges that comfortable clothes, again I’m using quotes, comfortable clothes may not feel safe in certain situations.

Melanie [she/her] (32:37.966)
Dressing safely is not about putting myself in danger, but about reducing feelings of social anxiety and hyper visibility. If I’m already feeling discomfort and anxiety going into a situation, this affects my feelings towards my body and clothes. This allows me to feel like I have some control over how visible or invisible my body might be.

And to give some context, this can apply to going out and running errands. This could apply to something like doing the school run, which has its own set of anxiety associated with it.

So I mentioned hypervisibility and this is something I am super fascinated by. It is something that I had been battling and feeling as I was doing my anti -diet work a year ago or so. Every time I went out on my own my mind would be swimming. I could not switch off and there are many times still where I can’t switch off.

It would just be this constant narrative. And then I started to have some language about how this, how I was feeling and what this was. So there’s this phenomenon of hyper invisibility, hyper visibility. In the book, The Hyper Visible Invisible Fat Woman by Jeanine Gailey, she investigates the interface between fat women’s perceptions of their bodies and of the social expectations and judgements that are placed on them. The book explores the phenomenon.

of hyper -invisible hyper -visible. The seemingly paradoxical social position of being paid exceptional attention while simultaneously being erased.

Melanie [she/her] (34:36.75)
I have not read the book. The book is very expensive because it is a scholar publication. It is…

going to be an academic book but I’ve seen people talk about this, I’ve seen videos of people who have read this book and to me the book is irrelevant. What’s relevant here is having the language.

having the language to go, oh, this is what is happening to me and this is… this is important when I’m thinking about going out into the world. It’s the thing that I just need to be aware of. As I said, things like the school run, right? Dropping my kid off at school or going to pick him up. There is a part of me that’s like, I literally don’t care what these people think of me.

And there’s a part of me saying, yes, but that’s not true.

being out alone versus being out with friends or family, receiving attention or compliments, or even being ignored. These are all examples of ways in which I have seen this in action in my own life. And so the concept of dressing safely allows me to just apply that to…

Melanie [she/her] (36:06.222)
the way I’m feeling physically and mentally and emotionally. For example when I am on my period my sensitivity towards clothing changes and I really struggle with certain clothing, tight clothing, things like that, things that are maybe more fitted. I feel very uncomfortable and I just want to…

dressed safely and in that time it looks like loose, comfortable clothing.

Melanie [she/her] (36:52.782)
So when we talk about the concept of dressing safely, I have a few questions that you can ask yourself.

What does comfortable mean to me today?

How do I feel right now? Physically, mentally and emotionally. How do I want to feel?

And is this feeling attainable for me today?

Melanie [she/her] (37:25.294)
So the fourth way that we can apply compassion to our anti -diet work is to read more fat stories. This… I could do – I can and will do a whole episode on this topic. This is something that I discovered just over a year ago.

It was very much a you don’t know what you don’t know moment. I got back into reading as an adult in 2021. I was reading mostly fiction and thrillers and at some point I happened to come across, and I cannot remember how, I came across Book Talk and especially Spicy Book Talk and these romance, these contemporary romance books and I…

I started to look at them and I was like, right, right, I could, I could get into this. And then somewhere in amongst this, I discovered…

Melanie [she/her] (38:33.742)

There are not.

Thank you.

Melanie [she/her] (38:47.726)
So the fourth way that we can apply self -compassion to our anti -diet work is reading fat stories.

This is definitely a ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ moment. I got back into reading as an adult in 2021 and about a year later I came across this account on TikTok called Fat Girls in Fiction. This opened up an entire subgenre. It opened up many authors to me, many books, and all of a sudden I was like oh yeah –

Bodies like mine, or even just other larger bodies, are so not in romance stories. We are depicted as the best friend with a sidekick. We know this from TV and movies, but somehow I just hadn’t really seen it or considered it in stories, in fiction books, specifically romance.

interesting I was chatting with a friend just recently about this. She is in a straight -sized body and she said to me when I read a story I guess I don’t… I assume the people look like me. And we talked about the fact that that’s definitely a thin privilege. When you read a book and you just kind of see the character as yourself I don’t…

unless it’s explicitly on the page I’m never going to see a character as myself. Because…

Melanie [she/her] (40:32.206)
that’s just not the way I’ve been conditioned. I don’t typically see myself, my body, people who look like me in media, therefore it doesn’t make sense for me to think about that character looking like myself. And we go into this great conversation about the fact that books will often describe people’s hair colour or their eye colour. And she asked…

On these pages are bodies explicitly described as plus -sized curvy or fat?

