Fuck Fat Loss, but like, actually (Guest post)

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

32 thoughts on “Fuck Fat Loss, but like, actually (Guest post)

  1. Wow! Great post! Loved it! I need to rewire my brain to think like that. I like the analogy with the computer and it doing things on its own.

  2. This is a beautiful article. I have an autoimmune disease and your analogy still holds true. I learned how to listen to my body through my disease. Some days I need sleep. Other days I need exercise. I wish this article didn’t use the F word. I’m 47, old fashioned and will not share things with profanity. Don’t get me wrong, I swear with the best of them but not everyone does. I just don’t believe it’s proper etiquette. Too bad because the message itself is very powerful.

    1. The message is perfect with all the F bombs in it. You can always feel empowered to write your own message that’s adjacent to this and share with your friends, although I’m pretty sure your folks are smart like you and can protect themselves from the language, not letting it change them either 🙂

  3. Bravo. Couldn’t agree more. Homeostasis is our friend. I’m an old coot but still dance, swim, play tennis etc. I don’t do these things to be skinny (I never will be) but because I enjoy what my body can do. Forever young. Amen. N.

  4. Indeed. I too hate when the fuck fat loss message is co-opted like that, as if a stealth approach is some magic pill. As you so well state, that’s hardly the message we need. Body acceptance–now there’s a radical idea. Thanks so much for this.

  5. I award you no points for dissing Nia Shanks! (Not that you attacked her personally, I just enjoy the rhetorical flourish.) She IS a personal trainer. I love her podcast, and her entire message is about celebrating your body for its own sake, not berating yourself over numbers, and feeling your best. I dunno girl, I know you feel like you got bait-and-switched, but when you say “Even articles entitled ‘Fuck Fat Loss’ think I should lose weight” I don’t think she’s saying you specifically!

    1. but, like, you don’t think Nia’s article was link bait? Wherein it appears so slyly under the guise of body positivity, therefore appealing to the interests of Carly (and I, and so many fat folx) specifically? Who was that article written for, and why wouldn’t it’s message be confusing for people who read it and are inspired and then suddenly feel as if it was actually a different message? Just curious!

    2. i didn’t feel personally attacked or criticized by Nia’s article; which is precisely why i didn’t criticize her personally. Instead, i addressed my problems with her argument. Do you have problems with mine?

  6. Really good post, and it needed to be said (again and again, it would seem… 🙂 There is so much moral panic out there about weight, and as Tracy says, the idea that we just move our bodies for fun and pleasure and eat what is good-to-us-for-our-own-reasons sends a lot of people into a tizzy. I read the Nia Shanks post, and I bet that her message is sincerely trying to close the distance between training to get a body that looks a certain way and training to feel good about yourself (albeit in ways informed by conventional views about health and body image). But she just can’t let go of those norms about weight and body image and “sensible” eating.

    I talked with a dietitian friend the other day who said to me that although she thinks that Health at Every Size has some good points, she simply cannot countenance the idea that dietitians should let go of the idea that their job is to help their clients lose and manage weight for conventional health reasons. Otherwise, what would their jobs be?

    What a thought– a shift in the nature of all those jobs– dietitian, trainer, doctor, etc. What would the world be like then?

    1. I also got the feeling that Nia Shanks was writing in large part for women who have trouble letting go of striving for weight or fat loss, and that this was part of the “well if you do want to lose fat, it’s still good to take this approach!”. Which I think is a fair point for that audience, when you are encountering a lot of women who are struggling with not making a number on the scale the measure of their worth or the sole measure of the success of their training.

      (and I still agree with Carly that it’s frustrating to see body positive messages used to sell fat loss even as we are told to fuck fat loss.)

  7. It’s like when I call me friends or family and when I ask how they are they respond in terms of how fat (or slim) they are. None of them have a weight issue, they all look normal to me. And I don’t care, I’d rather talk about how lovely the sky looks today. It’s difficult listening to them. It must be hard to live like that. I hope I have a healthy perspective but the pressure form the society is relentless. Talk about focusing on the wrong things. You can be unhappy, lonely and misunderstood as long as you’re thin. Ridiculous. Thanks. Nicely put.

