“Every weight loss program, no matter how positively it’s packaged, whispers to you that you’re not right. You’re not good enough. You’re unacceptable and you need to be fixed.”
― Kim Brittingham, Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large
Fat acceptance and body positivity for some is a hard journey. For some it comes suddenly, for some it can be a life time of work. Discovering the body positive movement saved me. It saved me from the years of self-loathing, the decimation of my self-esteem, and helped me re-discover myself. But it also made me appreciate how complex body issues can be, especially as a fat person whose body is highly politicized and reviled by society.
Social media has provided a means for those in marginalised bodies to share and connect where mainstream media has deeply lacked. Navigating this can be a minefield, however.
Recently on my Instagram I found myself coming across many accounts using body positive tags, and importantly tags created by fat people, on weight loss posts and I’ll be honest, it got my heckles up.
It’s a hotly debated issue whether you can actively lose weight and claim to be body positive. I feel that the two are not mutually exclusive per se; you can advocate for people to be respected and loved regardless of size. But I draw the line at using fat positive tags for weight loss posts. I also resent how, when using said tags, there is then the use of health as justification for this.
Many people explain that they are losing weight to be “healthier”. This is a fatphobic statement, suggesting that fatness equates to poor health. It is assumptive and wrong. Thinness does not equal health. You don’t need to lose weight to be “healthier”, nor do you need to lose weight to work on your fitness. There are plenty of fat people in the world who involved exercise and fitness regimes into their lifestyles. There is a difference between making healthy goals; i,e walking more, drinking more water, taking more supplements to “I want to be healthy so I will lose weight.”
Health is different for every individual and there are many factors to consider, such as mental health and chronic illness. Using the size of your body as a framework for something as complex and individual as health is ill-considered.
Personally, if people want to lose weight, that is entirely their choice. But when you are actively participating in fat positive/body positive spaces I think you need to examine your reasons why you choose to participate in diet culture, a culture that actively oppresses fat people; a culture that is used to humiliate and degrade fat people and to eradicate fatness. Consider that assumptions about health in relation to fatness don’t come from nowhere and that we can all be influenced by a fatphobic society.
There’s an increasing attitude within the BOPO/fat-posi movement that when people make criticisms of diet talk within these spaces they are somehow being “negative” or insensitive to other people’s personal journeys or lifestyle choices. Critiquing the content within our own movements is not negative, it’s necessary. We do not move and grow if we can’t examine our own contributions and the ideals we uphold. Weight loss may be a choice but it is unfair to ask these spaces to reassure people that they can stay comfortable in their “choice” to uphold fatphobic ideals.
It’s unfair to use fat positive media circles to promote yourself, while systematically upholding the idea that thinness is the standard for beauty and health.