June 9, 2022
This week, body confidence and self-acceptance influencer Alex Light joins Jameela to discuss her personal recovery journey from an eating disorder, the realization that diets don’t work, the repercussions she and Jameela share from years of dieting, why the healing process is slow but worthwhile, why it’s okay to gain weight, and more.
Check out Alex Light’s new book – You Are Not A Before Picture: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/you-are-not-a-before-picture-alex-light?variant=39994206978082
Listen to Alex’s podcast – The Light Show: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-light-show/id1489884159
Follow Alex on Instagram @alexlight_ldn
You can find transcripts for this episode here: https://www.earwolf.com/show/i-weigh-with-jameela-jamil/
I Weigh has amazing merch – check it out at podswag.com
114 — It’s Okay To Gain Weight with Alex Light
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil. Podcast that if it could, it would show the grenade right up the asshole of the concept of shame. How are you? I’m alright. I’ve had a little bit of a break from the news. I just needed to. It was getting too much, was getting too sad and depressing. And I do feel better for it. And maybe that’s selfish. Or maybe you want me to be speaking about every single hot topic in the world. But I’m afraid sometimes it’s just going to have to be tough shit. And I mean that with all of the love in my heart. Because for me to be sustainable in what is a very long fight, I have to take little breaks and so do you. So maybe you could look at this as your signal and your reminder to take a fucking break and to switch off and to not feel that you have to see everything and read everything and hear everything and think everything and talk about everything all the time. You can just have a little rest. Slowly but surely, over the years, I’ve started to do that more and more as I’ve realized that there’s a real implication upon our brains neurologically when we read such stressful and distressing and scary shit all the time. The reason why I chose today’s guest for this week is because I think that she is such a loving and warm speaker. I think this episode just feels like a sort of supportive best friend, a cuddle and a fuzzy, warm, embrace of a chat. I really like Alex Light and I like the presence that she has on Instagram. I like how unpretentious she is. I like how blunt she is. I love how open she is about her own story through her own struggles with her body, with eating disorders, with dieting. She’s such an open book, and she really, really, really utilizes her own experience in order to try her best to help others to stop them similarly to me, to stop them from going through everything that she has needlessly had to endure because of the disgusting diet industry and patriarchal media. In this episode, we talk about her eating disorder journey. We talk about how normal it is for recovery to be slow. We talk about specifically how ineffective dieting is for weight loss and where the myth of dieting even comes from. We talk about all the physical ramifications of dieting, both of which she and I have experienced over the years. Even ten years after recovery. And we talk about weight gain and why it is okay and how even if it feels scary sometimes it can bring about the best period of your life, as we have both found as two people who are much heavier than we were when we were at the lowest point of our eating disorders. She has a new book out. It’s called You Are Not a Before Picture, which such a lovely title. It’s out now in the UK and it will be out in the US in August and. It’s a book and this is an episode as well that you can enjoy yourself, but also might be really handy to send someone who hasn’t had these conversations and these thoughts before. It’s a wonderful, passionate and and kind introduction to no longer being gaslit by the media that it is normal for us to hate ourselves just over the way that we look. So I hope you enjoyed this episode. I would love to hear what you think. Thank you for all of your amazing letters about last week’s episode. What a stunning display of facts, figures and passion from our guest. And I send you all of the love in the world. I hope you’re resting and I hope you really enjoy the lovely Alex Light. Alex Light, welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Alex [00:04:04] I’m good Jameela. I’m really good. I’m so excited to be here. How are you doing?
Jameela [00:04:08] I’m good, I’m excited to have you here. And I’ve been following you online for a while. We we kind of work in a similar space, especially anti diet culture. And there is this gross underbelly of social justice and activism and advocacy in which some people compete, which I’ve spoken for years about on this, that makes me feel really unhappy and confused. And I really love having people on here who are in the same fight as me because without each other, we’re never going to win this mammoth fight against the beast, that is diet culture. And so I love all your work. And I think that you are a brilliant voice and I feel so happy to be here to celebrate your new book that has just come out.
Alex [00:04:59] Thank you. Thank you. I do have to say as well and I said this to you the other day on the phone, but in the little pre-recording is that you you say that about like supporting other women in this space. And that is not they are not empty words at all because you have for a few years now like genuinely supported me both offline and online. So I really. Yeah. I’m. Thank you so much for that. And it’s so nice that you really do like those are not empty words that you practice, like what you preach. It’s really good.
Jameela [00:05:28] Well, thank you for all the work you’re doing because it’s not easy and it comes with a lot of responsibility and it comes with I mean, you specifically have used your own story and been so incredibly open with everyone in order to not validate your work, but to help people understand that you do get this on a very real fundamental level. This isn’t you just using a subject as a hot topic. This is something that you have lived through and probably are still living through. I mean, you yourself. Do you mind us talking a little bit about your own journey with your body and with food?
Alex [00:06:00] Absolutely.
Jameela [00:06:01] Could you take me through the beginning of like, you know, like, were you okay with with food as a child? When did this start that you start to become aware of your body and aware of or it started to develop an odd relationship with food.
Alex [00:06:13] Mm. So I. Well, yeah. I mean, I was born in the eighties and then grew up in the late eighties nineties. And for anyone that also did, diet culture was rife and very prevalent and pervasive. And I was aware from a very, very early age that my body was something was was a sort of social currency. And that sounds weird to think that like, you know, the age of, you know, before you even hit ten, that you can sense that, but you really can. And especially growing up in a really diet culture heavy environment. So I think from the moment that I knew that food manipulated how my body looked and if I restricted it, I would be thinner. And I was gathering from from a lot of information around me that thinner was better. And so so probably from the age of 11, really, I started dieting, which it does sound shocking, but I think probably a lot of people listening to this will.
