Dancing with the Stars is back and I can’t decide if I’m more irritated about the gross misrepresentation of Contemporary Dance or the fact that it’s somehow become a weight loss show. Since this is a blog about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, let’s talk about the latter and I’ll save my dance rants for the More Cabaret Blog.
The new season includes Wynonna Judd. She is talking about getting healthy but many media outlets are discussing weight loss – “will she beat Kirstie Allies’ record?” (Like almost everyone, Kirstie has gained the weight back.)
It makes me remember Kirstie’s season where they blamed all of her initial issues with dancing on her weight, and credited her dancing improvement to her weight loss.
This is a thing that we do. Have you noticed the way that we talk about the “miracle” of weight loss? It slices, it dices, it improves health, fashion sense, penmanship, and ballroom dancing!
This happens because our society’s preoccupation with thin has elevated weight loss from what it is – a side effect that almost never lasts longterm – to this era’s snake oil. Weight loss happens in the short term for lots of people for lots of reasons. Weight loss hardly ever lasts long term for anybody – only a tiny percentage of people maintain weight loss, regardless of the circumstances that lead to the loss or what they do in the long term. And yet weight loss is constantly credited with all good things – forsaking all other reasons.
Someone starts practicing ballroom dancing 8 hours day 5 days a week with a professional ballroom dancer. This person loses weight and their dancing improves. Who in their right mind credits the weight loss, and not the 40 hours of week of practice, for improving the dancing?
It’s the same when someone makes changes to the amount of movement they do and what they eat. They lose weight and their health numbers improve. Why do we credit the weight loss, and not the change in habits, to the health improvement? Especially when research tells us that if the behavior changes are continued the weight will almost always come back but the health changes will remain.
Weight loss is a possible – but never certain – side effect, and typically a temporary one at that. We need to stop suggesting that it is a cause, because it confuses people and leads to the mistaken belief that things that lead to weight loss are the same as things that lead to health.
That is why thin people get told to eat a predominantly whole foods diet and a variety of food in moderation, and fat people are told to drink 5 reconstituted soy protein shakes a day.
It is why people measure the success of their movement program on weight loss, which is a shame since studies show that movement is fantastic for health, but lousy for weight loss.
It is why, when one of my blog readers returned to work after a bout of intense chemotherarpy, a co-worker actually thought it was ok to say “Wow, cancer looks great on you!”
It is why people glibly tell those dealing with anorexia – the most deadly mental illness – “I wish I could be just a little anorexic!”
It is what has created a “thin by any means necessary” mentality that makes me surprised that they don’t just hand out cocaine to fat people. Then I realize that the diet drugs that get pushed at us, that not only don’t work long term, but have the pesky habit of killing people, aren’t far off.
We have made weight loss a thing of legend – the magic bullet that we are supposed to believe solves everything (including social stigma, which is convenient for those who enjoy stigmatizing us and don’t want it pointed out that the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma and not for the stigmatized to change themselves.) Weight loss is not the magical solution to all the things, let’s stop pretending that it is anything other than a highly profitable pipe dream. Taking weight loss out of the health discussion removes a middle man that we don’t need, leaves room for conversations about actual health for those who are interested, and stops the mythologizing that lies to us and says that a side effect is a solution.
Then people can make their personal choice about how highly to prioritize their health and what path they want to try to get there within the realities of health. They can make their choices and let their weight settle where it will instead of desperately trying to create a side effect that may actually lead them away from their goals. Instead of forsaking everything for weight loss, let’s do ourselves a favor and forsake weight loss so that we can actually have a shot at everything.
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