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Switching Teams

November 28, 2011

As I was in the midst of getting my Facebook fix the other day, I stopped by to visit one of my group pages. It is a Fat Acceptance/Size Acceptance group. One of the members had posted a comment like, “Lost another *** pounds!  Only *** more pounds to go!” Immediately, someone responded, “Congratulations! Good for you!” My eyebrows immediately ruffled, and my forehead creased with annoyance. Not only was this person touting her diet, but another person was congratulating her for it! The irony was not lost on me.

I don’t begrudge anyone the right to lose weight if they want. Go for it, if that’s what you want to do. But is a Size Acceptance page the appropriate place to post your diet updates? I’ve noticed this puzzling hypocrisy in Fat Acceptance/Size Acceptance groups more than once.

If you truly love yourself for who you are, why are you on a diet? And why would you proclaim yourself to be part of a group who love themselves unconditionally? Are you just a temporary member, soaking up the love and camaraderie until you can become a member of the skinny group?

It reminds me of the cliques in high school. If, like me, you were fat in high school, do you remember hanging out with the so-called nerds and watching all the “cool kids” from a distance? Then, if one of the so-called cool kids suddenly took a liking to you, or showed any inclination towards friendship, did you ditch your “uncool” friends without hesitation because you were so happy to finally be accepted into the cool group?

Due to yo-yo dieting, many fat people are serial allegiance-changers. We’ve seen enough fat celebrities shilling diet programs, throwing off their voluminous caftans to expose their newly thin bodies, striking a pose in their hot new mini dress, telling us that we can do it too — we no longer have to be a member of the fat group! Then, when their fat returns, they are back to our fat-loving arms, saying they have made peace with their bodies and are tired of the prejudicial, thincentric pressure society puts on us (until the next diet).

Most of us believe that life would be so much easier if we were thin. And you know what? It probably would be. But we are who we are, and no amount of dieting is going to change that. If you have been fat for most of your life, it has become a fundamental part of your psyche. When I went on a starvation diet many years ago, and got myself under 200 pounds for the first time in decades, I loved the way I looked but I hated the way I felt. I couldn’t escape the unease I felt when I looked in the mirror and realized that I just didn’t feel like me. It was quite bizarre, and I couldn’t figure out why I felt the way I did, but there it was.

Does this mean that all fat people are “doomed” to be fat? Does it mean that we shouldn’t lose weight, or that we’re turning our backs on our fat friends if we do? Of course not. There is an amazing thing that all human beings have called CHOICE. You, and only you, can decide if you’re okay with the body you have or if you’re not okay with it. It is a very personal choice that all of us have to make, and nobody has the right to tell us whether our choice is right or wrong.

Be consistent, though, because you really look like an ass if you keep waffling back and forth. And if you decide that you’re not okay with it, you might want to think about sharing your so-called dieting success with people who don’t see it as a success, but just another attempt to fit in with the cool kids.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2011 10:05 am

    As irritating as it is, it totally makes sense. Self-acceptance is hard, especially in this environment, and just as our culture nurtures the weight cycling habits of chronic dieters, it also nurtures the self-love/self-loathing cycle of those who seek shelter from the storm of fat hatred. I no more fault people for returning to dieting time and again than I do people who return to FA/SA time and again. Both are defense mechanisms in a society that says your value hinges upon your ability to get, and stay, thin. When you succeed, then you take the love where you find it (which is pretty much everywhere), and when the diet inevitably fails you do the exact same thing. I think the problem is those who never actually resolve their self-esteem issues, but are, instead, buoyed by the compliments and support of others. But that can only take you so far.

    Significant, long-term weight loss requires an almost draconian dedication to exercise and caloric restriction, which is damn near impossible for the vast majority. Significant, long-term self-love requires an epic amount of soul-searching, root-clearing and paradigm-busting. If you don’t resolve the source of your self-esteem issues, they can be quelled temporarily by the kindness of others, but they will resurface. Both weight loss and self-esteem require significant work, but one is a physical dedication (not that physical dedication equals long-term weight loss, but that your best chance to succeed requires a commitment to perpetual hunger), while the other is psychological. Either way, it ain’t easy.

    Anyway, excellent observations, Gabriela,

    Peace,
    Shannon

    • vesta44 permalink
      November 28, 2011 11:05 am

      While the psychological work isn’t easy, I’m betting that the people who do the work are more successful with improving their self-esteem and loving their bodies than the repeat dieters are at keeping the weight off. I think the success rate would be higher than the 3 – 5% of dieters who succeed at long-term weight loss/maintenance.
      And if dieters put just half of the effort they expend on weight loss into improving their self-esteem and loving themselves, I think they’d find they no longer need to change their bodies to find acceptance from the rest of the world.

