First Comes Furor: A Q&A with Author Keris Stainton
The rom-com writer talks about what it took for her to get to a place of 95% relaxation around food.
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I’ve been showcasing other people’s quitting diets stories now for a few months, and one of the things that has been so interesting is seeing the overlap between stories. Of course, many of us have been on the same diets throughout the years, which isn’t all that surprising given the mass popularity of dieting and society’s obsession with thinness. But there have also been surprises in how our stories overlap. For example, the Pandemic has had at least a small role in helping every person I’ve featured so far in the Dared to Ditch series to quit diets—including dietitian Patricia Jakubec, personal finance educator, author, and again with the subject of today’s post. It’s fascinating to learn how the pandemic was the tipping point for so many of us to make radical positive change. is the bestselling author of 14 novels, mostly adult and YA rom-coms. She also writes here on Substack (find her full bio below). While Keris is by her own accounts still early in her recovery from quitting diets, her distaste for diet culture and fat bias came years earlier—and planted the seeds for her own transformation, although it also had some negative lasting consequences. I would love to hear how you relate to Keris’ story, so please hit the comment button below and let me know.
“I still have some internalised fatphobia, of course, but these days, it's really only when there's an event coming up. Earlier this year, I went on a dream holiday to Australia and as soon as I booked the flights, I thought ‘Better lose some weight.’ I didn't diet, but what I would love is not to even have the thought.” —Keris Stainton
Kristi: When did you quit diets?
Keris: I feel like I quit years ago, but I'm thinking of “proper” diets. I haven't followed a diet or calorie-counted for probably twenty years, maybe more, but I've tried intermittent fasting a few times, as recently as early this year—the most recent iteration would be not eating before noon and after 8 p.m. It's really only in the last few months that I've made myself stop completely.
Kristi: Why did you initially decide to stop dieting?
Keris: I know diets don't work. I know this. I've known for a long time. I read Beyond Chocolate back in 2006, I did a course on intuitive eating, I've read so many things. And yet they all really led to “non-diet diets.” I'm 52 now. I've been thinking about this bullshit for as long as I can remember and I'm just so sick of it.
But it was lockdown in 2020 that really made it click. I remember thinking that if we were all going to be stuck inside for weeks or months (and we didn't even know what the world was going to be like when we came back out) then I was going to eat whatever I wanted without guilt. I'd pretty much been eating whatever I wanted for a while by then, but I frequently felt guilty. So lockdown helped me lose the guilt. And it has mostly stayed lost.
Kristi: What is your “why” now? What keeps you from not dieting again?
Keris: It's time I accepted myself entirely as I am. I'm so much better than I used to be at the “when I'm thin...” thoughts, they genuinely used to colour everything. I remember having an argument with a friend and thinking “just wait til I'm thin...” Like what difference did I think that would make?
I still have some internalised fatphobia, of course, but these days, it's really only when there's an event coming up. Earlier this year, I went on a dream holiday to Australia and as soon as I booked the flights, I thought “Better lose some weight.” I didn't diet, but what I would love is not to even have the thought.
What keeps me from dieting again is telling myself, repeatedly, that it's okay, I'm okay, as I am. I still struggle with that, honestly. I don't look like I think I should look (this is also tied up with aging—I remember my mum saying she was always shocked when she looked in the mirror and saw an older woman looking back and that's me now, and extra weird because the older I get, the more I look like her), but I know—and I'm trying to accept—that it's not about how I look, but about how I feel. I've been reading about self-objectification and that's definitely something I need to work on.
Kristi: What has been the biggest benefit of not dieting?
Keris: I'd like to say being relaxed around food, but I'm still not 100% there. I'd say a good 95% though, which is massive progress. Also, like I said, dieting is so boring. Talking about dieting is boring. Saying "ooh, I shouldn't" when someone offers you a cake is boring. I want to live my life and enjoy everything and delicious food is a big part of that.
Kristi: How does not dieting affect your relationships and social choices?
Keris: It mostly doesn't. I work from home so I don't have to deal with the whole office diet culture, which I used to find exhausting (everyone trying Slimfast or the Special K diet together). Quite a few of my friends are in a similar place to me, in that we don't diet, but we still have that little voice... And we talk about the little voice—and about fatphobia and diet culture and societal pressure—and that helps.
Kristi: How has not dieting impacted how you view diet culture and anti-fat bias?
Keris: This has been such an important learning curve. Reading Health At Every Size [by Lindo Bacon], Aubrey Gordon, that viral Michael Hobbes article Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong - The Huffington Post—all revelatory!
A few years ago I posted this article on my Facebook 8 Small Things I'll Do To Raise A Fat-Positive Kid (romper.com). A couple of my friends (now former friends) disagreed, and it turned into a huge furore lasting days (and inspiring two articles in the Daily Mail, of all places), but the subsequent discussion—that's a polite word for it—was transformative, both in cementing my feelings about diet culture and anti-fatness and in "coming out" as fat. I posted my actual weight on Facebook, something I never would have done before that.
The dehumanising way my former friends talked about fat people pretty much radicalised me. I'm still learning—following the comedian Sofie Hagen on Instagram has been incredibly helpful re things like seat sizes in theatres and general accessibility—but what was a truly horrible experience was ultimately very positive for me. Although I still have a lot of guilt about how upsetting the whole discussion was for some of my friends, and also that it led to two such vile articles being out in the world.
Kristi: How does how you were raised impact your relationship with food and body image?
Keris: Oh gosh. Well. My mum was always dieting. Measuring jug of skimmed milk in the fridge. Half a grapefruit with a glace cherry. Ryvita with margarine. Even as a teen I didn't want to do that. But I am also Gen X and so grew up thinking I should be eating 1000 calories a day, etc., and that stuff is all in there and hard to shift. My mum was great—she was my best friend—but she did make comments about my weight. Literally when I tried on my wedding dress, the first thing she said was "We can get you some of those holding-in knickers."
I had a lightbulb moment a couple of years ago when Jameela Jamil posted a video on Instagram. I think she was doing lunges and at the bottom of the lunge, she was taking a bite of cake. If I remember rightly, she was specifically doing it to detach the idea of exercise from eating—that thing of "I did 10k steps so now I'm allowed some toast" or "Better work off this pizza!"—and I literally went "Ohhhhh..." and felt instant relief. Now I go to the gym with my 14-year-old and I work out because it makes me feel good and I don't associate it with food at all. Kind of mind-blowing for me actually.
Kristi: Do you have any advice or encouragement to share for those who haven’t yet broken free of diets?
Keris: Even now, I'm not sure I'm at a point where I should be giving anyone advice, but I do think everyone should read Health At Every Size.
Keris Stainton is the bestselling author of fourteen novels, including adult and YA romcoms and one Christmas novel for younger readers that is not a romance, but does star a talking pug. She previously worked as a bookseller, a PA in the music industry, and once got a casual job as an arena steward so she could see New Kids on the Block for free.
She was born in Canada, grew up on the Wirral, lived in London for a while and, along with her two teen sons, recently moved back to her home town to live by the sea. She can almost always be found on Twitter or Instagram, avoiding writing her next book (but she’s working on it in her head. Probably).
Share Your Story of Ditching Diets
If you’ve found freedom from dieting, we’d love to share your story so that it may inspire someone else…or simply make them feel less alone. Comment below or reach out at at kristik @ substack.com.
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