The Worst Reason to Lose Weight

Concern Troll Venn DiagramToday I’m not talking about people’s individual reasons to attempt to manipulate their body size.  People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies including trying to shrink them and it’s not my business.  What I’m talking about is the worst reason that we are told to lose weight.

“For our health” is a pretty terrible reason – what with there being absolutely no evidence that would suggest that attempts at weight loss will leave us any thinner or healthier (two different things, by the way.)

“To be more beautiful” is a pretty terrible reason since it presupposes that we want to buy into the current social constructs and stereotypes of beauty and try to manipulate our bodies to meet them.

But the worst, the absolute worst, as far as I’m concerned is something I saw in marketing literature for a weight loss product (that I will not be linking to for what I hope are obvious reasons:)

Heavier people are often teased and taunted starting in childhood and continuing for the rest of their lives.  These insults can cause early emotional wounds that get ripped back open with every new jab and joke. [Insert Product Name] can give you a life free from this emotional baggage!

The first two statements (everything up to [insert product name]) are completely accurate, and as far as I am concerned form the most inappropriate and despicable way to try to sell weight loss to people.

The message that those who are the victims of poor treatment should change themselves to suit their bullies is horrifying. As anyone who tried to appease a bully in junior high school learned, once you give them your lunch money, they are going to want something else.  One day it’s your lunch money, the next it’s your lunch money and your pencil, then you’re skipping lunch, borrowing someone else’s pencil and letting the bully copy off your homework.  Soon you find your head – and your self-esteem- in the toilet while the bully makes off with your entire backpack.

It’s the same with losing weight as a way to stop being treated poorly.  As if the kind of people who would treat you poorly because of your weight won’t pick something else if you become thin. Not to mention that research shows that even if you manage to be in the tiny fraction of people who become thin, if people know you were previously fat you may still face discrimination:

“We were surprised to find that currently thin women were viewed differently depending on their weight history,” said Dr Janet Latner, study lead at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, US. “Those who had been obese in the past were perceived as less attractive than those who had always been thin, despite having identical height and weight.”

Again, people are allowed to attempt weight loss for this or any other reason, but for weight loss companies and other organizations that actually contribute to a climate of fat hate to suggest weight loss as a cure for fat hate is completely ridiculous – they are helping to create a problem that they then suggest we buy their product to solve.  And that is borderline criminal.

The problem is never that fat people exist. The problem is always the mistreatment of fat people. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could (or want to) become thin.

It’s true that heavier people are often teased and taunted starting in childhood and continuing for the rest of our lives.  It’s true that these insults can cause early emotional wounds that get ripped back open with every new jab and joke.

But I don’t need a company to come along and offer to change my body, because the problem here is the perpetrators of the oppressive behavior, not the victims of it. The only people in this situation who need to change are those who engage in appearance-based teasing and oppression.

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13 thoughts on “The Worst Reason to Lose Weight

  1. Reblogged this on I think you'll find I can and commented:
    “The problem is never that fat people exist. The problem is always the mistreatment of fat people. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could (or want to) become thin.”

  2. But wait! By their logic, wouldn’t the concept be that losing weight would reduce their chances of being taunted and insulted for being fat, but would increase their chances of being raped because by being “more attractive (i.e. thinner, which is by their standards, more attractive)” they would be more provocative to rapists.

    Victim blaming is victim blaming, regardless of the particular type of act committed against them. It removes the responsibility from the perpetrator of the act, and places it upon the target.

    Simple statement – I am responsible for my actions. If I act inappropriately towards someone, whether it is a discourtesy or a criminal act, that action was MY choice. It does not matter if I *thought* my actions were justified by some act or trait of the victim, I was still the one that chose to cross the line and act improperly.

    Sadly, the reality we live with is that some people will act improperly regardless of what we look like or do. They will find some excuse or another to act out on their impulses, so trying to force-fit ourselves into some mold that will “prevent” their actions is folly. What needs to happen is the inappropriate person needs to learn restraint, and how to act like a decent human being.

  3. Reblogged this on Library Of Old Valyria and commented:
    I love Ragen’s blog and things like this are so important. You cannot stop bullying by giving bullies what they want.
    Personally though I keep waiting for one of these posts to end with “and then I killed everyone and ragequit the universe.” Because that’s what I would do. With dragons.

  4. When I was in my early 20s and in undergrad, I would watch the trashy daytime talk shows in the dorm common area with my girl friends during times when I didn’t have class, and there would often be episodes where a “former fat person” who had been bullied relentlessly throughout elementary and high school was going to confront his/her tormentor(s). The underlying formula for those shows was infuriating to me: former fat person would go through myriad hoops to lose weight, change his/her look by whatever means necessary to conform to ideal beauty standards and therefore, make him/herself acceptable to their bully/bullies and bully/bullies would gasp in shock at “The Reveal” of the “new” object of their former abuse, and would apologize. In every instance, I would get viscerally upset and angry at the injustice of these shows because the apology was moot. Whether the bully had matured and changed over the years was moot. Not once would the bully actually say, “Y’know, you could look exactly as you did back in elementary/high school, only older, and you’d STILL DESERVE MY HEARTFELT APOLOGY FOR TREATING YOU AS SUB-HUMAN”. Not once did that ever happen and it always reinforced the status quo of conventional beauty trumping basic civil rights to fair treatment and freedom from discrimination, harassment and abuse.

