One of the fashion bloggers I enjoy following is Corissa of Fat Girl Flow. I love her style and “I’m fat and don’t give a fuck what anyone says about it” attitude.
Recently she posted a video where she stated “Do not look me in the eye, tell me you are on Weight Watchers and then, in the next breath, tell me that you are body positive”. This was addressed to bloggers and others who claim to be body positive yet have intentionally lost weight or are currently in the process.
What a brouhaha that started. People… mostly women… vehemently asserted that they indeed love their bodies and/or are body positive. Usually, though, those claims were followed by some version of “but I need to lose weight for my health”. Others praised Weight Watchers as a company that promotes a healthy lifestyle.
I consider myself body positive and completely agree with Corissa’s statement. It was long journey to get to this level of acceptance, self-love and positivity after decades of hating my body and engaging in the weight loss/gain cycle.
But WHY is weight loss not body positive? Let’s examine that, shall we?
The body positive movement was started in response to the notion that only certain body types are ideal. This notion leads to negative body image which is linked to poor self-care, disordered eating or other harmful methods and behaviors to attain that “ideal”.
Body positivity, as outlined in the Be Body Positive Model, encourages us to accept and love our bodies exactly as they are and respect that people come in all shapes/sizes/weights. Instead of changing our bodies, the movement emphasizes changing the relationship with our body and adopting a weight neutral approach to health and self-care.
OK, so what does being “weight neutral” mean? It means acknowledging that our health doesn’t depend upon, and can’t be assumed by, the numbers on a scale or the size of one’s body. Also, there is no disease that is caused by being fat. Slender people also suffer from issues like hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol, vascular disease, etc.
In other words, intentional weight loss by methods such as surgery, weight loss products or eating less than your body requires won’t guarantee improvement in your health. Treating your body in that way is neither loving nor positive.
What IS positive: making changes or adopting habits to help improve health and fitness (IF that is your choice because pursuing good health is not an obligation) such as changing the foods you eat (like whole foods in favor of processed foods) or incorporating exercise for pain relief, better mobility or stamina. There may be weight loss as a result; then again there may not be. And that’s OK because there’s no expectation of it.
Do you understand the difference?
I’ll use myself as an example. The photo on the left is from May; the one on the right is from a couple of weeks ago. There’s no difference but a bit of a tan, right? Except that, mostly due to eating less carbohydrates to reduce my blood glucose, my A1C level (which measures average glucose over 3 months) dropped from 12.2 to 7.2 and cholesterol went from 203 to 184. Also my liver enzymes, AST and ALT respectively, dropped from 81 and 105 to 22 and 27. However, my endocrinologist wasn’t pleased with the weight loss or, rather, the lack of it… ah well.I love my body too much to restrict the calories it needs on a daily basis. I can improve my health without weight loss.
It’s easy to understand how some people can be led to believe that intentional weight loss is good and healthy especially when many companies co opt body positivity to promote weight loss products or services. Like Kellogg’s Special K whose previous commercial used a scale that, instead of numbers, flashed inspirational words like “confidence”, “sass” and “joy” (a brazen copy of fat acceeptance activist Marilyn Wann’s “Yay Scale”) to help women feel better about themselves yet ended with the tag line “What will you gain when you lose?”
Then there’s Weight Watchers whose very name says the focus is on weight. Weigh-in’s are used to track progress. Instead of members learning to pay attention to their bodies’ hunger and fullness cues, they count “points”. Once the day’s points are used, they can’t eat any more even if their body is asking for more food. That doesn’t sound very positive or loving.
And the kicker is that Weight Watchers doesn’t work and they know it… in fact they count on it. According to New York Magazine:
It’s brilliant not because Weight Watchers works but because it doesn’t. It’s the perfect business model. People give Weight Watchers the credit when they lose weight. Then they regain the weight and blame themselves. This sets them up to join Weight Watchers all over again, and they do.
The company brags about this to its shareholders. According to Weight Watchers’ business plan from 2001 (which I viewed in hard-copy form at a library), its members have ‘demonstrated a consistent pattern of repeat enrollment over a number of years,’ signing up for an average of four separate program cycles… Former CFO Richard Samber explained that the reason the business was successful was because the majority of customers regained the weight they lost, or as he put it: ‘That’s where your business comes from.’
But what about those aforementioned studies showing Weight Watchers works? There’s an important catch: While most dieters do lose weight in the short term, they gain most of it back in the long term. In the one study that followed up with Weight Watchers dieters over a longer-term span, the average dieter had already regained six of the 12 pounds they had lost when researchers checked in two years later. This general pattern is true no matter the diet, and the weight regain only continues in the years that follow. My lab reviewed 60 years of clinical trials of diets, and we found that people lose an average of 10 percent of their starting weight on most diets but within two to five years have gained back all but about two pounds.
Why, then, subject yourself to that failure? That doesn’t sound loving or positive.
HOWEVER, if you wish to embark on intentional weight loss then it is your choice. Just, please, don’t say you’re body positive. You can’t have it both ways.