Jameela [00:07:13] I was the same.
Alex [00:07:14] That will resonate even.
Jameela [00:07:15] But that’s also late, now, like all the work I’ve been doing lately with charities is showing that kids as young as four are now starting to develop eating disorders. We’re seeing children of all genders starting to develop body dysmorphia and a fear of food like orthorexia as young as four and five years old. So it’s just fucking out of control.
Alex [00:07:38] Crazy young.
Jameela [00:07:39] I know it’s crazy young.
Alex [00:07:41] But yeah, I was always, like, chubby, for lack of a better word. I never know how to describe it, but I wasn’t fat, and I also wasn’t thin, I was kind of chubby. And I really I felt like the odd one out. You know, I developed breasts before anyone else and it was, like, mortifying. I absolutely despised it. And I just wanted to make my body smaller. Like, I was very aware that smaller was better.
Jameela [00:08:06] Did you did you wear, like four sports bras? Because I did. I, I actually wrote like an apology, an ode to my breasts publicly about ten years ago because of everything I’d done trying to make them smaller. And how annoying is that now like big is all the fucking rage, innit? Classic.
Alex [00:08:26] I know, I know I would buy the minimizer bras from M&S.
Jameela [00:08:29] Right.
Alex [00:08:30] Because I’d say to my mum I don’t like them, you know, everyone’s looking at them, everyone’s intrigued by them. I want to be, I want to disappear. I like, I don’t I want to be invisible. I don’t want anyone looking at me. So I used to buy the minimizer. And then I even when I found, I don’t think I actually told anyone this, but I used to bind them as well when I was old enough to sort of know what that was. Yeah, because I just wanted them gone. I just hated them and I. And I didn’t want any eyes on me. So I dieted. I tried every day under the literally you name it, I tried it. And for probably ten years or so I was just on and off a diet. Never, never a day without a diet or if it was it was a cheat day, you know. And and then in my early twenties, I, I started as a journalist and I was doing fashion and beauty journalism, and I was suddenly immersed in this very glamorous world that was even more so of the of the belief that thin was the ultimate thing, that you could be.
Jameela [00:09:28] At any cost.
Alex [00:09:29] At any cost.
Jameela [00:09:31] And the more you did and the more there were sort of two camps of that, right? There was the more you did to achieve ultimate thinness, the more discipline you were considered to have, and like it kind of felt like iconic, like an iconic to only eat lettuce life. You know, we would hear rumors of what Anna Wintour wouldn’t eat and we would think, right. That’s, you know, because she’s got discipline. She’s, you know, she cares. And then there was this other camp of people that have kind of reemerge now that would pretend they eat loads but are secretly starving themselves. And there was the kind of big, quote unquote metabolism brag of the nineties, which fucking winds me up.
Alex [00:10:11] Yeah it’s my genes.
Jameela [00:10:13] It’s almost it’s almost worse to then gaslight women about your size and pretend you would like. It’s such a weird brag to brag about having a fast metabolism which is very like, I don’t mean to sound like a judgy asshole, but it was very like, pick me because men have set, patriarchy have set the standard. If we want women to be impossibly thin and tiny and look really defenseless, but we also want them to be fun to go out for dinner with. So we want the girl who can eat like a horse but looks like a safety pin.
Alex [00:10:43] Right and the effort isn’t glamorous, right? You don’t want to see behind the, you know. Yeah.
Jameela [00:10:48] Exactly. And so we kind of oscillate between the two and I’ve definitely did that as a teenager. I remember we all did. That’s just deeply upsetting.
Alex [00:10:55] I remember, you know, in interviewing like actresses and or, you know, just celebrities and saying and that was the kind of thing that I asked, because that’s the kind of thing that we just did ask back then, like in magazines, like how do you stay in shape? How do you maintain your figure? Like, how do you stay so slim? And inevitably, the answer would be like, I drink loads of water, I’ve got a really fast metabolism, or it’s my genes. Literally like they would be the three answers. Or like occasionally someone would say like, Oh, I do hikes. Like I go on hikes, you know. But yeah which is.
Jameela [00:11:27] It’s a weird one though, isn’t it. Because that was the backlash to, to in the decade before that people being like, oh, I eat 600 calories a day. You know, like we went through a huge period of actresses and supermodels glamorizing eating like genuine, like daily starvation. So then because there was a backlash against that, everyone went the other way. And suddenly you had pictures of like an emaciated Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton eating these cheeseburgers bigger than their heads. And then that became a brag. And so I hope we’re starting to kind of I feel like we are starting to settle into a more realistic ish you you’re rolling your eyes. That’s no, I’m okay. I’m wrong, no I’m wrong that’s fine.
Alex [00:12:11] No, no, no. I mean, I would like I would like I would love to agree with you. I hope that that’s true. I get so confused because in this world that we’re in, I find that I often realize I’m in a bubble. You know, I’ve curated my space so well, but I feel like everyone feels and things the same as me. And then suddenly I realize they don’t. And I’m, you know, snapped out of this bubble. But I do I do think that we’re getting to a better place. I think like all the I’ve seen loads of headlines at the moment like thin is back in and the nineties thin trend is coming back. And I do think there will always be.
Jameela [00:12:47] Ugh.
Alex [00:12:47] I know I mean, I think.
