I got an email from someone who had just completed another round of weight-cycling (losing weight, then gaining it back – often gaining back more than was lost.) They understood that there was almost no chance that they would become thin – especially since they have repeatedly failed.
They understood that the research is clear that the outcome they experienced – total weight regain – is the most common outcome of any weight loss attempt. They were clear that they can pursue health without pursuing weight loss (and understand that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control.) But they still want to lose weight both because they believe that they’ll have trouble finding a romantic partner, and because they just want life – shopping for clothes, flying in a plane, etc. – to be easier.
If you feel this way I want you to know that you are not alone, this is a very common experience. The fact that we understand that dieting almost never works (and that the chances of success can drop even lower on repeated attempts) doesn’t change the fact that we are a fat person, living in a fatphobic world.
Fatphobia, weight stigma, and weight-based oppression are not in our heads – they are real and fat people experience them constantly in everything from fashion, to travel, to the working out, to medical care and more. The more fat we are, the more oppression we experience and things are even worse for those who are part of multiple marginalized groups.
Still, in my experience, hanging on to the fantasy of being thin (and, at least subconsciously, the idea that I could move myself out of the oppressed group) kept me aligned with diet culture and made it impossible for me to move forward with my life.
One good way to start to take control of this might be thinking about some questions, like:
–Knowing that I will probably always be fat, do I want to believe that the problem is fatphobia, or do I want to believe that the problem is my body?
–Knowing that the most likely outcome is a lifetime of weight cycling, do I want to try to continue to fight my body in the hopes that I can someday be successful in appeasing my oppressors?
–Would I really want a partner who only wanted me if I was thin?
–If being thin wasn’t an option, what would I want to do moving forward?
It can also help to follow fat activists who are living their lives without pursuing weight loss as role models. (Here’s a great thread to get you started: https://twitter.com/SofieHagen/status/1235182106810208257)
For me, my life turned around when I realized that the problem is fatphobia and not my body. As a person who is both queer and fat, I think it helped that I could see parallels between the way that I’ve been treated as a queer person with the way that I’ve been treated as a fat person. This includes the suggestion that these states are changeable, and that the solution to the oppression I was experiencing was to change myself to make my oppressors happy. Completely rejecting these suggestions has made my life immeasurably better.
When I realized that the world is fucked up and my body is fine, it was liberating. I no longer pursue weight loss. I no longer have lists of things that I’m going to do/start/be once I get thin. I no longer participate in my own oppression. I choose to fight my oppressors rather than spending my time, energy, and money trying to submit to their demands.
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