Diet culture, says Sarah Sapora, is a dysfunctional system.

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Credit: Nichole Alex

On May 26, 2016, I took my phone out and deleted contact information for every single man I had casually slept with, dated, or sexted in the last 10 years. There were a lot of them.

At age 37, I had spent years in casual relationships but never found anything close to what my heart truly craved—a healthy, balanced relationship with a partner. In a moment of brutal but necessary self-actualization, I saw the common thread in each of these relationships—it was me. At that moment, I made a decision: I was tired of feeling alone and done with feeling invisible.

A few months before this realization, my body had started to give out on me. My left knee had a habit of buckling from underneath me, my feet would go numb, and my lower back was in constant pain. Daily tasks most people take for granted—like walking through Target or standing to do the dishes at the sink—were becoming really hard. I started to limit what I did, and the orbit of my life was getting smaller and smaller.

If I had told a stranger that I was unhappy, that person would have just said, “If you’re an unhappy fat woman, why don’t you just go on a diet?” As if I hadn’t thought of that before!

The truth is, I’ve been on dozens of diets in my lifetime—and none of them had any lasting success. This time, I decided to take stock of where I was with my body and my life. Once I really started thinking about it, here’s what I knew for sure: I ate at night when I was lonely, in the car when I was bored, and a whole lot of other times—very few of which were actually tied to hunger. My relationship to food was totally out of whack. My physical body was keeping me from experiencing life the way I wanted. And, finally, I threw myself into shallow connections that were sometimes frenzied, many times oblivious, and more often than not, ended in my wondering why I was wasn’t good enough for guys to want to date me.

How was I going to find a diet that would address all of that? My light-bulb moment was realizing there wasn’t a diet in the world that could fix the emotional pain I was in. I didn’t know what would heal the hurt, but I had to do something different.

I want to be clear: I am not saying that losing weight is bad—heck, in the years since, I have lost weight and I’ll probably lose more. I am saying that a “diet” will never be the catalyst that leads to happiness. Being thinner doesn’t make you better or happier.

Three years later, I’m unearthing a beautifully flawed, perfectly imperfect, eternal-work-in-progress version of myself that I never knew existed. I do Pilates. I strength-train. I meditate. Most important, I do the emotional work that helps me understand why I’ve done the things I did.

Diet culture is a dysfunctional system of beliefs. Weight loss is a tool. But personal growth? That’s where the magic actually happens.

So the next time you find yourself cursing your body and thinking that shedding weight will “abracadabra” your perfect life into existence, ask yourself: “What is it I am really aching for? Am I running from something? Do I need to heal any hurt?”

Start there—build your self-love, and begin your journey from the inside out.

To learn more about Sarah Sapora and her size-inclusive wellness offerings, visit

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