      • November 28, 2011 12:14 pm

        I totally agree, Vesta. Without doing the necessary introspection and examining the true motivation for weight loss, it is a total waste of time. The only chance anyone has of sustaining serious weight loss is to be 100% committed and at peace with the reason for doing so. Otherwise … forget it.

  2. Karen permalink
    November 28, 2011 10:40 am

    I do agree with most of what your saying,a in that comfort with weight is a personal issue. I also tink the complexity of why one person is healthy or feels unhealthy being”overweight”is overlooked often. I want to also add that healthy eating is a long term, lifestyle choice not diets. If your body responds by losing weight then thats what needs to happen. But I believe it comes from an internal change not because of society

  3. November 28, 2011 11:00 am

    I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and I am infertile because of it. If I ever want to improve my health and get pregnant without the use of medication, I need to lose some weight. I am a proud BBW, a size acceptance activist, and a feminist but I also don’t believe in pumping myself full of drugs when weight loss itself could accomplish the same thing drugs would. Maybe the person who was posting about her weight loss on Facebook decided to lose weight because her knees were in terrible shape and in order for her to properly love her body she decided to lose some weight to better care for her knees. To assume that all women who have decided to lose weight are simply doing so because they are conforming to a societal ideal of beauty is to ignore the fact that some of these women might have legitimate health reasons to do so. Size acceptance means accepting whatever size a person is chooses to be. The key there is choice and choosing to shed a few pounds to improve their health should not be dismissed or labelled as switching teams.

    • November 28, 2011 11:45 am

      osufem,
      My wife was told she was infertile due to PCOS and that unless she either lost weight or used Metformin, she would be unable to conceive. Five years later, we have two little girls to show for it. PCOS is complicated and does not affect all women the same way. Well-Rounded Mama covers the issue in great detail here.

      That being said, fighting assumptions with assumptions doesn’t help either. Gabriela did not disclose whether she was aware of the motives behind the Facebook weight loss post. I think intentions matter, but what Gabriela was observing (weight loss discussions on an SA group) are legitimate targets for criticism. Losing weight for health reasons is totally legitimate in terms of motivation, although HAES advocates would challenge the idea that significant weight loss is necessary to improve health.

      Fierce Fatties completely supports the concept of bodily autonomy and your right to choose what is right for your body, but the phenomenon Gabriela is commenting on is common in Size Acceptance circles. For example, No Celery Please once wrote about a former SA advocate, Vanessa Reese, suddenly jumped ship and began hawking her weight loss strategy. People like Vanessa (as well as Mariah Carey on her new Jenny Craig endorsement) cite health as the reason for their weight loss, but, again, there are plenty of Size Acceptance resources that explain how weight loss is not a “cure” for poor health, and that the weight loss itself frequently exacerbates those health issues upon the weight gain side of the cycle, rather than resolves them.

      I cannot speak for Gabriela, but I believe she is commenting on that which cannot be objectively ascertained: intention. Her misgivings are with those whose intentions are more rooted in vanity and weak arguments for health. Whether her commentary applies to any particular person would depend upon that person’s admission of intention.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • November 28, 2011 1:06 pm

      With all due respect, osufem, I have come to the conclusion that losing weight “for one’s health” is often just another way of shaming people simply because of their body type.

      Arthritis of the knee, for example, is one of the favourite “reasons” put forth for losing weight. Anyone who has severe arthritis knows how difficult exercise can be–in particular exercise that is seen as conducive to weight loss. Very few people are steered in the direction of exercises to help strengthen the muscles that surround and support the knee joint. Why? Because these exercises don’t make you sweat and don’t lead to weight loss. Yet, with stronger muscles, even those of us with arthritis can usually become more physically active, which in itself can lead to better health outcomes–though not necessarily weight loss.

      As long as we continue to look to weight loss as the primary way to improve our health, we will be no healthier and in fact, risk becoming sicker. If, on the other hand, we focus on the many options that exist to improve health, rather than the usually temporary, frustrating and psychologically and physically unhealthy option of weight loss, many of us will find ourselves much, much healthier–again, with or without a change in weight.

      • November 28, 2011 1:07 pm

        The grammar police request that the word “would” be changed to “will” on the third last line of my comment above.

      • November 28, 2011 1:13 pm

        I have not been shamed into losing weight. I have done lots of research into PCOS and I have come to my own conclusion. I can either take medications or I can lose weight. If I choose to lose weight as an alternative to medication then my choice should not be dismissed as conforming to societal pressure. It should be respected as a personal choice. Just because a fat person has made the decision to lose weight doesn’t mean they’re saying ALL fat people should lose weight. They’re just saying that for their circumstance, they feel weight loss would be beneficial for their health. I agree with you that shaming a person into losing weight is wrong but shaming a person FOR losing weight is equally wrong.