  8. Terrific, heartfelt, funny writing here, Carly. Thanks! And I really appreciate hearing about the ways the fitness industry is coopting body positivity language, even if sometimes unconsciously, because it parallels how the media have adopted the language of feminism to sell women and girls stuff – usually related to beauty, or to largely conventional messaging about gender norms. (Think Dove, etc.) Capitalism, in this culture business as usual, is voracious: anything that galvanises humans is up for grabs and can be used to sell us stuff. We need to be vigilant, and nuanced in our thinking, to fight its attempts to sell us out.

  9. I do get the point of this post. I have a unique perspective on weight loss seeing how far I’ve come in my own journey. But I know the weight loss industry will pedal it’s wares no matter how much self love we have or don’t have. I do believe that people can have self love and still want to make changes to their body to be healthier, fitter, stronger etc… that could be the epitomy of self love right there. You will always have those lousy weight loss products that are for those people who think there is an easy way to do it. Newsflash – hard work will be involved. It will take time and patience. I also think that it really is important not to focus solely on fat loss, but about truly enjoying the health and fitness journey, learning about your individual body, it’s needs, and how that connects to you on a mental or even spiritual level. I never could have imagined all that I would gain from losing over 140 lbs.

    1. sure- losing weight is a super important part of some people’s health journey. this is a real thing. but it is absolutely not true that losing weight is always healthy, or that all fat people are not healthy- though these messages are SUPER prominent in literally all “health” based environments (from gyms to doctor’s offices and beyond!). you can also make changes to your body to be stronger and fitter and healthier *without* actually losing weight.

  10. Agreed. Which is why I made sure to state that any focus on your health be not only focused on fat loss. I will counter that not ALL health based environments tote the message that if you’re
    “fat” you are also unhealthy. That word “unhealthy” seems so vague to me though. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but speaking from experience, when I was overweight there were absolutely limitations placed on my body. Range of motion that I didn’t have, shortness of breath during physical activity where my fitter counter parts had more stamina. Does that mean they were MORE healthy than me? Probably. Excess weight, especially of the extreme variety DOES impact our health in a negative way. If someone is OK with staying at a certain weight and not pushing themselves to obtain anything more, I think that is totally fine too. Someone’s level of personal health is almost subjective to a point as long as they can get by doing their every day activities. Even if weight loss isn’t your goal I can also attest to the fact that if someone does begin to change their diet or exercise routine in a new way that change of their body structure (ex. gaining muscle) will likely be reflected in a more toned looking body regardless of the fact that they weren’t looking to lose weight. Cause and effect

  11. An admirable purpose: to take care of and safeguard your body. But you’re absolutely right–the media and other factions with certain concerns have vested interests in crappy health and crappy body image in order to sell you more crap that will keep you in those states of being. The trick is to transcend those poisonous conditions by taking back your right to choose happiness, to choose energy, strength, and well-being. Exercise does help, especially when counteracting depression (which is its most important achievement, in my opinion), but diet is key. Fuck sugar, salt, processed foods, GMOs, etc. There is such a dramatic change in how you feel when you actually get back to eating real food. I’m a documentary nut, and for anyone interested on the obesity epidemic, type II diabetes, fatty liver disease, etc., check out “Fed Up,” “Sugar Coated,” and Michael Pollan’s series “Cooked” on Netflix.

    BTW you look like an edgy Kate Winslet–don’t change, you are beautiful. And shit on private prisons, especially–hopefully they’re going to the way of the dodo.

  12. Also, in regards to the troubling images/stereotypes of women in the media, check out “Miss Representation”…it has a lot of great guest speakers, authors of books that are must-reads for anyone interested in the marginalization/exploitation of women by the media.

  13. I can really relate to what you talk about here with moving beyond what our bodies look like and instead focusing on what they can DO for us. My journey has been slow going, personally, and every day I try to think about the things that I can DO again as I get into better shape (like tie my shoes!) rather than what the mirror shows me or what size clothes I wear. You’re so right-on about this!

  14. I love this!! With respect to your question about living with a chronically ill body I have this comment. When I first became ill I didn’t know why and I couldn’t walk. I whispered to my body “if I promise to love you just as you are, can we get better?” And I did!! I started treatment for lupus And I started to be able to move. My body needs gentle loving care in order to function properly and there’s no room in that equation for judgement. Self care means self love; listen and respect what you’re body is saying.

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