Jameela [00:12:48] I mean not ugh to thin people, by the way, like there might be people listening to those who feel extremely underrepresented right now because maybe they’re trying to gain weight because this is a world where you’re also supposed to have certain curves that some people naturally have and they are naturally extremely thin. I know people like that. We do not mean to leave you out, but we are just talking about an epidemic, a crisis of eating disorders. And that’s why we’re focusing on that. And we’re not saying ugh about anyone who’s thin, it’s just more the idea that a trend of any body type, another one is coming in and one that truly like destroyed the lives of an entire generation.
Alex [00:13:18] Literally. Literally. And, you know, I often like people herald the Kardashians as bringing in, you know, curvy ideals. And but even I mean, it’s different because that is that has sort of that created new unattainable ideals.
Jameela [00:13:36] Because it was the tiny waists and the thin legs and thin arms
Alex [00:13:40] Right and.
Jameela [00:13:40] With big breasts. And big buttocks.
Alex [00:13:42] Exactly. So obviously, a lot of people then resorted to surgery, whereas back then it was just plain old eating disorders. Like nothing tastes as good as skinny feels right. That was that was my mantra.
Jameela [00:13:53] Pizza. I know.
Alex [00:13:54] Everything. Literally everything.
Jameela [00:13:57] When was it that you started to because I imagine all this time you’re not thinking about this as an eating disorder, right? You’re just thinking about this as what everyone else is doing. And like a natural like a norm it’s very hyper normalized. When was it that you actually got the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa and and what brought that on?
Alex [00:14:16] So it was so yeah, in my early twenties. And then joining this, this this new world and this, you know, I discovered juice dieting, which was all the rage at that time. Yeah. So then it was like a couple of years later really that then I, my mom was like, we’re getting help for this. Like, this is this has gone way too far. We’re getting help and marched me to a psychiatrist, which was which was really lucky that I had insurance at the time, medical insurance through work because I mean it’s dire, you know, the NHS trying to get any help for eating disorders is really dire. So I was really lucky that I had private insurance and yeah, I got the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. But it didn’t it didn’t actually stop there. And I think that’s that’s something that I really try and reiterate a lot is that, you know, I think a lot of what we hear is like, oh, I have anorexia or I have bulimia. And then I managed to get some help identify what it was, and then I got better. And it’s not the case for so many people. Like quasi-recovery is a thing for a huge amount of people. And for me.
Jameela [00:15:17] Wait will you explain to me what quasi recovery means. Sorry cause I’m a bit thick.
Alex [00:15:22] Yeah. So just you know like you’re. You’re getting therapy, you know, you’ve got a, you’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder. You’re in active recovery, but you’re not. You’re not there by any means. It kind of morphs into something else. And for me, it then morphed into bulimia and then ultimately binge eating disorder. And so that lasted for quite a while. It was a good six years, really, maybe even seven years of just these like this confusing, like carousel of eating disorders. That was just crazy.
Jameela [00:15:53] And I just want to throw in just quickly regarding the juice diet, just because sometimes you run the risk of even if you talk about a diet you did, even if you’re saying it was shit and bad for you, someone listening could be like, Oh, but it works. So maybe I’ll try it. I would like to now just jump in and reiterate that I also tried the juicing diet and here is some of the many things that went wrong. My gallbladder got completely fucked by doing it irrevocably. I also ballooned after I stopped the Juice diet because your body is used to only liquids and and it’s not sustainable and you truly can’t maintain that for a long period of time. And so I put on weight so fast that it was dangerous for my heart after the juice diet. And, and also my blood sugar levels were insane because I was only having this kind of sugar water every single day and my teeth got really fucked up by the whole thing. And then also my digestive system took like six years to recover afterwards because your body has this thing called peristalsis, which is the muscle movement that pushes everything through your small and large digestion and is vital to being able to shit and digest and do all these important things that I no longer was able to do because my body was like well she’s just drinking liquids. So we’re just not going to need to use the bowels very much. So that was also extremely uncomfortable.
Alex [00:17:17] Oh my god that’s so grim.
Jameela [00:17:17] Zero out of ten would not recommend just to absolutely everyone.
Alex [00:17:22] No it’s hell.
Jameela [00:17:23] Yeah, and anti-social and unfriendly. So I just wanted to clarify that as someone who’s tried every diet under the fucking sun and maybe new ones that haven’t even like been written books about yet. I strongly advocate against but anyway, sorry, I just wanted to jump in to make sure we do some good housekeeping.
Alex [00:17:42] For sure. For sure. Because I don’t want to seem like I’m glamorizing ir in any way.
Jameela [00:17:46] No you weren’t. I just wanted to explain how shit.
Alex [00:17:48] Yeah.
Jameela [00:17:49] The shitless diet
Alex [00:17:49] So shit.
Jameela [00:17:52] Of juicing. All right. So so you went into quasi recovery, which is really interesting to talk about. And also, like the statistics show that something like 66% of people will never fully recover from an eating disorder. Only like at best, a third of people will ever make a full recovery. And even that feels a little bit unrealistic to me from what I’ve seen out in the world. Everyone I know still has a bit of a weird relationship to food. But. But. 66%, almost 70% here will never fully recover. And that isn’t taken seriously enough.
Alex [00:18:24] That’s crazy. It’s not.
Jameela [00:18:25] 30% of those will probably die or have full anorexia forever or bulimia, etc.
