Join me and Tatyana German who is two years into her journey of breaking free from diet culture. She shares some incredibly inspiring stories of how what started with intuitive eating ended up creating so much EXPANSION in many areas of her life. Listen as Tatyana talks about how to break free from diet culture and how she went from trying to take up less space to now being unapologetically herself.
Alissa: Welcome everybody. We are on day five of the Unapologetic Eating interview series, which I’m doing in the lead-up to my book, which comes out on February 9th. Today, I’m so excited to be talking to Tatyana German. When I put out that I’m doing this interview series, I asked, “who do you all want me to interview?” And a lot of people said, “Can you interview a real person? Not necessarily a health professional or someone in the field.” And you were the first person I thought of. We met several years ago through a Facebook group I run. I think you were one of the first people that joined in the early days.
Tatyana: I think so! I learned about intuitive eating about two and a half years ago. And I joined [the group] probably two years ago. So it’s been a while.
Alissa: It feels to me it’s been more than two years, so that’s surprising to me. So where are you on your journey?
Tatyana: When you first learn something, it doesn’t always sink in. When I first learned about [Intuitive Eating], I was still in a weight loss mindset and I thought, “Oh, this is a way for me to maintain my weight loss.” I’d say it took me at least 6-8 months to fully embrace it and actually let go.
Alissa: Which is very common… If I’m set in this belief that I have to lose weight to be healthy, accepted, or whatever it is, it’s very common for Intuitive Eating to come along and for the mindset to transfer over in that transition.
Tatyana: It’s funny because I actually remember when I was in my hardcore weight loss mindset, I saw a post about Intuitive Eating and I got so mad about it. I was like, okay, that works for naturally skinny people, but what about us fat people? It doesn’t work for us. So I got mad at it and made sure to block the account because I thought, “this doesn’t work for everybody.” And now I just wish I had learned sooner.
How to Break Free From Diet Culture
Alissa: I hear this a lot, but what do you think kind of flipped for you that allowed you to fully embrace and move forward with walking away from the diet culture and from potential weight loss?
Tatyana: I actually remember the exact day where I decided this is too much for me. I was dog-sitting and eating my pre-organized food. And I was just like, why am I still eating this? Even though I’m not necessarily hungry. And I was like, Oh, well I can do some intuitive eating and just like stop eating when I’m full. And then I had posted about it on Instagram and a friend of mine from high school reached out to me and she’s like, let me tell you about Intuitive Eating. Here’s the book, just read into it. And I was like, wow, thanks. That’s very helpful information. And I remember first getting into it and being like, this sounds nice, but I’m not going to do it exactly how they say to do it.
I joined a six-day challenge of another Instagram person about decluttering and giving up diet culture and allowing yourself to crave all this food. And it was still very impacted by my diet mindset. And then as I was reading the intuitive eating book, I kind of was like, oh my gosh this makes so much sense how we were just stuck to believe that this is the only way of living! And as I was going through the book and following the steps, I just found myself being a lot happier because before, my weight wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be. So every day it was a struggle and I was not happy with my life.
And once I kind of transitioned out of that, I found more and more happiness and I was like, all right, I am never going back! I don’t think there’s ever been a day since that I was like, all right, I’m starting a new diet. I think I’ve been totally diet-free ever since, despite the occasional, like I kind of want to count my calories. It’s been hard, but really, really fulfilling, I would say.
Exploring New Paths
Alissa: Yeah, so I would love to hear more from you. So it’s been about two years since you were like, okay, I’m giving up dieting and really getting into this intuitive eating. So what would you say are some of the impacts? I know you mentioned just being so much happier. Are there other impacts in your life that you’ve noticed?
Tatyana: So I think the biggest thing that I learned from intuitive eating is to stop letting society and other people’s opinions dictate my life. And so because of that, I’ve been able to express my life beyond just body positivity. I’m very vocal about sexuality. I’m polyamorous, which is not a lifestyle that many people agree with. And I’m super open about that – with how I dress, what I do, what I wear. So it’s really impacted my life in many different ways beyond just diet culture. I’m just free to be, as my profile says, unapologetically me and just doing things that make me happy, whether or not they’re socially acceptable. So I’ve come out as pansexual and polyamorous. I’m very vocal about the topic of sex and making it an un-taboo subject. These things are part of life and I’m just so tired of people living in a shell of what they think they should be when life could be so much more! It’s so expansive!