        • November 28, 2011 1:28 pm

          Just to add here … although I was never diagnosed with PCOS, I believe I suffered from it because until I had my daughter (!!!) my periods were always extremely irregular. Yet in spite of those irregular periods, I got pregnant with my daughter (without “trying”), and I was over 250 lbs. at the time. So PCOS is not a death sentence as far as pregnancy is concerned. Not that I’m trying to discourage you from losing weight to increase your chances of pregnancy … I’m just sayin’, from my own personal experience.

          • November 28, 2011 1:37 pm

            I agree with you, it IS possible to get pregnant with PCOS for SOME women. PCOS manifests itself so differently from woman to woman that what one woman experiences another woman won’t. For example, a lot of women with PCOS get acne yet I have always been blessed with clear skin. I currently weigh 287 lbs and have been charting my waking temperatures for a year. A year ago I weighed 348 lbs and as I have been losing weight, I can see my fertility slowly improving by looking at my temperature charts and finally experiencing a regular menstruation. I believe, that for me, weight loss is helping me to inch towards the possibility of one day getting pregnant. That is the one and only reason I am choosing to lose weight. I love my fat body and I truly believe that everyone, regardless of what they weigh, should love their body. I agree with your comment below that maybe a size acceptance forum was not the best place to post weight loss comments. The poster might need to have a think in the future about where to share her weight loss news. Your blog post just really struck me personally because of my efforts to lose weight while still considering myself to be a size acceptance activist.

        • November 28, 2011 2:31 pm

          osufem,
          I agree absolutely that your decision to lose weight is not a comment on what other fatties should do, nor is it a reflection of societal pressure come to bear, particularly if you’ve done your research. My question would be is weight loss the deciding factor is it improved fitness and nutrition, which can lead to weight loss? Because the underlying issue is insulin resistance, so wouldn’t the goal be to improve insulin resistance? If so, then including more aerobic and strength training exercises have been shown to improve insulin resistance regardless of weight loss. It’s just that people, doctors especially, prescribe weight loss as short-hand for increased exercise and better nutrition, when the three things are mutually exclusive.

          Peace,
          Shannon

  4. November 28, 2011 12:01 pm

    Shannon, thanks for your comments in defense of my motivation for this post. Actually, I have no idea whether the person’s weight loss motivation had anything to do with health — as far as I know, I didn’t see her mention anything regarding her decision to lose weight for health reasons. I got the feeling it was strictly due to the pressure every woman feels to be smaller than they are. It’s that bikini carrot dangling in front of us again: some of us succumb to it time and again, others recognize it for the bullshit it is and dismiss it. Anyway, even if her intent with the weight loss was for health reasons, as Shannon said, is a size acceptance page the proper place to discuss it? If it was a health-related issue, there are plenty of groups on Facebook that deal with everything from PCOS to whatever. Why not discuss it there? I just found it extremely irritating and hypocritical, and what was even worse was that nobody seemed to notice or mind it. I don’t get that. I’m not against anyone losing weight for whatever reason, but I’m not interested in hearing them talk about it either. And how can we be expected to be taken seriously as a group fighting for the cause of size acceptance if some of us seem so fickle about it? In order to benefit a cause you believe in, you HAVE TO BELIEVE IN IT. Not just some of the time, all of the time. Otherwise people will see through you for the poser you are, and that just sets the whole size acceptance cause backwards again. We have to keep moving forward and making progress … not going back and forth endlessly.

  5. MrsS permalink
    November 28, 2011 3:17 pm

    Roundgirlrocks, did you express your feelings about that type of message on the Fat Acceptance/Size Acceptance group page? Perhaps there were other FA/SA readers who did not agree but perhaps were too timid (or not fierce?) to express an opinion to the contrary.

    • Mulberry permalink
      November 28, 2011 5:16 pm

      I agree with MrsS here – I would like to see Gabriela’s response to the comment, and how Gabriela’s response was received. A size acceptance board is really a poor choice of places to post about one’s diet. Whatever the reason for weight loss, I’m certain there are scores, if not hundreds, of places which would be more appropriate.
      Karen, if your body responded to healthy eating and exercise by gaining weight, would you also agree that’s what needs to happen? (I would, but nobody’s asking me.)

