Today I was accused, not for the first time, of “stealing people’s dreams.” This happens to those of us who are very vocal about the mountain of research that shows that long term weight loss is nearly impossible.
People criticize me for this despite the fact that I am very clear that people have every right to choose dieting just like I have every right to choose a Health at Every Size practice, and that I only talk about these things in my forum – I would never go to someone else’s weight loss blog and tell them that they should practice HAES. But since we are constantly and purposefully misled about the facts when it comes to weight loss and health, I think it’s important to tell the truth about it.
The people who sew in the tag that says “Cape does not enable user to fly” are not stealing my dreams of flying. They are giving me the opportunity to read the tag and get information so that I can make an informed decision before I yell “Hey y’all watch this!”, jump off a roof and break something I’ll need in later life.
But back to weight loss, what is the dream really? Is it being smaller than someone is now, or is it all the things that they believe will come along with that? Consider these sentences:
I lost weight, I started going to more parties and now I have more friends.
I lost weight, I became more confident and then I met my spouse.
I lost weight, and then I starting going out dancing.
You could remove “I lost weight” from each of these sentences and they could still be complete. That doesn’t mean that fat people aren’t oppressed by a world that is sizeist, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to deal with bullshit shame, stigma, bullying, and harassment that isn’t our fault but becomes our problem. But the reality for almost all dieters is that if they keep the “I lost weight” in those sentences, then they will will need to add a sentence at the end that starts “Now that I’ve gained the weight back…” That makes me think that we might want to come up with some different dreams. I offer the following:
A world where we accept and celebrate the diversity of body sizes.
A world where health care professionals base their advice on scientific evidence.
A world where we pour sixty billion dollars a year into creating access to healthcare and options for food and options, instead of failed weight loss programs, and where the US is a successful role model for everyone having access to health, rather than a failed role model for making everyone thin.
If someone’s dream is weight loss, then the research shows that they have almost no chance of achieving it, and have a huge chance of ending up less healthy than they started. That doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to try, but given those odds I think it’s critical that people understand that there are other options.
A dieter once commented on a piece that I wrote saying “I know that I only have a 5% chance of succeeding, but I’m just hoping and praying to be in that 5% because, really, what else makes sense?” People are allowed to choose “hoping to be an statistical anomaly” as a strategy for health and happiness. But it’s not the only thing that makes sense, at least not to me. To me remembering that I have the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in the fat body I have makes sense. Remembering that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or entirely within my control makes sense. Having gratitude for my amazing body makes sense. Choosing a path to health based on research makes sense. Choosing a path to health that has a chance of succeeding outside the margin of error makes sense to me.
I’m not interested in stealing other people’s dreams, but I’m also not going to let a fatphobic world that tells me lies about weight loss and health steal mine.
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