Body positivity, fat activism, intuitive eating: all of these things are meant, in part, to free us from the tyranny of diet culture. But if you’ve spent 50 years living your life according to the Gospel of Jenny Craig — each of those 50 in a world that doesn’t hate fat people any less — it’s hard to keep the self-love switch in the “on” position. In the New York Times, Sarah Miller takes a hard look at her relationship to her body and to body positivity.

I am not saying that no one has accepted her body, that it’s all a lie. I am just saying that I’m pretty sure we haven’t “arrived” anywhere. And why would we have? The material conditions of being a woman have not been altered in any dramatic way, and seem to be getting worse, for everyone. And while there is certainly more of what is called a “celebration” of different shapes, it is rare that those shapes are not proportioned in a fairly universally attractive way.

Even if by some miracle I were to accept being not thin, as I have many times — for five or 10 minutes or three whole days like when I finished Lindy West’s excellent memoir, “Shrill,” and naïvely thought I had finally been cured of my sickness — I would remain the sort of person destined for re-infection.

That person is always prepared for contempt from men who don’t find her physically attractive, and has been on high alert to general woman hatred since she was 4. (Honestly, I pity the women who are not.) At any rate, I’m 50 and I am way too scared of the world to stop dieting.

Read the essay