It’s New Years – part of the Diet Industry Axis of Evil (which also includes “bikini season” and “the holidays are coming.”) That means that you can’t open your eyes without being assaulted by diet industry propaganda, and your Facebook feed will be chock full of people (who you likely thought knew better) starting (yet another) diet. Ugh.
Let’s start with the onslaught of propaganda. Unfortunately, people who are still duped by diet culture give the diet industry over $60 Billion a year (I don’t know about you, but I definitely used to be one of them!), and the diet industry isn’t shy or stingy about using that money to advertise. Add to that all of the gyms, health and wellness coaches, and anyone in any industry that is willing to jump on the weight loss bandwagon and we are all being bombarded with misinformation and false promises and all kinds of weight loss BS all the damn time.
This sucks for everyone who has managed to get off the diet roller coaster, and can be especially difficult for those who are new non-dieters. My best tip for dealing with this is to create a little saying that you use each time you come across something like this. Mine is “Hey, that’s bullshit!” but other people use sayings like “Nope!Nope!Nope!” or “Not this time, assholes.” Pick something that works for you and start to consciously respond to any and all diet/weightloss/fatshaming that you see, hear, or read with your new phrase. Soon enough, it will start to happen automatically and the messages will have less and less effect on you (except maybe to frustrate you.)
When it comes to our friends who are on diets, it can be particularly difficult. We know that any attempt at becoming thinner buys into and perpetuates a harmful fatphobic paradigm – and it’s perfectly reasonable to be angry about that, even while acknowledging that people are allowed to diet if they want to.
We also know that there is an almost certain chance that, even if they lose weight short term, they’ll gain it all back; with a better than average chance that they’ll gain back more than they lost. But in the meantime we may be subjected to any number of conversations, Facebook updates, tweets etc. and they’ll likely expect us to support them in their attempt to manipulate their body size based on their belief that a smaller body is somehow better.
First of all, each of us gets to decide how we want to handle this with each of our friends. That said, I want to remind you that we are under no obligation to support this behavior. As a queer woman, I would acknowledge that a queer friend is allowed to attempt reparative therapy, but I would not support it. As a fat woman I feel the same about a friend who is dieting.
Because I don’t tolerate people giving me their opinions about my health choices or body size unless I ask, I don’t give friends my opinion about their choices unless they ask. But I also draw the line at hearing/reading/talking about it. How I deal with it depends on the friend. Anyone on my FB who mentions dieting/weight loss gets unfollowed or blocked, anyone who tries to talk about their diet with me gets cut off. If I want to try to maintain a friendship, I’ll explain that they can do whatever they want with their body, but that I don’t participate in conversations that perpetuate fatphobia and engage in diet or weight loss talk. If they decide that they can’t be my friend under those rules then that’s fine.
Regardless of how you deal with this, I definitely suggest that you remain neutral about their weight loss. All of the compliments that they are getting now are going to really sting when they gain their weight back, so reminding them that you think that they are amazing at any size will be comforting later, and will keep you from perpetuating fatphobia. (I’ve got some tips for dealing with this situation here.)
Whatever you do, hold on to your hard-won victories over the diet industry, and remember that this season too shall pass,
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