Like why not explore it all? Pole dancing, for example… a lot of people have very negative opinions about it. But I mean it’s such a great sport and embracing that sexuality is really important. I feel like, especially for women, because we’re constantly told that we have to be hush hush about everything and we get subject to a lot of discrimination. Just talking about, for example, female masturbation – it’s not a subject. And I’m just like, why, why aren’t we talking about these things? They’re so important and everybody does it, you know? So through intuitive eating, I see it as a kickstart to all of these expansive parts of life. And it’s just been super great and I’m just loving every minute of it!
Alissa: I love that. I feel like that speaks so much to when you start to question things, like your beliefs around food and body size. Like you mentioned with polyamory, it’s like wait…why is there just this one way? And how did this become the “default” or “normal” way, and why? And you start to question everything even more.
Tatyana: Yeah, that’s totally my model. I’m a question everything person. I was actually talking to someone the other day and they were talking about their favorite color. And I’ve said to them – but I want to know why it’s your favorite color? Or why is your favorite food the way it is? I just love to question everything and I’ve always been kind of that type of person who pushes standards a little bit. I remember in high school, I would wear different things. I wore tutus to school because I felt like it. So I’ve always been kind of wanting to push the norm, but now even more. I just love to question things and I love to push boundaries. It’s just part of who I am. And now I’m just doing it without feeling guilty about it.
Alissa: I guess that brings me to my next question. You have on your profile “unapologetically me” which is funny because before I asked you to come onto this, I hadn’t actually even seen that. And I was like, oh wait, this is just so perfect. What does being unapologetic in your life mean to you? Or what does that look like to you?
Tatyana: To me, it’s not looking for someone else’s idea of who I am. It’s only looking at what I want to be. And if that doesn’t match how someone else wants to see me… tough tater tots! I mean, I’m the only person living my life. I’m the only person doing what I want to do. It’s just basically living my life and not letting anyone tell me what I need to be. And only looking inward, I mean, generally looking inward for what I want, because no one else can tell me what I want or what I can do.
So whether that means being a fat pole dancer…no one can tell me I can’t do that. No one can tell me that I can’t do anything because of my size. But a lot of that was my own internal voice saying, “You can’t do these things.” So now I’ve told that voice, “That’s from society, don’t listen to that. Do everything you can.” And if you can’t, just try it in a different way or keep trying, you know? I have no one else to be, so why not be totally 100% me.
Alissa: I love that. Was there an area of your life that this had an impact on that kind of surprised you that you didn’t think would change when you started your journey a couple of years ago?
Tatyana: I definitely didn’t think I’d be where I am. I didn’t expect to have multiple romantic partners. I didn’t expect to be able to share, like for example, my naked body. I had someone paint my naked body for an art display, like seven feet tall. And I used to be so insecure about having body rolls and now I’m just like, oh my gosh, it’s so normal! Why am I scared? And I just feel like I’m not scared of anything anymore. I’m not intimidated by my naked body, and I’m constantly trying to tell other people to embrace what they have because there’s actually nothing wrong with it. I feel like I’m the same person, but totally different in some ways, because I never thought I would get to embrace my life this much and just do everything!
Focusing on Positive Influences
Alissa: Right. It’s that expansiveness like you said before. In yesterday’s conversation with Christina, she talked about how people are living like they’re in a studio and then they go to a two-bedroom apartment. It’s amazing. And she’s like, no, no, no. There’s more like, there’s so much more than a two-bedroom apartment!
Tatyana: I know I watched that one and everybody you’ve had so far has been so amazing. And every time I listened to them say something, I’m thinking, “Yes, yes, that’s exactly it!” And it’s funny because I get so intimidated because I am more of an average person, but everything they say, I’m like, “Yes, this is how I’ve been living my life.” Like, how is this different from everybody else? Because this is how I’ve been living my life for the last two years. I’ve only been listening to people who also have a really open mind and everything. So then when I see things like old TV shows that make fat jokes, I’m like, wait, these still exist?!
Alissa: I know there are some things now that I just can’t watch, like things I used to maybe love. I’m just like, oh no, because it’s just so in your face.
