After going through a particularly bad breakup in late 2017, Becky Young decided she wasn’t going to conform to the diet culture trend that spikes each January. Initially, the idea was to form a support group – similar to the slimming groups Young had attended in the past – but without the weigh-ins, diet tips and the mountain of guilt that comes with it.
Young tells the Standard: “Those support groups had a sense of community and shared experience that was nourishing in a way and I wanted to recreate that space, but for the exact opposite purpose.”
And thus, the Anti Diet Riot Club was born. Described as an in real life body positive community, its Instagram following has boomed to 67.5K followers in less than two years with Young now organising regular meetups for the community.
As well as organising London-based gatherings for individuals with shared experiences of diet-cycling, disordered eating and poor body image, the Anti Diet Riot Club hosts speaking and panel events as well as creative classes – including life drawing and ‘boob printing’ workshops.
Young says her ultimate mission is to raise awareness for the anti-diet movement, teach people how damaging dieting can be and inspire people to love and accept their bodies no matter their weight. “I wanted people to experience the liberation that I myself felt through body acceptance.”
Tapping into the current anti-diet zeitgeist, the mission of the Anti Diet Riot Club is to educate, empower and inspire – but also to fight back.
Young explains: “It’s a rebellion primarily against diet culture, which tells us certain bodies are more worthy of respect than others and we should aspire to be thin at pretty much all costs. Its mission is to dismantle this hierarchy of bodies, to challenge patriarchal beauty standards, to counteract the culture of shame we have around bodies (especially those that don’t fit the ideal) and to call out society’s rampant and violent fatphobia.
“It’s abhorrent that as a society we still let individuals, organisations and the media denigrate and shame fatness and fat people to the extent that they do. This shame around our bodies is the root of our poor body image and there really should be riots against it.”
The Anti Diet Riot Club believes that diets don’t work. Labelling them as potentially harmful as well as being a ‘waste of precious time, money and emotional energy’. They base this ethos on the principal that there is little evidence to show that diets can result in long-term weight loss.
Scientific research can back this theory up as well, with a study from UCLA finding that while dieters tend to shed five to 10 per cent of their starting weight in the first six months of a diet, up to two thirds of people on diets will regain more weight than they lost within four to five years.
Diet culture is extremely prevalent in the UK, and it can start from a young age. A report from Be Real found that 46 per cent of young girls between the ages of 11 and 16 worry ‘often’ or ‘always’ about their body image. These worries follow women well into adulthood.
The antidote to this? Body positivity and body acceptance.
Young says: “Learning to accept our bodies, no matter what weight or size or shape (all which will undoubtedly fluctuate and change through our lives) means that we can try and not let what our body looks like rule us or affect our mental experience of the world.
“Not everyone will love their bodies because the world makes that pretty difficult, and even if you do have positive body image it won’t be every second of every day. But accepting that we have worth and value that go beyond our bodies can hopefully stop us crumbling into tears if we don’t fit in a piece of clothing.”
Intuitive eating and exercise is very much encouraged and practiced by many in the community – but Young explains that many might be recovering from eating disorders or have less abled bodies which can make exercise physically difficult or emotionally triggering.
“Exercise and movement is obviously welcome and encouraged if it’s not a punishment for eating too much or comes from a place of hatred for your body. ‘Joyful movement’ (a phrase popular in our community) is about finding exercise that is enjoyable to you as an individual and therefore sustainable, rather than doing what fitness influencers are doing for a few weeks and you really hate it. Some people like the gym, some people like long walks, some people like swimming, some people like group classes, or gentle movement. Every body is different.”
Young continues: “Intuitive eating is about unlearning all the rules and regulations we’ve been taught around food that make us feel out of control and putting the trust back in our bodies and ourselves. It’s about finding freedom around food to replace obsession and guilt, which is not healthy even if you eat kale smoothies every day.”
With another life drawing class scheduled in London for later this month, Young says she has recently crowdfunded £16,000 to build the world’s first ‘body positivity bus’ – a.k.a. the Anti Diet Riot Bus. The bus will tour events and workshops across the UK, organising panel events, journaling classes, screenings and plus size clothing swaps. The tour will begin in Sheffield on International Women’s Day next year.
As well as touring the UK, Young is currently in the process of organising the inaugural Anti Diet Riot Fest to be held in Shoreditch on January 19 next year – an ‘all-day exploration of everything surrounding body liberation’.
Young says: “We’re currently in the process of testing a standardised format for an Anti Diet Riot Club meetup, which is more like a sharing group that we can host across the country and then can roll out internationally. We may never be able to become as powerful or prolific as the millions of diet groups out there, but we’re going to try.
“We’re also looking at how to adapt our workshops and talks and take them into schools and colleges, so that we can prevent young people growing up punishing and abusing their bodies in the same ways that we did.”
For more information, visit antidietriotclub.co.uk and follow the movement on Instagram @antidietriotclub and Twitter @antidietriot. You can buy tickets to the Anti Diet Riot Fest here, antidietriotfest2020.eventbrite.co.uk.