Ahead of The Anti-Diet Riot Fair this Sunday in London, we spoke to its organiser Becky Young about how she came to start her inspirational anti-diet community – The Anti-Diet Riot Club.
Almost two years ago, in the first stages of a seven-month trip around Central America, I had (what was certainly not my first but, good God, I hope my last) meltdown about MY WEIGHT. This had been a semi-regular episode since the age of 14, this time triggered by seeing photos of myself a year previously taken on a beach in India, tanned and around a stone lighter (most likely due to consistent toilet and tummy issues over anything else).
But I felt like a failure, like I had once again wasted the opportunity to be thin… a primary goal of mine for well over a decade.
I had spent the last year in the comfortable bubble of my new relationship – eating, drinking, having lots of fun, but not actively "watching my weight" and therefore deserving of the huge amounts of shame, guilt, and self-loathing I felt. So, as usual, I embarked on the mental preparations and planning for how I would do daily HIIT workouts and virtuously refrain from eating all the queso and drinking all the cervezas that Mexico had to offer. It was going to be a fun trip I could tell!
As the days went by, I delved into the depths of the #fitspo world on Instagram searching for guidance and motivation. I randomly – and thankfully – stumbled upon a body positive account (I can’t remember which one now) with a “big-bodied” woman embracing her body in all its beautiful rolls and folds, reclaiming the word fat for herself, and proclaiming her right to live without shame and stigma. She was fat, and she wasn’t planning on going on a diet! It was a complete revelation.
When I saw this woman, I saw the kind of person that I wanted to be and the life I wanted to live. I saw an escape from food obsession, from hating my body, from feeling uncomfortable in taking up space, from continuing the cycle of restrict, shrink, regain, repeat. I wanted to be the person that spent time on changing the world, not just changing my physical appearance. I wouldn’t agonise over menus, spend hours watching workout videos, make excuses every time I ate another biscuit (and end up bingeing on the whole packet) and pledge every Sunday that Monday would be the day I started eating #CLEAN once more.
It was this desire that spurred me on to discover more about the online ‘body positivity’ movement that was flourishing on blogs and Instagram feeds and start the much-needed detoxification of my online feeds. Almost like a juice cleanse but one that actually works… this involved unfollowing all the "clean eating", "bikini body workout", "strong is the new skinny", "paleo" (and so on, and so on) accounts clogging up my virtual world. These were most of the time making me feel absolute shite about my body – due to it not being anywhere near the shape, size or ability that was always represented in these feeds – or guilty for not eating low-carb, low-sugar, meticulously-presented alkaline meals and spending two hours a day getting a Kardashian booty.
This was the first step in a transformative journey that has led me to where I am now; in the lead-up to my fifth event under the Anti-Diet Riot Club project that I set up six months ago. After learning so much from the body acceptance community online, and the books and articles I read, I wanted to contribute to helping build this movement in London and so I started ADRC, an event series teaching people to fight back against diet culture and promote the ideals of Health At Every Size, fat positivity, and radical self-love. Learning to accept my body and give up the pursuit of thinness has changed my life and my aim is to help as many people as possible do the same through regular events, meet-ups, workshops and support.
The Anti-Diet Riot Fair (resident of SuperCulture) this Sunday 1 July is my next attempt at trying to bring the body positive community together, with a day of size inclusive brands, feminist makers, body positivity workshops, music, cocktails and community vibes! It’s important to me produce events and spaces that are inclusive to those who are fat, as well as just those are into body positivity. The Anti-Diet Riot Fair is all about combating the lack of fun shopping experiences for fat women on the high street, at festivals and at events… where it’s hard to find anything in sizes 16 and above (even though the average UK dress size is 16).
There’ll be opportunities to do some ‘Fuck Size Modelling’ with a body positive photographer, take part in a plus size swap shop, work on your own body confidence with stylist Lauren Jobling @ljstyling and check out the designs of the likes of Venus Libido, Doughnut Sexxii Clothing, Hotties Vintage, Aesthetic Laundry and many more.
Come one and all, and we can stick our middle finger up at diet culture together!
The Anti-Diet Riot Fair is at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, this Sunday 1 July, from 1pm–8pm. Get tickets here.