Ah the joy of awkward conversations. This post is inspired by questions from several DWF readers about how to deal with people who want to lose weight when you are practicing Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size.
Now, what happens when we are involved with people making choices based on poor information? Should I be up in a dieter’s biz trying to inform them that they don’t need to shrink their body to have worth?
I have been there and I understand where you’re coming from. The first thing that I would suggest is checking your assumptions. Does the fact that you believe that it’s “poor information” mean that other people should have to believe that? While it can be really difficult to watch a friend make choices that we wouldn’t make, I think that the first step in having our choices respected is to respect the choices of others (as long as those choices don’t infringe on the civil rights of others of course.)
When I’m struggling with keeping my opinions to myself it sometimes helps me to remember that if I tell someone that I know better than them what they should be doing with their body – then I’m doing the exact same thing that I complain about people doing to me. People who tell me that I need to lose weight can be well intentioned and think that I’m working from poor information. They are allowed to think that but I want them to keep that to themselves, so I do the same.
That said, even though people are allowed to choose dieting/weight loss etc. for whatever reasons they believe to be true, it’s perfectly ok to have spaces where diet and weight loss talk are not welcome. If people are engaging in diet talk in a Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size space that I manage then trust that I will be deleting that.
How about a FA blogger who proudly proclaims their weight loss in the name of health, and hopes to diet their body out of plus-sized clothing soon? Is it appropriate then?
I feel your pain on this one. I know so many people (myself included many years ago) who went down a bad road with dieting using the justification that it was “for health reasons“. But I have to remember that my experience is not everyone’s experience and I can’t extrapolate it to everyone else.
Although it can feel like a major blow when this happens publicly (especially if it comes off as a publicity stunt *cough* Jess Weiner *cough*) all we can do is move on with our own lives.
How do you deal with people who tell you about their weight loss and how happy they are?
When people tell me how excited they are about their weight loss it’s tricky because I know that there is an extremely high chance that they will gain the weight back. I don’t want to say something like “you look so great!” (even though that’s what they might want to hear) because I fear that it makes it sound like I thought they looked bad before, and it’s doubly awkward if they end up looking that way again. So I usually say nothing, or say something to the effect of “size doesn’t matter.” While people are allowed to buy into the idea of weight loss as a good thing for whatever reason, we aren’t obligated to do the same.
I think that debate is an important part of HAES and FA movements, but when it comes to dealing with people’s personal choices there are more subtle things that I can do that are often effective. Doing things like Talking about the Health at Every Size option whenever people are talking about diets. When people are body snarking, you can talk about how much you love and appreciate your body. Work it into the conversation and it will become an invitation for people to talk to you about it. Just like I don’t think that people hate themselves healthy, I also don’t think that you can argue them into loving themselves. I find that often when people want to fight with me about the validity of the HAES option, the entire thing is diffused because they want me to argue that my choices are better than theirs, but the only thing I’m arguing for is that we both have the right to make the choices that we think are best for us. So if they choose dieting and I choose HAES then that’s ok, because they are the boss of their underpants and I am the boss of mine.
I try very hard to avoid doing to others the exact things I don’t want done to me. That includes
- Not confusing my experiences with other people’s experience
- Offering options and respecting other people’s choices
- Never making assumptions based on body size
- Not snarking bodies of any shape or size
- Not offering unsolicited advice
I’m certainly not perfect and I have my off days but in the end I think that what works best for me is not just talking my truth but living it as well.
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