The desire for weight loss is never about weight loss
When a person is craving weight loss, they are never craving weight loss. Weight loss in and of itself is meaningless. A person tends to crave weight loss because they believe that lost weight will change their life in some way. Hirschmann and Munter talk about this in their book When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, saying that women tend to fall into the mistaken belief that you change your body and you change your life. Kate Harding pointed out in her landmark post on The Fantasy of Being Thin that we don’t imagine ourselves just as a thinner person, but as a different person. When a person wants to lose weight, they want something else to change.
Maybe the person wants to lose weight because they want to feel better. Sickness and lack of energy are never fun. We have been told so often that the only way to feel better is to lose weight. Yet, many individuals in our community have found that they feel better when practicing HAES, whether or not they lose weight. And, people who practice HAES tend to stick with those healthy behaviors, while people who diet don’t tend to stick with it.
Maybe the person wants to lose weight because they believe they cannot have a relationship without it. What if your ideal partner likes bodies just like yours? People exist who like plump bodies, and people exist who like big fat bodies. For me, that belief that my body had to be a certain size for me to be lovable led me to two very nasty situations. First, I tended to get into abusive relationships as they used my insecurity to control me. Later, I could stay stuck being single. I didn’t have a relationship because of my body, not because I wasn’t ready for one. If your ideal relationship hasn’t come your way, then I suggest you think about these things: are you ready for a relationship? Are you open to a relationship? Does something need healed in your life before you can be in a healthy relationship? Do you like and love yourself? These kinds of questions are so much more important than body size when it comes to healthy relationships.
Maybe the person wants to lose weight because they want to be more accepted by society. Now, this is the hard one. On the surface, it is easier to change our bodies than to change society. Yet, to reach true acceptance we must change society (especially since changing our body seldom works in the long run). I know that some people just want the fat hate to end and don’t have the energy to fight it. I understand this desire for weight loss more than any other. However, I know that focusing on weight loss usually leaves the person with lower self-esteem in the end. A fat person who attempts weight loss to please society is more likely to believe they deserve the treatment they receive. Add that to the feelings of failure that dieting usually brings and these beliefs can have a devastating effect on self-esteem. I have found that the less I believe that I deserve mistreatment, the less mistreatment I get. So, changing our own attitudes about the fat body is the first step. Secondly, I have found that some kind of activism helps me deal with this lack of acceptance. It may be as small as telling a good friend about FA, but activism helps me feel less powerless when facing society’s fat hate. Besides, I firmly believe we will succeed in eradicating fat hate one day.
These three examples are just a few of the reasons people want to lose weight. The weight loss is always a means to end, however. And, the thing about weight loss, the individual can get stuck in trying to achieve weight lose weight and loses sight why they were trying to lose weight in the first place. Attempting weight loss is a great way to keep us spinning our wheels and going nowhere.
So, the next time you catch yourself thinking “I want a [smaller, different, thinner, etc.] body,” I encourage you to ask yourself, “What is it I really want?” Once you figure that out, focus on getting your true desires, rather than getting bogged down in weight loss. You are more likely to succeed in the end.
And, in other news, I have sent my first book off to my publisher, Pearlsong Press. Yay! Yay! Yay! The book, called Talking Fat, is about the rhetoric surrounding the push to eliminate obesity. It should be out before the end of the year. I will keep you updated as to its progress.