Alex [00:18:31] It’s not it’s not it’s not taken as seriously and it’s not it’s just not shown enough and not talked about enough, I don’t think, because when I was diagnosed and I sought out all these YouTube videos and like books and everything I could find about anorexia or eating disorder, eating disorder stories. And in every single one, it was like thin young white girl gets sick, gets help, and recovers. Like that was always it. There was never an alternative narrative to that. And that just then adds another layer of pressure to another another the sense of like, Well, I failed then because now it’s turned into bulimia, now I’m purging. So, you know, and I’m and I’m putting on tons of weight as well. This wasn’t supposed to happen. All these books I read and all these videos that I watch when people recover, they, you know, stick at a healthy weight. And at that time, gaining weight was still like the truly the worst thing that could happen that I felt like could happen to me at the time. It was horrifying. So I always embrace people, like talking more honestly about their recovery and hearing recovery stories that aren’t like picture perfect.
Jameela [00:19:43] So what is this shit about thin coming back in? I’ve seen the very low rise skirts and jeans. I thought that was going to be trouble. And we’ve just seen a bunch of movie stars at the MTV Awards and like, sort of cube line jeans and skirts who don’t have an inch to pinch. And I like it feels reminiscent of the noughties in a way that scared the shit out of me. What I like about your book and and it’s it’s called, it’s called You Are Not a Before Picture. And I think it’s a wonderful title and it’s a wonderful sentiment is that it feels like a very step by step practical guide to actual tangible unpicking of the problem and hopefully potential recovery. I’m never guaranteeing anyone recovery from a book, but I’m just saying that it feels as though what I like is the way that you’ve mapped out. The book is starting at the genesis of Diet Culture, and I’ve learned some fascinating facts, like the first ever diet and where the word diet comes from, etc., which I talk to you about. But I, I really appreciate that it feels like a step by step guide to the way out of the darkness.
Alex [00:20:49] Yeah. So you know what I think it was for me, is that my channel for, you know, for the past few years is centered around body confidence and anti diet culture. And I was doing a lot of the body love stuff and body confidence, like look at my body, which is, you know, by not marginalized by any means, but it doesn’t fit the the very narrow societal standard of beauty. And I love that stuff and I loved doing that stuff. And I think it’s super important and necessary because, you know, so so many people have never seen themselves or their bodies represented. But for me, it felt like there was always something missing. And I think I worked out that it felt like that saying, oh, your body is good enough as it is. Give it the respect that it deserves. And, you know, here’s me owning mine was treating a symptom rather than the root of the problem, which is, of course, like diet culture and fatphobia and the patriarchy which which links or which underpins all of those things. So I wanted to get to the root of these issues to like understand and also to help other people understand, like why we don’t like our bodies and why we believe that we need to be smaller because it’s not innate, you know?
Jameela [00:22:04] So why why is it?
Alex [00:22:06] Because there is $1,000,000,000. And I always forget the the dumb figure I think is $72 billion. I actually don’t quite remember.
Jameela [00:22:14] I mean, the diet industry globally in your book is $192.2 billion.
Alex [00:22:20] There you go. There you go. That’s it I’m terrible with numbers.
Jameela [00:22:23] That’s fucking terrifying.
Alex [00:22:25] Yeah, it and that’s what it does when it comes down to like a lot of people have a lot of money to make off us trying to change our bodies because trying to change our bodies is really difficult and we require external help with that in the form of products and which obviously equals money. So that’s at the root of it. And everything that, you know, is is built on top of that. And I just I just think it’s it’s it’s so interesting to learn that this stuff is not innate, that there’s just there’s a history of a huge rich history of diet culture and conditioning that’s culminated in this collective belief that we need to be smaller. And it’s because it’s because it makes a lot of people a lot of money.
Jameela [00:23:19] It was really fascinating learning in your book because I had never looked into it, but that the word diet comes from the Greek diaita, which and its original meaning is a way of living and it’s not so it’s not supposed to be like this restrictive weight loss regimen. And that is exactly how we should look at the way we eat. It should be a way of living that is sustainable, that is satiating and nourishing and and and not this kind of emergency speed approach to weight loss. That’s what’s so fucked up is when I think of the word diet, I never think of sustainable way to live. I always think of some sort of oppressive, fast, uh, restrictive and painful sort of like punishment period. And that’s such a shame. And they do that deliberately because speed diets are always like 95% of speed diets fail. That’s an insane statistic for us to still have a growing diet industry, for them to have that statistic and find out that only 5% of these are people who ever do these restrictive diets ever manage to continue on with them. It’s wild.
Alex [00:24:27] Right. And that statistic is challenged a lot in the in the fitness space and in the diet space, and I delve I really delved into that in the book because I was like, you know, anecdotal evidence aside, because I think we can all say that diets don’t work like as someone who tried and you get every single diet going. They don’t work.
Jameela [00:24:45] Yeah, I’m an Olympic gold medalist in this. Yeah.
Alex [00:24:49] Right. But I was like, I want something more than anecdotal evidence. And actually there’s a plethora of research and evidence around the fact that diets just do not work. But obviously that statistic is bad for people who who set out to make money off of people wanting to diet. So that’s often challenged and and pooh poohed as a statistic, which really, really irritates me because, God, I can say with absolute certainty that diets do not work.
