Friday, 20 May 2016

When Weight Loss Gets the Credit

Success and DietsIn our weight-obsessed culture there is a tendency to tell fat people that we should blame our body size for everything that is wrong in our lives, and that the only way to succeed is to lose weight. This is a damaging lie, and today I wanted to look at three ways that it plays out.

Health Improvements

Let’s say that someone adds some behaviors that are known to support health to their life, they experience some health improvements, and they lose weight.

The story we get is the weight loss leads to greater health, but back it up a minute.

Why do we rule out behavior changes as the reason for health improvements? It seems much more likely that the health improvements and the body size change are both results of the behavior change. Especially since there is good research that shows that behavior changes often lead to health improvements regardless of body size, or change in body size. On the flip side, research shows that weight loss without behavior change (for example liposuction) does not show health improvements.

Athletic Improvements

Someone starts a program to increase strength, stamina and/or flexibility. They increase strength, stamina, and/or flexibility, and their body weight goes down.

The story we get told is that weight loss leads to better athleticism.  So if someone is thin and does a program like this, it’s the program that causes their athletic improvements. But in a fat person we’re told that it’s a change in body weight?

Confidence

Someone’s body weight changes and they become more confident.

The story we get told is that weight loss increases confidence with no examination of the fact that a society rife with sizeism is what prevented the person from being confident in the first place.  There is no reason for someone not to be confident at a higher weight -and even living in a society that gives us near constant negative messages about our bodies, there are still plenty of confident fat people.

On the surface there is a frustrating lack of logic here, but this problem goes way deeper than that.  The truth is that all of the incidents of weight loss that I described above are likely to be temporary.  The truth about weight loss is that most people can lose some weight for a short amount of time, but almost everyone gains it back and many gain back more than they lost. The constant lie that fat people are told is that our fat is to blame for anything and everything we’re not happy about in our lives, and that the “solution” to all of that is weight loss.

These lies convince fat people to put our goals and lives on hold and put all of our eggs in the weight loss basket, despite a mountain of evidence that suggests it will never happen, and a complete lack of evidence that it will actually help us achieve any of our goals. It means that when fat people give up on weight loss (wisely, since it almost never works) many of us also give up on all the goals that lies told us required weight loss to achieve.

It’s important to remember that health, athletic ability, confidence and all of the other things that supposedly come with weight loss are never obligations, barometers of worthiness, or entirely within our control, and we might do well to think twice before we buy the party line that they are body size dependent – because when weight loss gets the credit, nobody gets the truth.

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