Tatyana: Cause if you watch like a lot of nineties stuff and all the jokes are surrounded by like mocking other people. Whether it was transphobia, fatphobia, or homophobia, you’re just like “ummm this is not ok.”
Alissa: Totally. I think this is so inspiring hearing from you because even a lot of us in the field have gone through our own journey, but I know my clients feel very alone, like no one in their life is going through this. And it’s inspiring to hear from someone like yourself who in two years, which in the scheme of things is not that long, so much has shifted for you to just have come into your own.
Tatyana: I even went on this interview without any makeup and like you could ask my college friends… I would not leave the dorm without makeup. They would get so annoyed and be like, “Oh my God, just stop!” And I’d be like, “But I have zits and stuff!” And now I’m just like, “Yeah, there’s like a ton of people watching me with no makeup, that’s fine.”
Speak Up About Your Journey
Alissa: Showing up. I love it. Last question for you. For people who are maybe in this journey and still struggling to get to this place where they can embrace themselves unapologetically, what advice or words of wisdom would you want to share with them?
Tatyana: Yes, I’ve thought about this one! So my main thing I want everyone to know is to not be silent because I thought for so long that no one really cared about what I was saying about this. And over the last two years, I’ve had so many people message me individually and either be like, “Hey, I’ve really liked what you said. It’s really spoken to me.” Or “Hey, I haven’t seen you post in a while. What’s been going on?” And they aren’t people who comment on the posts. They’re just people who messaged me directly. So even if you don’t think people are listening, people are listening. So the more we can promote this idea and the more we can question things around diet culture, the more people are going to see. And sure there’s going to be some fight back, but always watch for those silent listeners, because they’re some of the most important people you’ll impact.
Also, don’t be afraid to do it from an individual level. Like it’s great what all of you guys do with your big communities and everything, but just the individual level can make such an impact on other people’s lives. Like just my mom and I have a lot of discussions about it. And even if I change one person’s mind and help them live a happier life, that’s fulfilling for me. I care about the masses, but doing work at an individual level is so important. And I think a lot of people forget about that. So you know, if you need a community, definitely find one, but also don’t be afraid to just be loud and be you, because those people need it.
Showing Up and Inspiring Others
Alissa: I love that. I think to your point, often this one-on-one level can happen. Even if it’s not, you know, you blatantly explaining intuitive eating, but just people in your life seeing you live unapologetically, seeing show up with no makeup on, and not explaining or apologizing. It’s just you being you. I’ve had friends say this to me when we were away together for a week. And at the beginning of the week, they were like putting on makeup and I was not, but I didn’t say anything about it. And at the end of the week, one of them actually did not put on makeup. And she told me, “You know, I was really inspired just by seeing you just like show up.” So I think it’s these little things that we don’t always realize that people are watching and noticing.
Tatyana: Yeah even like, just the little comments. I saw a post yesterday of someone with “great ways to motivate children to do things”. And they had all these unhealthy snacks and the children had to do chores or whatever to earn them. And I commented on it and was like, “Hey, just so you know, this can create a really disordered relationship with food and blah, blah, blah.” And maybe the original poster will get annoyed by that. I don’t care. But it’ll get people thinking because there’s more than just one person reading those. And so, I try to do it in like a non-judgy sense like, “Hey, just so you know…” or like, if there’s like a fat person joke, I’ll be like, “Hey, just so you know, this is a fatphobic joke.”
And people will get mad at me, whatever. But I also know there’s a lot of people who read it and are like, “Oh yeah, you’re kind of right…” And they won’t say anything, but I know they’re there because they’ve told me. It’s so important to me because I’ve always been one to stand out and if I’m going to stand out, I might as well let others follow the lead. If they don’t want to follow the lead, someone has to.
Alissa: Well, thank you so much. This was super inspiring and just so awesome to see your evolution over the past few years. And thank you so much for coming today and sharing your story and your wisdom. I really, really appreciate it.
Tatyana: Well, thank you for all that you do. I mean, I don’t think I’d be where I am without your Facebook group! There are so many, it’s just a whole community and it’s made me feel so welcome and it made the journey feel a lot more connected and less alone. So I’m very, very thankful for it. And I invite people to it all the time.
Alissa: Yeah it’s a community and it’s so, so important.
Tatyana: It really is.
Alissa: Well thank you again, Tatyana. And thank you everyone for watching.