Health will look different for everybody. It is important to focus on the way our bodies feel rather than feed into numbers on a scale or unrealistic ideals of bodies on social media.
When the opportunity to write about intentional weight loss was cleared by my editor, I suddenly became reluctant to put words on paper. Even though I had been familiar with the subject matter, these reluctant feelings came as a result of what I knew people would assume. When a fat person disparages intentional weight loss, it is because they are not happy with themselves personally. It is because they also wish to lose weight and become accustomed to the glorious feeling of being thin but unfortunately for lack of willpower, cannot. These are the beliefs that many people hold. Society punishes people for being fat and then gestures at formerly fat people, now relieved to not be facing the stigmas of fatphobia as good examples. “Tina lost weight, and now she is perfectly happy. When will you?”
Apart from the exasperating and lingering stigma associated with fatness, most things in life that bring joy are designed for thin people: pretty clothes, amusement parks, restaurant booths and much more. Both the little things and even the more important ones. So it comes as no surprise that a lot of fat people feel the need to lose weight. They set it as a salient life goal, so as to fully enjoy a lot of the finer things in life. After they achieve this goal, a familiar animosity towards other fat people begins to set in. This is mostly because the fat person reminds the person who has managed to lose considerable weight of what their life was like prior to their weight loss. The formerly fat person views the fat body as a threat, a direct fallacy to the world they have built for themselves, one where they are thin and joyful.
During the heat of the 2020 lockdown, I experienced someone close to me go through drastic weight loss, dropping less than five sizes from their initial weight. I completely understood why they had made this choice. As I mentioned prior, weight loss is usually viewed as a key to happiness and fat people are thought to naturally hate on formerly fat people because they aspire to be like them and are jealous of their progress. The truth is that if fat people express animosity towards people who lose weight, it is usually in response to the flagrant anti-fatness exhibited by said formerly fat people. Even though I had loved my friend through the entire process, there was an expectation that I would be bitter as a result of her weight loss. I wasn't. After her arduous process of dropping a considerable number of pounds, she created an accountability group for other people in order to also be directed on how to lose weight.
A few months later, I saw a screenshot from one of the old members of the group. This screenshot was posted on close friends, a feature on Instagram that allows people to share photos or videos with a select group of users. In the screenshot, some of the people in the accountability group had complained about experiencing intense hunger, most likely exacerbated as a result of the heavy ‘diet’ regimen. Underneath, I see my friend informing the group that she has essentially told them what to do already. “If you like, you can remain fat if you want to” ends the conversation. To say the least, I was shocked. Was this how she viewed me and other fat people as a result of her weight loss? I eventually confronted her and was promptly met with tears and lies. She attempted to turn the situation on its head, making excuses after another.
Intentional weight loss is always framed as beneficial for fat people. The weight loss industry is a billion-dollar industry. In the U.S. alone, the total weight loss market grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to $72.7 billion. The total market is forecast to grow 2.6% annually through 2023. Globally, the extent to which weight loss products have gone in the market is nothing short of mind-blowing. The total market is forecast to grow 2.6% annually through 2023. In order for this market to survive, fat people must hate their bodies. The weight loss industry seizes to exist if the stigma against fat people does not exist. Medical society, gym culture, food companies and all other facets of the weight loss industry work hand-in-hand to ensure that the industry stays alive and well.
Unfortunately, weight loss is even more damaging for relapses. Much like a drug addiction that is badly treated, many people who lose weight tend to gain the weight right back or even add on more. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published in 2005, only 20% of people are successful at long-term weight loss maintenance. This is mainly because of the ways in which weight loss is encouraged. Severe gym regimens, starvation disguised as dieting and finally, eating disorders which cause people to have unrealistic expectations of their bodies and push these expectations on the people who come to them for guidance. For example, it is a common belief that going to the gym must result in some form of weight loss. On the contrary, not all people who exercise regularly are thin or small. Exercise is meant to be geared towards feeling stronger, not necessarily looking ‘better’. As a result of strict rules of conventional attractiveness, many people view themselves as less than if they are not losing rapid amounts of weight within a few days of dieting and exercise. The popular keto diet has largely been debunked as being unhealthy and harmful, but there are so many people who still engage in this diet because of what they have been told about its success regarding weight loss.
Originally, the keto diet was brought up primarily to manage seizures in children with epilepsy. Now, the diet is being used as a format for quick weight loss. When weight loss surgery gained popularity in the U.S., many doctors recommended them; even for children because society, and by extension, the medical field cannot stand the idea of fat bodies. For some people, the surgery lessened weight gain but brought about more issues overall. The truth is, health will look different for everybody. It is important to focus on the way our bodies feel rather than feed into numbers on a scale or unrealistic ideals of bodies on social media. Some people will be bigger than others, some people will always have chronic pain which means they will never be society’s definition of ‘healthy’. We are all still deserving of love, care and respect.