Jameela [00:25:13] I don’t know anyone who’s ever like succeeded to maintain something that unlivable and it’s and it’s deliberate they deliberately want I know always go like full tin hat when I say this but they deliberately set us up for failure because then we’ll fall off the wagon and then we’ll need a new diet and a new diet book and a new diet app and a new influencer to fucking follow in order to and a new product and a new laxative to be able to get back on this like proverbial bullshit wagon. And so it’s, it’s a specific anything that has a fad, anything that is super restrictive, you should be extremely wary of because it has been designed for you to fail so that the market can continue to grow. They never want to put themselves out of business. And as soon as they want to back something like intuitive eating or increased fun exercise, as soon as they did that, there’d be no more. There’d be no more multibillion dollar industry, $192 billion. Jesus fucking Christ.
Alex [00:26:08] I know, I know. And today, like when I was when I was writing about this, about diets, something struck me that I was like, I can’t believe that this has never, ever struck me before. But if diets worked, then we would all, you know, because we were born to want to go, to want to be thinner. We would all only ever go on one and then that would be it. One and done. We’d do the diet, it would work and then we’d never have to go on one again. But there is like, come on, there’s like there’s something here. The, the fact that people are chronic dieters and flip from diet to diet and nothing ever seems to work that. Yeah sorry I got very hats off about this because.
Jameela [00:26:43] No it wouldn’t it be such different ones if any of them fucking worked.
Alex [00:26:46] Right. And I resent how much time and energy and capacity, mental capacity that women especially waste on these things because you know as well as well as I do like how much they just zap from your life. And I just I just resent that.
Jameela [00:27:02] There’s also like a really scary rise of fasting apps that I’ve been talking about on the podcast for a while. Which are just so fucking so fucking dangerous. And I know there are certain influencers online who swear by fasting. Now these people have got a like maybe they’re not very well and they don’t know it yet, but b more importantly, they have often the money and access to be able to have people who can regularly take their bloods, who can oversee their nutrition, who can oversee their overall health. It is so fucking scary and dangerous to know that there are teenagers who have no access to information or health care who are then going to try this stuff that should be so medically supervised and probably not done at all.
Alex [00:27:44] Right. Right. And TikTok is full of these these intermittent fasting ads and videos about them and reviews. And it’s just it’s rife. And there’s no. I as far as I’m aware I like the last time I looked I’m really research this there’s no science on intermittent fasting and its efficacy in weight loss. I mean, essentially, you’re just not eating. That’s that’s all it is. You’re just you’re not eating.
Jameela [00:28:12] No. You are actually really fucking with your endocrine system because when you stop eating, your body is not thinking about how great you’re going to look in your jeans. Your body’s thinking fuck we’re in starvation mode like we haven’t evolved in 2000 years. We don’t care about trends on a fundamental physiological level. Right. So your body, your so your your body goes into panics, it thinks you’re starving and it starts conserving energy whenever it can. But also it now goes into stress. So the stress means that your cortisol levels rise when your cortisol levels rise, your insulin rises to match your cortisol levels just because you have so much adrenaline going through your body because your body thinks that you’re in significant trouble. So you are fucking with your insulin levels, you are fucking with your blood glucose and you are panicking your body regularly. And stress is proven to not only have a bad impact on your your whatever, your metabolism, but on your entire state of being on your immune system at large is a very fucking dangerous thing to mess around with in the long term.
Alex [00:29:12] And making yourself susceptible to binge eating as well, because we know that restriction is the number one predictor of of binge eating. So which is a very, very dark place to be in so yeah, it’s just, it’s, it’s wild the things that people will come up with.
Jameela [00:29:31] But what’s really good about your book delving into like the history of diet culture, the depths of the dark, dark depths of the diet industry, the way in which the media like willfully collude. Because I think a lot of people don’t realize how much the media is funded by the diet industry. I mean, that’s why I get shat on a lot by the media is because I’m a huge threat to them because they are like most of that. I mean, most of the ads you see now on women’s media specifically is often diet companies, diet companies, fitness apps, fasting apps, all of that. So they are very invested in it. And so I think what’s cool about the way that you are, you know, making sure in a very accessible way unpack the actual system, helps us do what I think we most need to do, which is not access some on like some godlike level of resilience to this diet culture that’s all around us. It’s extremely unrealistic. But what we can do is take that challenge of being forced to feel like shit about ourselves, and instead of just trying to rise above it, we need to get mad. We need to get angry about it. We need to be proactive in that rage. The best turning point for my whole eating disorder recovery was when I would find that I would get angry. When I would see a diey ad, I wouldn’t feel guilty. I wouldn’t allow that near myself. I would as soon as I would feel it coming towards me and penetrating me, I would then batter away with how fucking dare the fact that there are probably almost always a bunch of men at the top of these companies, a group of men who have found it acceptable to find a way to manipulate me into feeling ashamed of myself. So I will buy their fucking product and put money in their bank that they’ll probably use to go and buy some nice food,.
Alex [00:31:12] Right, exactly, exactly.
Jameela [00:31:12] While they’re not worrying about that fucking bodies. And so whenever I contextualize it like that for myself, then I find this like fight in me. And that fight is the only way I think I’ve been able to like truly, fully, finally brush off my the loss of a 20 something year eating disorder.
Alex [00:31:31] Right. And we should be angry about it. We should be angry about all the like the aforementioned like I talked about the mental capacity, the time, the energy, everything, how your social life suffers, your career suffers. Everything all in this and this, like arbitrary pursuit to lose.
Jameela [00:31:48] But not just watch shit about it. Who fucking who is making money from this? I think we need to start naming them. I think we need to start showing them. I think we need to start shaming them considering they’ve spent so many decades shaming us. I really think like now, okay, we’ve gone through body love, body acceptance, we’re doing body diversity. There still isn’t anywhere near enough disability inclusion yet. So we still need to work on that. We’re doing like anti diet culture in a way that’s mostly about warning everyone about how dangerous these things are. We now need to elevate this to actually go after the specific companies that are profiting off our pain.