And they are.

Melanie [she/her] (41:15.374)
There are lots of different ways for us to describe larger bodies.

have to remember that these books are for a wider audience, not everyone is comfortable with the term fat, and there’s only one specific book where a character has described another character as fat neutrally. And when I saw it it both made me tear up and shocked me because I hadn’t seen it before. I’ll link to the book in the show notes.

But one of the conversations that her and I were having is also how I still don’t always see myself in these stories. And it’s not because the characters are not described as curvy, plus size fat, whatever the terminology might be. But there’s other ways in which these bodies are described. And the questions I’ve been asking myself are these authors are actively

anti -diet. they are doing that work. i trust them. i enjoy their stories. is this

Actually about the language being used is language that I don’t conci… don’t associate with myself. I don’t label myself as soft or curvy. Yes, I have curves but I don’t consider myself to be curvy.

Melanie [she/her] (42:53.23)
And honestly this is something I’m still trying to figure out on a personal level. This is something that I’m still looking at and addressing as I read these stories because I’m trying to unravel and understand where this comes from. But I’ve been so conditioned not to see myself in these stories. And when we…

we read stories about curvy plus -sized fat women having the happy ending.

having incredibly spicy sex.

going through life, living, having these experiences, not trying to make themselves smaller.

It’s a really really interesting and incredible way of practising anti -diet work on an individual level. These books are not for everyone. I get that.

Melanie [she/her] (43:59.63)
But there are so many different types of stories and so many different authors who are writing these books with fat female main characters. Fat protagonists. There are books with both characters being plus size or fat. It shouldn’t be so like surprising. It shouldn’t be something that’s

so incredible but it is and it makes me so fucking happy that these people are writing these stories and that so many of them are doing it so so well.

I do think, as I said, it’s a really interesting way of doing anti -diet work on an individual level.

these stories.

just have such a powerful connection to our bodies and to ourselves. And as I said it has unlocked some really interesting and challenging things for me to think about in relation to my own body. So I will link to a few of the accounts over in the show notes and I will share maybe like a top 10 of my favourite books. If you want more book recommendations they will be coming. So just stay tuned for that one as well.

Melanie [she/her] (45:21.358)
So the fifth, final, but definitely not the least, way in which we can practice anti -diet work with self -compassion is practicing self -advocacy. I kept this one for last. It probably is the crunchiest, the heaviest thing to deal with. It’s definitely not the easiest thing, but I’ve got a few different ways in which we can practice it. So offering feedback, making a complaint, advocating for ourselves, it’s already really hard. It’s already hard enough.

Especially if you are… especially if you’re someone who avoids confrontation or you have a tendency to people please, I check both those boxes. So even when we’re asked for feedback or we’re asked to advocate for ourselves it feels really uncomfortable. Add to that a culture and society that for decades has upheld a narrative that fat people are all fat for the same reasons, it makes sense that we second -guess ourselves.

We doubt our abilities and we feel uncertain when we’re speaking up.

Diet culture undermines our autonomy. It destroys our intuition and self -trust. It tells us, tells me in particular, that my body size is by choice. My fatness is something I choose not to, and I quote, fix. And therefore, I should not be able to ask for help. I should not be able to demand accessibility or even expect more from a person or business.

Melanie [she/her] (46:56.686)
Diet culture literally wants to make fat people physically and mentally uncomfortable.

So how do we advocate ourselves?

Melanie [she/her] (47:09.326)
As I practiced my own anti -diet work I noticed how resistant I was to sharing feedback in safe spaces. Yes, I am confrontation avoidant. But if a business is actively anti -diet, if they are actively trying to be inclusive and promote body diversity, or even within my own family, why am I so resistant to this? So…

Melanie [she/her] (47:39.79)
I applied this work in a few different ways. It kind of all happened in a flurry.

I guess I wanted to just try it out. So I asked a fully inclusive store to consider the size and the temperature of their dressing rooms. It felt like a really bold move. I tried to be direct and polite and a real person emailed me back. I was like hell yeah that’s a great suggestion. I’m plus size two and I agree it gets really hot. She agreed to pass it on. No it hasn’t been dealt with yet.

and it may never be dealt with. But they listened. They took it on board. A real person responded.

