Day 1

I am hungry.

For lunch I had sweet potato hash with kale and eggs. It looked so pretty, so real and pristine on my plate, I barely restrained myself from snapping an Instagram. My meal was inspired by the Whole30 challenge, a month-long eating program focused on fruits, veggies, and protein—no dairy, corn, soy, grains, or sugar. It was “clean.” It was healthy. It made me feel proud of myself, if only for a moment.

Two hours after my artfully arranged lunch and here I am, miserably hungry, sipping iced green tea and dreaming about scones. I smooth my T-shirt over my shorts and try to think loving thoughts about my overweight body. I don’t want to dwell on how I’ve landed smack-dab in the middle of America’s complicated tension over food and bodies. We are a nation of overeaters and dieters, of workout obsessives and “fat acceptance” advocates, and I find myself somewhat lost in the perspectives on what it means to feel good and look good. I want to be healthy and happy, but I want it to be based in something deeper than appearences.

I am hungry for self-acceptance, of course, but I also am interested in plumbing the depths of food equality issues in America. I want to live, and eat, with my neighbors in mind—could they afford to join the latest fad? It didn’t seem likely, which put diets like Whole30 into a position of extreme privilege in my mind. No, I thought, I would take care of myself the only way I knew how—slowly and steadily, through exercise and eating whatever I felt like.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t fit into my size 14 pants that I changed my mind about Whole30. I could practice accepting myself all I wanted, but I crossed the line at ...

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