Alex [00:32:31] Exactly. And knowledge is power. Like, it’s so powerful to know why we feel the way we do about our bodies. And I agree with you, like and I get angry a lot in my content. I get angry about, you know, and we spoke about this when you came on my podcast, you know, with the whole like calling out thing. And I’m always trying to strike the balance between, you know, is this person just. It’s the system that’s failed her. Like, I shouldn’t really be going after her, blah, blah, blah. But I do. I get angry about a lot of this and people say oh, you know, don’t get angry. It’s not that deep. It just, you know, let’s just live in a world where, like, we can love our bodies and forget it, blah. But and that would be that is an ideal world where we all well, not love our bodies, but we’re neutral about our bodies, how our bodies look don’t impact how we live and don’t impact our lives. But we don’t live in that world at the moment. We we live in a world that is that is screaming at us to hate our bodies and to dislike our bodies and to fix our bodies. So we have to bridge that gap. And for me, that means more people being angry about it and speaking up about it and not just thinking, oh, well, you know, let’s you know, let’s let people do what they want to do. Just focus on yourself. Like, I just don’t believe that. I think we need to be galvanized into action.
Jameela [00:33:48] It’s also important to, like, strike the balance. You know, I have to constantly walk this line because obviously I’m quite aggy online and I will call people out. But making sure that we walk the line between, yes, some individuals, for example, the Kardashians like can be massive perpetuators of diet culture and, you know, double agents, the patriarchy, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it’s also important to not allow the media to turn it into an individual being responsible for an industry that existed long before they came along, the industry that they are definitely impacted by emotionally themselves, and they’ve been bullied about the way they look and bullied about their weight. So while I do try to like always be like, hey, don’t lose 16 pounds in two weeks for dress, please, everyone. I’m also not in any way holding her responsible for the mess of the world, and she’s definitely probably been a victim of that herself. It’s just a matter of we need to, like, find a way, like I’ve had to, like, neutralize myself and how I talk about any individual who represents a big thing without making it, while making sure that we do not say that they are representative of the entire system or responsible for the entire system.
Alex [00:35:00] I mean, again, coming back to I’m in such a bubble, I’ve got no perspective on this. I feel like I can’t see the word for the trees on this, you know, I mean, I feel like there’s enough of us outraged and wanting something different to what we’ve been fed, you know, force fed by the media. But do you think there is enough of us to make to actually make change?
Jameela [00:35:19] No, I don’t, not yet. But that’s why we’re doing these podcasts, to get more soldiers like I don’t think we’re there yet. And I do think we’re up against a struggle of the fact that the fucking men who own these fucking platforms have fucking found a new generation to fucking poison. And so we are all needed more than ever. And now we have to be louder than ever and we have to not be so uncool about it. It becomes counter-culture to starve yourself again. Obviously, I know that I’m guilty in the area of being deathly uncool, but we have to we have to just keep going on about it and we have to bring facts and figures and we we might not be able to to only this is what I mean about we need to attack the actual industry in and of itself because it might take exposing that in full to help the next generation realize it’s really not worth it. And you really are participating in something that is looking to only take you down, ruin your life, and keep you imprisoned. I think that’s what it is.
Alex [00:36:24] So true. Mental prison.
Jameela [00:36:24] Yeah it’s mental prison, it’s a mental prison, it’s also a physiological prison as I know now.
Alex [00:36:28] Yeah.
Jameela [00:36:29] You know, and then especially in places like America and the increasing privatization of the UK, the medical industry benefits from your health being bad. Because then they get more business. It’s all business. Your body is a business in every capacity. So are you going to take it into your own hands to now allow that to just be your body as your personal being, you know, your engine that you look after yourself and no one else interferes?
Alex [00:37:00] Yeah. Oh, I hope so.
Jameela [00:37:03] I think I think it’s totally possible. I think it’s totally possible. And I have so much faith in the next generation. We just have to. We have we have got to make them realize what we did to be able to fit into those fucking nineties clothes and to look grunge nineties thin.
Alex [00:37:18] Right.
Jameela [00:37:18] We’ve just got to be as transparent as possible. Now is not the time for metabolism bragging, girls. We need to be honest. We need to warn them. We need to scare them. We need to tell them how long we went with between shits in our twenties. It’s like, terrible farts, terrible farts. No one tells you. No one tells you about the eating disorder farts. They’re terrible.
Alex [00:37:38] Chaos. Terrible.
Jameela [00:37:39] Yeah, evil.
Alex [00:37:41] Whole thing is terrible. I remember I remember doing the Atkins diet and someone saying to me, Your skin looks gray. And I did it. I, I looked gray. They said, your skin looks like the color of like off bread. It really did.
Jameela [00:37:58] I got a few comments on my breath. Yeah. Metal breath.
Alex [00:38:01] Oh my god the Atkins. Yeah. Just. Just awful.
Jameela [00:38:05] Also just constantly accidentally vomiting in your own mouth while you’re just trying to have a conversation like no one talks about any of this. It is the most the irony that it has been turned into a glamorous thing when it is the most unglamorous thing on earth. I can’t think of a more unglamorous part of my entire life than what it has taken to try to be thin enough to look glamorous.
Alex [00:38:27] Right.
