The Diet Industry Takes It All

Less ThanLately I’ve been getting more into Instragam (in the words of Sam Seaborn/Aaron Sorkin: Let’s forget the fact that I’m coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that I showed up at all…”) I’m not sure how I got there, but I found myself on a page of things that IG seemed to think I would enjoy. Except IG was dead fucking wrong.

It was a bunch of “before and after” weight loss pictures (of course they didn’t include the “after after” picture that will happen when almost all of them regain their weight in a few years.) People were commenting about how their “prayers were answered,” and their “hopes and dreams came true,” and a bunch of them said something about “celebrating” with many asking people to celebrate with them.

And that’s when I was reminded that diet culture conditions us to hope and pray and dream that someday we will be less than we are now, and to celebrate – and ask others to celebrate when there is less of us (for however brief that time may be.) Back in my diet days I remember doing this, and expecting people to praise me for it.

This is a dangerous message that harms us in so many ways:

Because, in a world with so much oppression and marginalization – where so many people are made less than they could be by structural and institutionalized oppression, where so many voices are hushed and unheard – diet culture tells us to spend our time, money, and energy trying to make ourselves smaller.

Because most people will lose weight short term, but almost all of them will gain it back long-term with a majority gaining back more than they lost, and will then be told to try again. That means that this focus of our resources on becoming smaller will likely last our entire lifetimes, as those who are trapped in the cycle will yo-yo diet from childhood until they die. I was recently told a story (with permission to share) of a women in the advanced stages of Altzheimers disease – she had forgotten who her friends and family were, but remembered that she – and everyone else – was supposed to diet and be thin. Diet culture was literally the only memory she had left. Fucking tragic.

Because when dieting doesn’t work people will turn to dangerous drugs and surgeries recommended by doctors steeped in fatphobia, which will cause some to slowly waste away to nothing while others will be not smaller, but dead.

If we let it, diet culture will use the empty promise that we could be smaller (and the messed up culture that convinces us that’s a good thing) in order to take everything it can from us – time, energy, and money that could be used to live our best lives in the bodies we have, to fight injustice and dismantle oppression.

I no longer have any interest in making myself smaller so that the empty space can continue to be filled up by the status quo. I already gave too much of myself to diet culture, too much of my voice, too much of my time, too much of my energy, too much of my money, too much of my life trying to shrink – to create a world where there was less of me. Never Again. Diet culture cannot and will not take any more of me, it doesn’t deserve any of me and it never did.  I’m using all of me to help create a world where oppression, marginalization, and suffering are the things that there are less of.

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4 thoughts on “The Diet Industry Takes It All

  1. I was out to breakfast the other day with two friends when one proudly announced she’s lost 10 pounds. I’ve known her for 30 years and she has lost that 10 pounds, and many more besides, numerous times, and she always gains them back.

    My other friend congratulated her, but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I just couldn’t say good job! or way to go! when I really think it’s all bullshit. I think I mumbled something about how nice her blouse looked and changed the subject. I don’t want to participate in diet culture in any way, but it does make for some awkward moments.

  2. At his hearing, Dr. Oz defended promoting products he knew did not work by claiming he wasn’t selling medicine, he was selling hope.

    Translation: in the end, every diet is the Odysseus Lotus Diet. What fat people are really draining our energy and time and identities and life savings into is an illusion of perfect future happiness that’ll never come to pass even if we DO buck the lottery odds and keep the weight off. And while we’re doing that, we’re letting opportunities for present happiness in the real world wither and die on the vine. Diet culture really does take everything from you.

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