For most avid home cooks, Julia Turshen needs no introduction. When she’s not in her Hudson Valley kitchen making food, the writer, podcast host, and bestselling author is talking about it. In this essay, slightly adapted from her new (and very Healthyish!) cookbook, Simply Julia, Turshen confronts the negative feelings she’s harbored toward her body for years. 

In having the privilege to write a book that’s all about healthy comfort food, I think it’s important to be honest about my feelings about my own body while suggesting all sorts of things you can cook to feed yours. It’s important, also, to acknowledge that these feelings are evolving.

Related: The Myth of Healthy Eating with Christina Chaey and Vanessa Rissetto

For as long as I’ve always loved food, I’ve also been as conflicted about consuming it. A few years ago it really hit me how much time and energy I had spent feeling bad about myself, especially about my body. And that made me feel really sad. So I decided to start untangling the knot. I knew it wouldn’t magically untie itself just because I wanted it to. I had to get some help.

What did that help look like? So many things. I tackled hard stuff in therapy; I changed who I follow on social media to learn more about people who had broken free from diet culture; I researched what diet culture actually is; I read books and listened to podcasts about intuitive eating and shame and vulnerability; and I started to speak more openly to my closest friends about their relationships to their bodies. I began to talk honestly with my mother about how much I absorbed from watching her not treat her own body with kindness. I stopped (I’m trying to stop) asking my wife, Grace, to reassure me that my body is okay. I hid my scale in a closet, and then, one day when I finally felt ready, I threw it away.

I’ve had a handful of breakthrough feelings throughout this ongoing shift. One was, after many gentle suggestions, Grace finally got me to watch The Matrix and it’s given me the most helpful framework to think about diet culture. Now when I think about it, a culture that prioritizes thinness and urges us to keep comparing ourselves to each other so that we’re left feeling really isolated, I simply think, Oh, that’s not actually real.

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