For the past two years, I have worked in Online Marketing for a company that sells fast-moving consumer goods (grocery foods and small gifts, mostly). Every January, my company pushes so-called ‘diet’ items, and I am normally one of the people who does the copywriting for the relevant promotions. As my fingers tap out words like ‘detox’, ‘healthy’, and ‘new start,’ I feel a small part of my soul die, because I know that the work I am doing encourages people to partake in that social convention I have grown to hate with the hate-iest of hates: weight-loss New Year’s resolutions.
Weight loss resolutions are a great step backward into the self-hate territory that I, as a fat activist and unapologetic lover of all bodies, am actively trying to pull as many people out of as possible. It seems that the more New Year’s resolutions I hear about, the more annoyed I get about the prominence of weight loss as a New Year’s resolution ‘theme.’
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Weight loss New Year’s resolutions are everywhere. Some people will voice their desire blatantly (‘I want to lose weight’, ‘I want to drop two dress sizes’, ‘I want to be the same size I was when I was sixteen’, etc.), while others will hide their desire under a health/exercise veil that makes it seem less vain (‘I want to start a healthy eating plan’, ‘I want to switch to wholemeal,’ ‘I want to go to the gym three times a week,’ etc.). Although the second set of examples sounds gentler, a lot of the time there is an underlying desire to lose weight that is the primary motivator, so it still falls under the weight loss New Year’s resolution umbrella.
And I get it. I am a lifelong fat person, and I have only been involved in fat activism for five years. Before fat activism came along I was a committed partaker in the yearly Weight Loss Resolution ritual that would take place among my family and friendship circles. January would roll around and we would all wave away the dessert menus, lay out our gym gear every night before bed, and hang our ‘motivational’ size smaller-than-we-are-now dresses on our doors, so they would be one of the first things we saw when we woke up. We were committed and motivated. That year was going to be the year where we finally reached our goal weights.
But then, as the weeks rolled on, our motivation would start to wane. We had started off expecting amazing visual results on par with what the gyms, the weight loss groups, and the health food shops were constantly promoting, but the results we were getting were nowhere near as amazing as what we had hoped for. So we gave up, gradually allowing the dessert menus to return, the gym gear to retreat to the back of the wardrobe, and the size smaller-than-you-are-now dress to disappear into the bottom drawer, where it would stay until the next year when the Weight Loss Resolution ritual started anew.
As I say, I used to resolve to lose weight every year for years, ultimately failing each and every time. Now that I am out of that cycle, I watch my friends and family as they continue to go through it, and I have noticed something peculiar. Every time somebody is unsuccessful in losing weight, they will always blame themselves. Or if not themselves, then perhaps their busy schedules, or their dislike of exercise, or their sinful enjoyment of foods that don’t take more calories to consume than the food itself provides. It never occurs to them that it is the diet, rather than them, that has failed. It never enters their mind that the blame should be placed on a society that tells them that they are not good enough as they are, and the only way that they can become good enough is to lose weight.
I think it is that, more than anything else, that makes me hate weight loss New Year’s resolutions. As awful as the resolutions themselves are, they are really just a piece of the bigger pie that is a fat-body-hating society. Weight loss resolutions are another instance where amazing people with so much talent, personality, and all that other good stuff, are made to see themselves as some sort of lesser being for literally NO OTHER REASON but their not-thin bodies. How messed up is it that the world in which we live places more importance on thinness and beauty than (just to name a few other abstract traits) intelligence, wisdom, kindness, loyalty, skill, adaptability, happiness, strength, bravery, or creativity? How messed up is it that our society would rather that we hate ourselves and try desperately to become a different, ‘better’ (ie. thinner), person, than that we love and appreciate ourselves the way we are?
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Last year I resolved to learn how to dance. I did that not because I thought knowing how to dance would make me a better person, or because I hated myself as a non-dancer, or even because I thought dancing would help me lose weight (spoiler alert: it didn’t). I learned to dance for one reason and one reason alone: because I wanted to learn how to dance. The more classes I attended, the more I learned and the better I became as a dancer. I could see the results of my efforts every week, and I had the opportunity to love and appreciate my body for what it was capable of as I danced. Rather than becoming a new me, learning to dance helped me to love the me that I already am, and that has made me far happier than any weight loss successes ever have.
Good luck to you all, and have the amazing 2017 that you deserve to have right now, just as you are. The you that you are right now is perfect, after all.
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[Headline Image Description: A black and white photo of a person wearing a black tank top and black bottoms. They are bent backward with their arms outstretched. You cannot see their face but they have smoke coming from their mouths.
Photo Credit: Nathan Onions]