I met Kiera in 2018 on a trip with The Hunger Project. On a bus in rural Uganda, we spoke about her work as a psychologist with people in bigger and smaller bodies.
I felt my perspective being stretched as she spoke. At the time, I could only wrap my head around listening to and digesting it. Almost two years and a fair bit of reflection later, I want to be part of the discussion by calling us in (not out) about our subconscious fatphobia and internalisation of diet-culture.
Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues below.
Last week was Weight Stigma Awareness Week, so this is a topical chat to have.
Dr Kiera Buchanan is the Clinical Director for the Centre of Integrative Health, Brisbane’s private treatment centre for eating disorders and body image concerns.
A sharp spike in enquiries has Kiera under the pump so we spoke on her morning commute.
"A busy week used to be 15 new enquiries… we’re now getting more than that in a day. It is really overwhelming and sad to be getting that number. The mental health of the nation is pretty affected at the moment. Specifically for our clients with eating disorders, a lot of their coping mechanisms and reasons for recovery have been taken away and that has evoked stress and anxiety".
On top of the direct implications of COVID-19, I’m consistently seeing messages from people I know or follow which scream diet culture. These comments - about ‘corona calories’ or not being able to fit into work clothes after lockdown - are often meant to be light but where they stem from feels dark.
There are also the ‘iso’ diets and workouts which compel people to emerge from this GLOBAL FKN PANDEMIC in their ‘best shape’ (Jameela Jamil has spoken to this beautifully). A friend whose body has not visibly changed this year said to me recently that they are "trying to be 'good', working out each day and eating all healthy food and no 'treats' because they’ve gotten ‘massive’ during lockdown".
This attitude - of deprivation and of always wanting to be smaller, fitter, more toned or ‘better’ than we are now - has been normalised. I'm not talking about moving your body when it comes from a place of love. I'm talking about moving your body because you've gotten 'massive' during lockdown.
I'm talking about an attitude of deprivation that has been normalised by these aspirations and vice versa. It is an attitude that is fueled by a fear and that fear arises out of an internalised stigma.