Incidentally I’ve had other situations with other stores where I have shared feedback around their lack of size inclusivity in store but willing to put it online and they got defensive and told me it wasn’t their fault. Like cool. You can’t win them all.

Melanie [she/her] (48:50.094)
I want to share a story with you because I think this one is…

really important story to share. It’s something that happened to me last year. I went on holiday, a family holiday. It was a beach holiday and we stayed in a villa and it was new, a new villa to us, and what we discovered was that it was a lot further away from like the beach and the main restaurants than we realised, and the villa was at the top of a hill.

like a really fucking steep hill. and so every evening we would walk, and it was about 30 minutes, on uneven ground, up and down these hills, to the beach, to where the restaurants were. and then I’d have to walk back.

Melanie [she/her] (49:46.958)
And ordinarily going for a walk wouldn’t be an issue.

But I am pale as fuck. And for personal reasons that I haven’t yet shared with you all, but going out in the sun really freaks me out. I burn, I get really anxious when I’m in the sun for lengthy periods of time. It just is something I have to manage.

Melanie [she/her] (50:19.406)
All of this, plus being hot and sweaty and I don’t like that. And it was just generally very uncomfortable. My feet were aching and this was happening and we were doing this every fucking night. I was not, you know, I’m literally getting to like 5, 6 p .m. thinking, okay, got to psych myself up for this because I’m getting to the restaurant and I’m hot and I’m sweaty and I’m uncomfortable and I feel gross and then I have to sit and have dinner.

And it left me feeling quite miserable. It left me feeling very uncomfortable, very anxious.

left me feeling very visible, like hyper visible as we walked past other people on this walk.

And I just, I, I didn’t enjoy a huge part of our holiday because of it. And so we were talking about going back this year.

and I was very direct, got a tad defensive because I was trying to protect myself, and said this is all great guys but I’m not coming back if you’re – if we’re going to be doing this every day. I can’t do this every day. This is not fun. This is not enjoyable for me. The sun is still very hot at this time of day. I’m uncomfortable.

Melanie [she/her] (51:44.846)
I would like to come back but we need to think about how we do this. Luckily for me my husband was very supportive and was like we’ll rent a car. We will rent a car so that we can choose when or if we want to do that walk.

Melanie [she/her] (52:05.39)
I’m really really lucky that that was a conversation we were able to have and that we were able to afford to do that. So that’s our plan for this year. I will let you know how it goes. The fuck did I feel uncomfortable having this conversation even with a supportive husband? Having this conversation with my parents?

I think that was probably the crunchier part, gonna be honest. But advocating for myself, whilst it felt really hard to speak up and say guys this is great but I can’t do this.

It also felt really good to be able to, because of the anti -dial work that I had been doing, to be able to say, look, I exist in a fat body, this ain’t going nowhere. Rather than making me feel shit about it, or making me feel ashamed, let’s just maybe consider another way of approaching this.


I wouldn’t have been able to do that early on.

Melanie [she/her] (53:17.646)
and there are still times when advocating for myself feels really really hard.

There are situations that just make me really nervous, like asking for a seatbelt extender, or emailing a theatre and asking for accessible seating because the last time I went I was left with dents in my thighs because the seating was so narrow.

In some cases…

It is just easier for me to ask someone else to do the advocating. For example, at a theatre, I realised that when we actually went to the theatre I was still gonna have to announce to someone, hey I need accessible seating, no I’m not, you know, this is why. I’d have to actually be like, I’m in a larger body, your seats are really old and narrow, I did email ahead of time.

and my friend was like yeah I’ll do that. She’s in a straight -sized body so she was able to take on that that job of advocating for us.

Melanie [she/her] (54:35.63)
That’s another way of being able to, if you have people in your life who can support you in that way.

It’s a really… it’s a way of being able to voice to someone, hey, I need this, but it’s being someone you trust.

Melanie [she/her] (54:58.606)
But like so much of this work, you get to decide which steps you’re ready to take and how you’re going to take those steps. If you are not ready for something, don’t do it.

This is your anti -diet work.

and autonomous decisions are a wonderful thing.

Melanie [she/her] (55:26.062)
you get to decide if you are ready to take any of these steps, to use any of these practices, and how you want to use them. There is no right way to do this.