    • vesta44 permalink
      November 28, 2011 6:06 pm

      Mrs S – I’ve seen this kind of thing on Facebook Size Acceptance pages before. People post about their diets and losing weight, how much they’ve lost, how much they have yet to lose, etc. They’ve gotten all kinds of congratulations on what they’re doing. I’ve posted that if congratulations are what they’re looking for, they should be posting their results in diet spaces, not in FA/SA spaces that are supposed to be safe spaces where those who are triggered by weight loss talk don’t have to see it and don’t have to be triggered by all the weight loss cheerleading that goes on. That dieting and diet talk aren’t all that conducive to body acceptance and self love. I’ve also said that while they’re successful at losing weight now, they should come back in 2 years or 5 years and let us all know how successful they’ve been at keeping the weight off. I’ve basically been told to STFU, that I’m raining on their parade, I don’t know what I’m talking about, that the ones talking about their diets and weight loss are going to be in that successful 3 to 5% that keep the weight off forever. So I doubt very much that any response to those kinds of comments will be well-received unless it’s a cheerleading response.

      • Mulberry permalink
        November 28, 2011 6:47 pm

        Vesta, Gabriela, others – is there any way that the rest of us can help you out here? I’m no fan of Facebook in general (not even a member and don’t plan to be), but I know how it feels to be the only one somewhere holding out for a reasonable view and getting shouted down by the slobbering hordes without a grain of sense to call their own. I sometimes tell them that dieting must have consumed their functioning brain cells if they are so helplessly unable to find a space on Facebook or elsewhere on the Internet in which to talk about their dieting. I mean, that’s like going on the internet and being unable to find trolls. It’s not even like you’re telling them to stop dieting; just to talk about it elsewhere.
        And people get offended by being called on their bad manners. Well, we’re allowed to get offended too, let’s show it.

  6. November 28, 2011 6:27 pm

    Do you think it could be possible for one to desire to lose weight and still love themselves?

    It probably wasn’t the best place for the post, but I can imagine size acceptance vs the desire to lose weight/the losing of the weight/the gaining it back thing can be really hard for someone for a while. I don’t think they should be shamed because they are still trying to figure it out. All they need is time.

  7. November 28, 2011 6:33 pm

    This incident occurred about a montha go. I did not respond to the comment at the time, and now I regret not doing so, although I know it would NOT have been received well. I’m sure I would have gotten lots of STFU type responses (as Vesta said she was subjected to) and people probably would have told me I was just jealous (which is ridiculous). At the time, I thought it would have been a waste of time to say anything, because one of the people involved is quite loopy (in my opinion) and I could foresee major drama if I had said anything, which I really didn’t feel like getting into. I don’t know her personally but I’ve seen enough of her posts to get the gist of her personality and let’s just say she seems like a ticking time bomb. But not to worry … I have seen this type of weight loss conversation frequently on size acceptance pages and the next time I do see any, I WILL comment … and report back to you about what happens.

  8. vesta44 permalink
    November 28, 2011 7:59 pm

    Mulberry – I learned my lesson. I don’t frequent FA/SA spaces that cheerlead dieting/dieters. I don’t have the time, energy, or patience to deal with people who think I don’t know what I’m talking about, especially when I explain that I’ve been there done that and lost/gained more weight than a lot of people will see in a lifetime of dieting. I do my blogging for fat acceptance, ignore the dieting talk when it pops up on my Facebook page, and ignore the trolls on my blog.
    Too many times when you tell someone who is gung-ho with the diet and weight loss adventure that you don’t want to hear about it in SA/FA spaces, that it’s triggering, or that you think they’ll end up in the 95%, it starts a fight. I’m done with fighting with people who are that convinced that they are going to be in the 5%. I won’t even tell them “I told you so” when they come back and say the diet failed them because, to tell you the truth, I’m past giving a rat’s ass about people who have drunk the diet Kool-Aid and are going to go back and diet again and again and again. Everyone has to learn from their own mistakes – you can tell them over and over and over what happened to you, but they aren’t going to believe it can happen to them, not until it does happen to them.
    Once they’ve figured out that diets don’t work, weight loss isn’t always permanent, then I’m willing to be there and be supportive for them when they need help working on self esteem and learning to love their bodies. But until they’re willing to admit that diets don’t always work, I can’t do shit for them – they have their fingers in their ears, going “la-la-la I can’t hear you.” And telling them to take their diet talk somewhere else, that it isn’t appropriate in SA/FA spaces, not a fight I’m willing to take on anymore.

  9. Mulberry permalink
    November 28, 2011 8:05 pm

    “people probably would have told me I was just jealous” – ask if that was the purpose of the message being posted in the SA/FA group rather than elsewhere.

    “I thought it would have been a waste of time to say anything” – you were probably right. If you were trying to convince Ms. Loopy of something, you were certainly right. Best to handle it by speaking reasonably and let the other person exhibit her foolishness in all its colorful glory.

    Ashley, I’m sure there are people going through those transitions of attitude which you mention, but the ones mentioned in these posts were clearly seeking pats on the back not thoughtful discussions. I’ve seen instances of thoughtful discussions and they’re generally not presented as diet brag.

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