One of the founders of Anti Diet Riot Club explains why she’s launching a festival to tackle the toxicity of ‘new year, new you’ diet culture
January is a month that sees so many of us give in to clichés. We start swapping Bailey’s for green juices and fill our cupboards with rice cakes and dehydrated seeds to curb our cheese cravings. But Londoners Becky Young and Harri Rose have started their 2020 by organising a big ‘fuck you’ to the inevitable new year diet trends.
In 2018, they set up a new body-positive community, Anti Diet Riot Club. ‘January is a month full of diet talk, insidious fat phobia and body checking,’ says Becky. ‘I wanted a space that was free from that.’
Over the past two years the club has thrown Valentine’s Day self-love parties, given a platform to body-positive experts and activists, started inclusive life-drawing classes and put on plus-size catwalks at festivals across the country. Now it is throwing its biggest event to date: a 12-hour festival that’s calling for an end to diet culture.
Young’s journey here has been a long and personal one. ‘I was deep in diet culture and kept thinking I wouldn’t be good enough until I was thinner,’ she says. ‘In 2016 I went on Instagram for “fitspiration” and instead I found accounts belonging to fat women who were living their lives unapologetically and talking about intuitive eating and health at every size. It was a lightbulb moment for me.’
Despite discovering so much support online, Young struggled to find spaces where she could meet these powerful communities in person. ‘The only space I’d found where I could talk about my body-image struggles with people who felt the same was at weight-loss meetings, which are really toxic. I wanted to create my own group with the same sense of community, but with no scales, no calorie counting, no shame and no comparison.’
The club’s debut festival of visual art, talks, creative workshops, performances and music hopes to serve as a joyous culmination of everything Anti Riot Diet Club has explored over the past two years. Three rooms themed around ‘protest’, ‘pleasure’ and ‘pop’ will host panel talks on subjects such as post-partum bodies, masculine physical ideals and the politics of ugliness, which will feature Joeley Bishop who runs body-positive Instagram account The Vagaggle. ‘Speakers will talk about “revolutions” rather than “resolutions”,’ says Young.
Empowering dance classes from School of Strut and The Curve Catwalk will take place across the day, while sex educator Ruby Rare will be schooling people about sex toys. There’ll also be intimate sessions exploring how to write ‘fat fiction’, film screenings, yoga sessions, life drawing and political art-making workshops.
‘This is our version of a summit,’ Becky tells me. ‘It’ll be a riot, but also a celebration.’ In the past, the club has run breast-printing workshops ‘where women with mastectomies got their boobs out for the first time since their operations,’ Young explains. ‘These are spaces of real compassion and they’re really, really powerful.’
The diet and weight-loss industry is worth billions of pounds and at this time of year it can feel all-consuming, despite the fact that, more often than not, dieting fails. Young and Rose’s festival is an attempt to challenge the same tired story we’re fed every new year. ‘January doesn’t have to be this time for restriction and piousness,’ says Young. ‘Twenty twenty is the year to throw out the scales, embrace your body and live unashamedly. It’s an infectious mindset and it’s starting to catch on.’
Anti Diet Riot Club recommends
Beck Young picks her favourite body-positive groups in London
The Candid Collective
‘This collective throw fun and informative events all about sex and bodies, like the Genital Model Making Workshop (they’re coming to the fest too!).’
Genital Model Making Workshop. Colours Hoxton. Hoxton Overground. Jan 27. £15.
London Centre for Intuitive Eating
‘Founded by Laura Thomas, who is a fountain of knowledge about intuitive eating and non-diet nutrition. We’d advise anyone interested in this approach to food to check them out.’
‘A wellbeing collective that doesn’t make you cringe and that has developed some awesome practical workshops that really teach you how to prioritise and take care of yourself.’
‘The UK branch of Endangered Bodies and a fat-positive collective of inspiring experts, activists and academics that have been hosting events and promoting campaigns for years.’
Find more brilliant events happening in London this month with our January guide.
Images: Harri Rose (left) and Becky Young (right) photograph: Imogen Forte; Photograph: The Curve Catwalk.