WHEN you think ‘diet club’, you definitely don’t picture this. Around 100 women jostle for space in the basement bar of Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in east London and they seem… happy. There are no scales, no weight charts and definitely no floaty black outfits. In a multimillion-pound diet industry that operates on shame and sadness, the Anti Diet Riot Club might just be the answer.
Launched by Londoner Becky Young with the help of guest speaker and blogger BodyPosiPanda, aka Megan Jayne Crabbe, the ADRC will offer a safe space once a month for women who struggle with the damaging diet messaging that surrounds them.
‘We want to reset people’s toxic relationships with food and their bodies,’ says Becky. ‘“Diet culture” feeds us unattainable ideals, telling us we won’t be happy until we achieve them, and then makes us feel guilty if we don’t “succeed” — even though studies show fewer than five per cent of us actually do, long term.’
The first event — featuring The Eight Rules of Anti Diet Riot Club, body-image workshops and, probably most importantly, cupcakes — was the culmination of six months of work.
‘Like many people, my first diet was Weight Watchers because it was seen as less extreme and manageable as a lifestyle change,’ says Becky.
‘But obsessively counting points to see what I could eat was not the life I wanted to lead. I found myself feeling increasingly guilty when I ate certain foods and started skipping healthy meals just so I could eat a rich tea biscuit. I was miserable.
‘I discovered the body acceptance movement online after too many years spent hating my body. Megan’s was one of the very first accounts I followed and I decided to start the ADRC while reading her book [Body Positive Power]. The ADRC is about taking that wonderful online community out into the real world.’
Unsurprisingly, demand has been off the charts for the rebellious-spirited club as the nation reaches peak confused when it comes to healthy eating. A recent survey by Cancer Research UK found millennials are set to be the largest generation since records began, while research from fitness company FitRated shows that women feel ‘most body confident’ when they’re medically underweight.
The ADRC will work to reverse this muddled messaging. It will teach members body acceptance through ‘body-positive’ life-drawing classes, talks from health experts, workshops on the concept of ‘intuitive eating’ to counter diet obsession and events like the excellently named F*** Size Modelling class.
‘You can come and discuss your insecurities and issues around your body and food without the shame of not losing weight or getting “congratulated” for shifting a pound or two,’ says Becky. ‘We need to stop seeing diets as a “cure”.’
She says it’s key to think of health as ‘so much more than what we look like or how much we weigh’.
‘If this club means just one less person suffering on a crash diet, crying over a bad photo or staying in because they are insecure about their looks, it will be a success.
‘Years of socialisation has taught us to be scared of fat, to compare ourselves to others, to seek out the flaws. But I’ve been hating my body since I was a child — dieting since I was 14 — and I can now lovingly embrace my tummy rolls. I’m hoping that’s what the ARDC can give others too. F*** what the scales tell you.’
■ The next ARDC event is on April 2, at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London. See hoxtonsquarebar.com and antidietriotclub.co.uk