    All that to say, I really appreciate how you express this in full detail in all your blog posts. ❤

  5. Being thin or otherwise conventionally attractive doesn’t actually protect one from bullying or shaming. As I mentioned in another comment, I was unmercifully bullied for being weird–and smart–and fat–and ugly–and whatever. I was smart. I was also weird and didn’t fit in (partly because I was smart, an introvert, and raised by grandparents so had an old-fashioned demeanor). I wasn’t actually fat at the time, nor was I unusual-looking (“ugly”) except that I didn’t wear makeup because of skin sensitivities.

    I’m still startled by photos of myself in high school, because my image of myself was so different.

    The point is that it didn’t matter if I was fat, if I was odd-looking, if I was stupid or smart. The only thing that mattered was that I was, for ANY reason, a good target. Bullies actually ruined my young life, thanks to victim-blaming, because, as far as the authorities (including psychologists) were concerned, I had to be doing something to deserve the maltreatment!

    I moved to the West Coast–and the problem was solved. It astounded me that people were nice to me, that I made friends easily. I had just been in the wrong community. The recovery has been slow, but the only ones to blame were the ones who were cruel to me. There was nothing I could have done, except remove myself from the area my tormentors were in. Changing oneself is not the answer.

    1. I had such a similar experience! I got bullied for being “fat” before ever being fat, just because in those kids’ minds “fat” was the worst thing you could be. And the single word stood for every difference they couldn’t articulate. When I moved to New York, I realized if I’d grown up there none of that bullying ever would have happened.

    2. Ziggy Blum posted: “as far as the authorities (including psychologists) were concerned, I had to be doing something to deserve the maltreatment!”

      My response: yes, especially since the authority in question was my own mother, who has always – to this day – chosen to believe anyone else instead of me. This is the same parent whom I had to beg to come back to my late husband’s memorial ceremony when his girlfriend, a poisonous and untrustworthy person, had sidled up to her and told her that I had told her that my mom would attack her on site. I had, of course, done no such thing, and had treated his girlfriend as if she were also his widow all the way along, including asking her if she would like to help plan the ritual. My mother believed her over me, just as she always does with anything and anyone else, and left with an extremely brusque goodbye, heading straight out the door in the first third of the concert. I had to defend myself for half an hour before she would deign to come back.

      Same person who instilled my body image issues bright and early in my life.

  6. Okay, yesterday I thought I’d seen it all with “Fat people are literally destroying the planet by putting a strain on the environment!” Just goes to show there’s always a “better” way to fat shame! 0_0

  7. I have one reason where it is ok for me that I control my weight to please another living being – that is, I want to ride my horse without causing her back pain. Of course I could ride a bigger horse that can carry more weight, but I just love this one. The same if a loved one had to lift me often to help me, perhaps I would try not to weight too much – well, as much as is possible, which it often isn’t.
    Apart from this, no one should tell me how I should look and what my weight should be so that I please them and don’t get shamed. And it’s great that you remind us of that all the time so that we don’t give away our lunch money

  8. I was bullied so relentlessly, in school and out of it, that I had to spend years and $$dough on therapy for C-PTSD simply to function. But, you know what? I wasn’t bullied for being fat–not once. Because back then I wasn’t.

    I was, however, bullied and sexually harassed for developing early. Perhaps I should have cut off my breasts….? Bullied for not being neurotypical–well, I could have just snapped my fingers and fixed that, silly me! I almost succumbed to being bullied for being smart, but in the end I decided not to deliberately get bad grades because I might be held back and have to spend another year with those scumbags.

  9. I’ll note that though I was fat as a child – not so fat that the doctor should have pushed a diet on my just before puberty, but still…I did lose the weight and by the time I got to high school was at least what could be considered a more average weight…but I was still badly bullied by people who never knew I had been called “fat” in the past. 😦 If anything, the overdieting and the rebound effect and then hanging around people who were not focused on Being Thin helped me a lot. I still think it’s interesting that the bullies still picked on me and it wasn’t weight-based!

  10. (Oh, and even if I was what would be considered “thin” I was also smart, so that’s a notable target for bullies.) 😦

  11. I really, really, really hate/detest/loathe the idea that we should change ourselves or do some action to avoid bullying. There’s this meme of sorts flying around the internet that insists we’ll never get rid of bullying, and then it proceeds to victim blame people for being bullied. Wtf kind of backwards logic is this? Of course we’ll never get rid of bullies with that kind of attitude, and blaming people for being treated like shit makes me want to break things

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