The weight loss industry is stealing the language of the body positivity movement and using it against us. I feel like a conspiracy theorist writing this, but guys, this is a real thing that is happening.
I just read this piece on medium called Fuck fat loss and I was so hopeful when I opened the page. It was written by a personal trainer, so I suppose I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up so high, but that’s a punchy title! I wanted to know what came next. Then I read it, and felt dismayed. Then I felt betrayed. Then I felt angry.
Here’s the thing. After a bunch of smart and interesting writing about sexism and how our worth is not tied to our body size, the author drops the bonus-bomb. She argues that when you focus on activity and healthy eating for their own sake, weight loss will be a happy side effect, rather than the explicitly stated goal. Your *actual* goal is EMPOWERMENT (and GUESS WHAT??? Empowered women are skinny! YAYYYYY)!
Sorry, what? “Fucking fat loss” is actually being sold here as a METHOD OF FAT LOSS?? Ow, my brain.
This feels like a violent co-optation of the sorts of things fat people have been trying to say forever, not to mention some seriously circular logic. Try to lose fat, but approach it from a place of not trying to lose fat, and then you actually will!
“And then you actually will!” is the promise-lie that every kind of weight loss product, service, meal plan, diet, and machine has been trying to sell us forever. And even couched in faux body positive language, it’s still bullshit!!!
Sometime in my university life, I was having trouble with my laptop. It took its sweet time opening programs, or closing them. I got the swirly rainbow icon all the time. It was telling me to wait, and I did not like it. I asked a friend of mine who knows things about machines what the heck was up. He explained to me that I was not the most important factor in the functioning of my laptop. I looked at him like he had several alien heads; how could it be that my computer had its own agenda, related to its continued functioning? My computer was doing *other stuff* that I had no understanding of. Its priorities were not my priorities. Sometimes it just said no. Sometimes it did as I wished. It belonged to me, but I was not actually its master.
I think this is a lot like how bodies are. We feed them things, and say “ok body, use the fat from that avocado to make the amount of hormones I need, ok?” and maybe instead it plops that delicious delicious vegetable fat on your luscious ass. You go for a long slow jog, and say “ok body, burn the calories from the dessert I didn’t mean to eat at that wedding last weekend and am currently punishing myself for” and instead it builds strong firm muscles in your calves and your belly stays exactly the same (lovely) size and shape and softness. When your body does these things, it isn’t a betrayal. It actually knows better than you do how to survive*. It knows better than you do how to best use the energy and nutrients you supply it with. It belongs to you, but you are not actually its master.
For me, actually loving my body has come to mean honoring those things that I don’t totally understand, and practicing lots of non-attachment to outcomes related to its size and shape. I actually trust my body to do it’s job (which is to keep me alive, not to make me attractive to people who only have one idea about what that word even means). I believe it when it tells me it’s hungry. I believe it when it tells me it’s tired. I believe it when it wants to move, and when it wants to rest. Okay- I try to. It’s not always easy! No one taught me how to do that, In fact, I’ve been taught the exact opposite for my entire life.
I have decided that my job isn’t to discipline my body, my job is to care for it, to safeguard it, to be generous and gentle with it, and to thank it for taking me through my days. It is not my enemy. My love for it is not conditional on it fitting into a certain pair of pants, moving at a certain speed, accomplishing a particular task.
And that’s a battle. It’s a battle every single day, because people (and also not-people, like the internet and media and pretty much every representation of the human form in existence) tells me that my body is wrong and gross and bad and unsexy and imperfect and holy gosh do I ever need help. Even articles entitled “Fuck Fat Loss” think I should lose weight; I should just do it without actively wanting to. I should sneak-attack fat loss by way of empowerment and reverse psychology!
Well. Fuck that. Fuck that every day and twice on Sundays.
Instead, I try really hard to offer my body unconditional love. I wonder what would happen to the weight loss industry, to beauty standards, to clothing sizes, to art, to sexism, if that became a zeitgeist. So give it a whirl? I dare you.
* I want to acknowledge that this is a gloss; bodies also do lots of disadvantageous things, and folks living with chronic illness or pain or disability might have some things to say about this idea. I’m speaking for me, and I super want to hear/read more about the ways that disability justice and fat activism can work more coherently together
Carly is a 32 year old white genderqueer femme. She is a freelance workshop facilitator in Toronto, mostly working on community building, body autonomy, intersectionality, queer sexual health, trauma survivorship, and keeping people alive. She likes roasted vegetables and bitter foods, and hates cantaloupe and anything gelatinous. She thinks that leopard print is a neutral and that prisons should be abolished. She is also a tarot reader- think of it as single session therapy, with a witch! Find out more at http://www.tinylanterntarot.com