Jameela [00:38:28] I can’t believe I even still have an asshole. Honestly, like, it’s just remarkable that she’s still there. Thank you to my asshole for sticking with me through everything I’ve done to you. Oh, God. Why do I say these things publicly?
Alex [00:38:44] Love. I love it. Thank you to a public thank you to my asshole.
Jameela [00:38:49] Yeah, that might be my book that I finally write. A public apology to my asshole. So talk to me about how you actually found your way out of it, right. We’ve talked about the problems. We’ve talked about the hope of like mass recovery. Can I ask how you personally. Was it therapy? Was it. Support systems? Was it. What did you do? Because it was a major eating disorder you were struggling, like several different eating disorders you were struggling with.
Alex [00:39:26] Yeah. It was it was a bit of everything, honestly. And I, you know, for years I really envied people that would go to therapy and have a few sessions, you know, have ten sessions of therapy and get out of it. But it’s just wasn’t the case for me. And there was no like lightbulb moment. You know, people often say to me, like, what was that like the pivotal moment of the lightbulb moment? And that just wasn’t what it was like. It was years and years. And I know this, this is not a sexy answer, but it was years of tiny, imperceptible bits of progress that stacked up to form real progress, basically, and lots of ups and downs and backwards and forwards. And you know, the cliche recovery isn’t linear like couldn’t apply to me more. It was I was all over the place and it was chaos. Until at some point I realized that I was actually, you know, a lot better, you know, not better, not fully recovered, but a lot better than I was. And it was I was so lucky to be able to be able to access therapy so quickly and also for so long because again, you know, the NHS and and I think it’s, I think it’s the same in the States, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s very difficult to access therapy here. Your BMI has to be, you know, through the floor. It has to be like life threateningly low and even then you’ll only get a session of 12 CBT sessions. So I was really lucky that with through my work I was able to access long term therapy and it was there and learning about diet culture. Honestly, I really do think that that was extremely powerful for me. I’m a very I’m a person. I’m a very literal person. I like to get to the bottom of everything. And if I don’t fully understand something, it’s not clear in my head. And that’s what it always felt like for me until I really got to understand diet culture and read about it.
Jameela [00:41:12] As a system.
Alex [00:41:12] As a system. Yeah. And like realizing and understanding that this has been taught to me. I didn’t I wasn’t born hating my body. This has been taught to me. And if it’s been taught to me, I can I can. If I if I if I’ve been conditioned, I can decondition myself. And that thought was powerful.
Jameela [00:41:30] I think you’ve raised a good point there when you’re talking about the fact that it wasn’t some big light bulb recovery, like I didn’t have a big light bulb recovery. Mine was just going over kind of years of gaining a bit of weight and realizing the world didn’t end. And then a bit of weight. And the world didn’t end. And then a lot of weight and the world still didn’t end and then bear more weight and like still had a, you know, had a good love life and still had friends and still had a job. and I was like, Oh, shit. They told me the world was going to end and that I was going to die if I did this, if I disobeyed. And actually, I’m happier than ever and healthier than ever. And so it’s okay if you just start today. It’s okay if you just have that piece of toast, the you’ve been denying yourself and that’s all you do today. It’s okay if this is a slow incremental progress. Because I think if you set yourself those little manageable goals, you’re so much more likely to achieve that. It’s very hard to undo something that’s been with you for five years, three years, ten years, 20 years. To just do that overnight, it’s, it’s it’s diet culture rewires your brain and social media literally rewires our brain. And so don’t take for granted how intense that is to overcome tiny, tiny incremental changes. And within a year you can beat it or two years or whatever, that’s still better than 30 or 40 years carrying this around with you in the future.
Alex [00:42:56] Right, exactly. So and I never want to be discouraging and say, you know, it took me so long and it was painful and it was awful and it was this because it was is and you will agree with me. It’s like the hands down the best thing that I’ve ever done for myself and literally freed myself of this this mental prison, which is exactly what it felt like a just a prison. So, you know, and it’s not all it’s not all extremely painful. You know, you have the you have as you’re going through the recovery, the ups and the downs. And it’s so easy to say, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. But for anyone who is on this journey, whether it’s just recovering from an from, you know, dieting, from being a chronic dieter or disordered eating or eating disorder, whatever, don’t compare yourself to anybody else, because everyone else is everyone is so incredibly different. They’ve had different upbringings, different environments. Their brains are wired differently. That conditioning has been so very different. Different genetics, you just you just can’t. But like this is your journey. And I keep saying journey, for lack of a better word, I’ve decided I’m reclaiming it. I’m reclaiming reclaiming the word journey because I can’t think of a better word. So there you go, journey. So this is this is your journey. And take it as slow as you like and like. It’s great to see people embracing their body on social media and being, you know, showing off their body. And that’s brilliant. But that doesn’t that doesn’t have to be you. You know, you don’t have to get to that place where you want to strut around naked it doesn’t have to be like that at all.
Jameela [00:44:20] I almost never show my body at all on social media. Almost it’s always. It’s mostly just pictures of my dog, let’s be real or other people’s dogs. But I’m just like, I just don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to look at my body like and that’s okay. And am I am I the pinnacle of recovery? No. Do I still struggle with like we’ve got one now long mirror in the house because James is like six for eight literally. And he would like to see if his like trousers actually fit his body. But we’ve only got one in our entire house as a house for four or five people like who all live together. And I managed to avoid just looking at anything really more than just my face. And if I’ve got like actual, like chocolate stains which always look like poo on my clothes, but other than that, like, I just don’t want to, I just don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to deal with it. I try and avoid at all costs.
