• Autumn Valjien

What is the Pretty Prison?

Pretty Prison is the term we use when we are stuck in a place of weight-loss that we are afraid to lose. We have lost weight and someone has said "Keep going, you're going to look great," and we're thinking "Wait, this isn't enough, I have to lose more weight?" Or We have gotten so much positive feedback from people about our weight-loss caused by an eating disorder that we feel compelled to keep it up. This feeling of being pressured to stay stuck in misery is the Pretty Prison.

How did we get here?

Those of us who have dieted our whole lives know that dieting sucks. We spend a lot of time talking ourselves into loving it, we even tell people how happy we are with all the changes we've made. It becomes a huge part of our conversations with friends and family, it feels like all we talk about is this diet, it becomes our identity. We feel empowered like we've finally gotten our life under control. But, the moment we "slip up" and allow ourselves to "indulge" in a food outside of that diet we feel shame and misery. Our lives slowly become a never ending war; Us vs. Food.

We continue to feel this cycle of empowerment and shame over and over, and eventually when we fall off we feel like we are a failure.

When we look at food as the enemy, we also look at our bodies as the enemy. We get stuck in a mindset of control. Our body is the lion and we are its master.

Anyone who's ever watched Animal Planet knows that there's no way to truly tame a lion, it's always on the verge of reverting to its natural state. It's taken centuries of evolution and adaptations to make the lion what it is today. There's no way that one man is going to undo centuries of evolution in a few years, not long term. On that same vein, diet culture has taught us all that we can suppress our feelings of hunger, a carefully evolved system built to keep us alive. So begins the war.

We stop trusting ourselves to make the decisions, and diet culture makes us feel like if we just buckle down that happiness is right around the corner. When we do manage to lose weight, we feel trapped in Pretty Prison. People treat you differently when you're thin, you're suddenly valued more, you're listened to more... society rewards thinness. You're hungry, sick, tired, and miserable, but you're also addicted to the attention, the reinforcement, the affordances.

"What would I do with all the time I had left over, if my life didn't revolve around my food obsession?"

We curse women who are naturally thin. We wonder "Why is food something we have to eat to survive? Why is my body betraying me by being hungry?" Now it's not just Us vs. Food it's Us vs. Our Body.

No healthy relationship is built on a foundation so adversarial. If our our romantic relationship was build on this level of control, we would call it abuse. So, how could we possibly expect ourselves to love our bodies after being at war with it for so long? If the end goal is loving ourselves, the first step has to be trust and respect.

If you've ever thought "I'll love my body when... I lose the weight, I get the botox, I get a tummy tuck, etc etc..." then you're doing it wrong. So, how do we get to a place of trust and respect? We start by listening to our bodies. This means eating when you're hungry. Stop trying to tame the lion, and start observing the lion.

"You deserve love and respect, especially from you."

Remember that you have value simply for existing. Your body is a beautiful machine, and it deserves love and respect. Loving your body starts and ends with you.

Here’s some tips on getting started:

  1. Watch this video on Self-compassion:

  2. Check out this book on Intuitive Eating:

  3. Unfollow all the accounts on social media that make you feel insecure. They're not inspiring you, they're reinforcing comparison. Brene Brown calls comparison the thief of joy.

  4. Begin by listening to your body. When do you feel hungry? Do you wait to eat when you're starving? Start writing down what you eat, and just how hungry you are when you eat.

  5. Every day for 30 days tell your body "Thank you" and even if you don't believe it say "I love my body."

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