Tuesday, December 8, 2015

But what if I just want to lose a "little" weight?

There is a stage in FA where people accept that other peoples' bodies are just fine the way they are, but for *reasons* they themselves need to lose some weight.  Not get thin, mind you, but maybe get down to where clothes are easier to buy and they remember being happier.  

But then the inevitable conflict where people in FA spaces don't want to hear about their diet talk, delete their comments extolling the virtues of calorie-free Kool-Whip, and walk away from their conversations that inevitable steer around to food restrictions and processed diet platitudes.  

In other words, they feel shunned.  And hurt.  Why can't they drop a couple of sizes and still be FA?
Before anyone can even start answering that question, we have to unpack some of the false premises it is based upon. To start with, the question assumes that the person will be successful at weight loss and then live as a thinner fat person. This is so statistically unlikely that it would be an outlier. In fact, they are likely to follow the same cycle every other fat person does when attempting weight loss: a brief honeymoon period where they lose some weight, followed by regain and additional gain. In other words, they are much more likely to end up LARGER than they started. This process (which we all know as "yo-yo dieting") is extremely damaging to both physical and mental health. It is not outrageous to call intentional weight-loss dieting (and ESPECIALLY bariatric surgery) self-harm. People are absolutely justified in not pursuing a relationship with someone who engages in self harm, or support that self-harm, regardless of how socially acceptable it is.

Once that is unpacked, the question of triggers needs to be addressed. After being in an abusive relationship between our culture and our bodies for our entire lives, watching someone we know harm themselves in order to appease and connect with our abusers can range from stressful to devastating (depending on how close you were to that person or whether you viewed them as a role-model). Again, that choice to engage in that abuse, and the INEVITABLE talk portraying it as positive, creates a toxic relationship that many in FA refuse to engage in.

That is why most FA groups are "safe spaces" where weight loss is not glorified or promoted, and why many FA activists will break ties with someone who goes on a diet or gets bariatric surgery. We know from long experience that they cannot help glorifying it, congratulating themselves, and trying to talk their friends and family into participating. Their writing will become peppered with their experience, and cognitive dissonance resolution will cause them to wax enthusiastic even if they have doubts and setbacks. It's toxic for those of us who have worked so hard to recover from the harm diet culture has done.

So no, we're not going to make an exception for someone who wants to be a "little thinner" any more than someone who wants to be thin.  It is unrealistic, but more so it is damaging both to the person engaging with diet culture and those around them who are attempting to disengage.  We can support you as a fat person, but we do not want your diet talk in our spaces.  It doesn't matter if you're trying to lose 20 pounds or 200; you are still engaging in self-harm, and we don't want to ride along.


William said...

I lump both people who diet a lot and people who are into gaining as part of the same larger community.....People who are addicted to body modification. Neither group is capable of moderation or sharing their beliefs in moderation with people who disagree with them.

At the same time there are plenty of people in FA who are just as obsessed with displaying their opposition with dieters even though they do not show equal opposition to people in the gainer community.

JoGeek said...

@William, I wonder if that's an exposure issue. I have only once (that I know of) encountered a gainer, and it was a random online attempt at a pickup that was problematic for other reasons. By contrast, at any one time I have half a dozen or more dieters in my social circle. At the same time, I face constant pressure from media, family, and peers to engage in dieting. If I am pushing back against something, I will push much harder against something I feel is surrounding me like a thousand rabid chipmunks than something I encounter once every few years at most. I'm sure it would be different for someone who has gainers in their family or social circle, or who encounters them in their online forums a lot. Personally, I think any attempt to deliberately and significantly change your weight in any direction is both doomed to fail and not congruent with FA and HAES principles.