You recently wrote a beautiful Facebook post about your 23rd sobriety anniversary. You reflected on the fact that getting sober was possibly the central, early decision that gave you the power to make a huge impact on the world (and, with it, me):
…right after the Netflix special launched, someone asked me about the “secret to my success,” and the first thing that came to my mind was my sobriety.
You also acknowledge that the normalization of drinking, and drinking to excess, is destroying lives:
As much as I try to work a “live and let live” vibe, I’ve watched “civilized drinking” ravage the lives of so many families and friends that I’ve developed no interest in it at all.
I couldn’t agree with you more. Sobriety underpins everything good in my life today too. And people really don’t see that alcohol is far more destructive than most medical and social blights. I think this is true of diet culture and fat-phobia, too. But more on that later.
So then — presumably in the interest of being open and vulnerable — you let it be known that you still have two personal demons: Food and Work Addictions
Over the past two decades, food and work have emerged as my real drugs of choice. Like most addiction, they’re fueled by shame and the “not enough” gremlins. They’re also tricky addictions because I’m good at abstaining but not so good at moderation. Food and work don’t lend themselves to abstinence.
I once heard someone say, “Abstinence-based recovery is like living with a caged, raging, tiger in your living room. If you open the door for any reason, you know it will kill you. The non-abstinence-based addictions are the same, but you have to open the door to that cage three times a day.” Sounds about right.
I have my own program for food and work that’s an interesting combination of abstinence and contemplative prayer. It’s much harder because of that tiger thing, but I keep working on it. Maybe I’ll share more when the daily walks with the tiger become more predictable. Not easy, but more predictable. #PracticeOverPerfection
THIS BREAKS MY HEART. Despite your obvious, deeply-rooted (an publicly affirmed) personal power, you are afraid of food.
Like Oprah before you, Brene, you are an extremely intellectual and introspective woman, and you — as far as I’m concerned — basically rule the world right now.
Yet you and Oprah both continue to reinforce fat-phobia with every “I wish my body were different in a swimsuit” comment, or diet company investment, or magazine articles about the latest way to “get healthy” (CODE FOR DIET).
Do you ever step back and look at the destruction diets wreak on the women in this world? Forgetting (for now) the negative health impact and weight GAIN associated with dieting, think of what women could do with their time and lives if they never ever wasted precious energy and thought on making their body more acceptable to society at large?
We all watch and listen to women who hate their bodies, doing whatever they can to avoid being the worst thing in the world (fat), and we just nod our heads and say “yes, that’s how I feel too.” This is what it’s like to be a woman and we just call it honesty. We don’t see the hatred — toward ourselves or others — in our fat-phobic self talk, public or otherwise.
Brene, you tell your fellow seekers what to seek. Whether you want to wear that mantle or not, that is your role to so many women in our modern world.
You have made it your mission to help us live whole-heartedly and find true connection. Yet, as you point out, one of the paradoxical bits about “connection” is that you have to be your authentic self and stop trying to fit in.
So what is dieting or body-hatred or fear of food other than an attempt to FIT IN to societal beauty and false health promises?
Brene, if you really want to overcome your addiction to food try forgetting everything you know about abstinence and tigers and cages.
Try embracing the science that tells us that our bodies get fatter because we try to shrink them (they are hard-wired to ward off starvation at any cost).
Consider the idea that controlling your food intake is the ROOT CAUSE of your compulsive feelings about food. The reason why you think you have an addiction in the first place.
And if you can’t give yourself that freedom, maybe consider at least that your public fear of food and fat-phobic self-rebukes are actually quite destructive to your passionate fans.
With my deepest admiration and hope that you’ll find peace with food,
p.s. for more information, check out stopfightingfood.com, isabelfoxenduke.com, https://haescommunity.com/pledge/ and read the book Body Respect by Lindo Bacon.
4 thoughts on “An open letter to Brene Brown.”
This so captures my thoughts and it is so helpful to read and to feel understood. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!!
This is great! Might want to update Dr Lindo Bacon’s name, though. 🙂
Done! Thanks. Old post. 🙂
love this thoughtful challenge. Thank you for putting it into words!