Alex [00:45:09] No you don’t have to, you know, and I see a lot of advice around like don’t hide your body in baggy clothing. But if that’s where you are right now. If you feel like that’s what you need to do to go out and survive and tackle the day and do your job and whatever, then you do that like you wear the baggy clothing. You just do what you can to survive the day.
Jameela [00:45:27] I always look like a member of the Talking Heads, which are a very old band even before our time where they wore like ginormous suits and a tiny little pinhead. So that’s what I look like most the time, because I just don’t want to think about it. I don’t want anyone to talk about it. And until we get to a place where we’re not talking about people’s bodies. which would be the next pinnacle then I would like to just do things more of the time than not distract or take away. You know, and hopefully and what I hope is that I can look in the mirror and just not feel anything. And I hope that I will still I know I’ve still got recovery to do in the dysmorphia area, but let me be some hope to you that is like happiness and success on the other side of this. And let Alex do the same and all the people that we signal boost on our channels and, you know, go and try out this book and see if it makes you feel seen and heard and hopeful. And, you know, I like to always end these these podcast episodes on hope and hearing about your recovery and that is long but it is doable is super hopeful. And and where do you think we go from here? Is my final kind of question.
Alex [00:46:38] And I want to I really want to stress as well to, you know, people listening because weight gain, which is often a big part of recovery, is the most terrifying thing ever. And I thought, like you said, weight gain would be the end of the world. But I say this phrase all the time and I just think it’s so powerful is that weight gain is okay. Like, I promise you, it’s okay. And if you can really rather than shrug that off and think well not for me, it’s not for me. And I can’t do it. I just can’t accept it. If you can really lean into that and explore that, I think that’s powerful. And maybe right now it might not do anything. But sow a seed of doubt in your mind. But let it. And if you can nurture that and try and lean into that. Do do I really need to be thin? Is it really not okay for me to gain weight? And often at the root of that you’ll find that it is. And I can tell you, as someone sitting here who has gained a lot of weight since my recovery it is. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m, you know, I’m the the like I’m the happiest the healthiest like, the most mentally clear. I just feel like I’ve got a grasp on my life that I never had. I feel like I’m finally in control rather than that very false sense of control that my eating disorder gave me. I feel like I’m finally I’m in control of my own life. It’s not perfect by any means. I’m not sitting here saying like I got the best life ever. But it’s just I promise you, it’s okay to gain weight, but it’s like something like I’d really like to leave everyone with.
Jameela [00:48:10] I love that. I love that. And also one of the best things for me was trying to find the feeling of rebellion and allowing my body to not look, quote unquote, picture perfect. That was allowing the lumps and bumps to exist and being like my doing this means I didn’t do the things that were obedient and that feels like a good fuck you to those people who want to profit off my pain and my imprisonment.
Alex [00:48:39] That’s exactly it. Profit off your pain.
Jameela [00:48:41] 100%. Well, Alex, before you go, hopefully you’ve heard this podcast before, so you know that when I ask you what you weigh, I don’t mean literally. So I am going to end this episode by asking you, what do you weigh?
Alex [00:48:57] You know, I used to be and people will know when you go into eating disorder recovery, they say they draw a pie chart the therapist and say, like your values, how much of that is how you look and what you weigh? And for me, when I first went in, like that was 90%. And I felt like that was my whole personality. It was my whole identity. It was how I looked, what I weighed, how thin I was. And now it’s it’s amazing to to realize and to acknowledge that I’m actually, like, a multifaceted person, you know? And I can be good at stuff. And I am I’m, you know, like a good sister, a good wife and a good daughter. And I am you know, I can it sounds really weird to say that I can be, like, good at stuff. I don’t know if you know what I mean by that, but I always used to think the only thing that I could be good at was like losing weight and being thin.
Jameela [00:49:49] I was actually good at stuff and I didn’t know because I was just concentrating on failing at being emaciated.
Alex [00:49:56] Right. Exactly. And when you when when your headspace opens up and you expand all of this. And and so, yeah, I weigh a ton an absolute ton of different stuff. And that is like one of the best things about recovery is knowing that and knowing that there’s way more to me.
Jameela [00:50:14] Yeah you gain more than just weight. You gain your life back, a life that you didn’t even know you’d ever be able to have.
Alex [00:50:20] And a person. Yeah.
Jameela [00:50:20] Exactly. Alex, thank you so much for coming on and and good luck with your book that comes out this week. I feel very lucky to be able to talk to you now and and carry on with all the wonderful work because you’re helping people everywhere.
Alex [00:50:34] Thank you so much Jameela, I appreciate your support so much. Thank you. And keep on with your good work. I’ve loved it for a long time. So yeah, keep at it.
Jameela [00:50:43] I will. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and research by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month the stitcher premium by going to Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighpodcast@Gmail,com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners.
Listener [00:51:38] I weigh my openness and my fucking loud mouth. And my love of my sister and I Weigh my relationship with my kids and my society as much as I can’t stand it half the time. And I Weigh my rebellious attitude and protesting nature. Thank you for doing this.
November 27, 2023
This week, Jameela is joined by writer, broadcaster and feminist organizer Clementine Ford to discuss the historical roots of marriage as a tool of patriarchal control, the illusions surrounding modern matrimony and the modern marketing machinery that sustains its myth.
November 20, 2023
Jameela is joined by beauty culture critic Jessica DeFino in a candid conversation about where her current research and journalism is taking her, after years of covering a multi-billion dollar beauty industry for major women’s magazines & beauty apps in the US.