Cinderella’s Glass Slipper: One size does not fit all

Recently I was chatting with a friend about weight, they are naturally lean but for various reasons they had recently gained a few pounds.  They asked me for some professional insight on the best way to lose weight. As part of our discussion I talked about the long term ineffectiveness of dieting. I asked my friend why they thought that 95% of dieters regain weight. After several exchanges it boiled down to one thought.

People regain weight because they are undisciplined and lack the willpower to resist temptation.

Their argument was that weight management was not about choosing a “fad-diet”, it was about making lifestyle changes. My inexperience in navigating discussions like this led to a very clumsy response; what I wanted to say sounded like this:

Three habits have been observed in the minority that have maintained weight loss. They include participating in a high level of physical activity daily, consuming a low-fat diet and stepping on the scales regularly. The first two factors impact energy intake and expenditure and the scales provide regular feedback so that  adjustments can be made. In other words it takes constant vigilance and effort to remain at a lower body weight.

Make no mistake about it, that is not a lifestyle change, that is a lifelong diet prison sentence. Instead of being shackled to a ball and chain, dieters are shackled to their scale.

If the end result of this hyper vigilance was a longer life span or increased happiness then perhaps we could have a discussion about whether it was worthwhile. This doesn’t appear to be the case, however.

Weight is just one of many factors that impact our health, lean people can (and do) have the same chronic conditions as heavier people. Lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption and the amount of veggies you eat are far more likely to have negative health effects than  eating dessert.

Perhaps what is really happening is that we are being presented with Cinderella’s glass slipper and being told that if we can squeeze ourselves into that mould that we will live happily ever after.  Our motivation, which is used as both the tempting carrot and the punitive stick, is improved ‘health’.

 

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If we take the illusion of improved health outcomes off the scales (pun intended); what then is the goal? Happiness? As a woman who has lived in a larger body my entire life, to live free of weight stigma does sound pretty enticing. To be able to wear whatever I want without fear of criticism, to be able to eat whatever I want without fear of judgment. That sounds pretty heavenly to me. Yet, shackling myself to my scale for the rest of my life is to live a life filled with shame and self-loathing.

 

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that fat people are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We can stay fat and be subject to external sources of shame and hatred or shackle ourselves to the scale which merely internalizes the shame and hatred.

Instead of the burden being placed on fat people to conform to a standardized beauty ideal; why isn’t the burden on the rest of society to call bullshit on institutions that profit from and perpetuate weight-bias?

 

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Fat is not a synonym for ugly

 

The message that society thrusts onto overweight individuals is that if you can’t lose weight you aren’t enough. You aren’t strong enough, you aren’t disciplined enough, you aren’t active enough, you don’t care enough, you aren’t smart enough, you don’t want it badly enough. You. Are. Not. Enough.

Studying to be a dietitian isn’t easy, it is a highly competitive degree and at my age there are limited pathways available. For two years, day after day, I had the strength to keep showing up, I had the discipline to study, I had the smarts to achieve a GPA of 7.0; there could be no doubting that I wanted it badly enough. Throughout all of this I ran an average of 15-20km per week and I became involved in a host of extracurricular activities; I am certainly active enough. On top of all this I am a wife, a mother, an artist, a cook and a dog lover.

By any standard you could possibly imagine I am enough yet every achievement I just listed suddenly became diminished by society because I have stores of body fat.

I’m not buying into that nonsense horseshit any more, and neither should you.

I have spent enough of my life hating my body and by extension hating myself. It’s time to move in a different direction.

Why I am not all about that bass

I wanted to love this song. It’s right up my alley, actually. It has a catchy tune, Meghan Trainor has a gorgeous retro styling that I adore and on the surface it seems to have a strong body positive message.

Or does it?

Scratch below the surface and you will see that this song is about sexually objectifying larger body types and women seeking/needing validation about their body types from boys/men.

Yeah’ it’s pretty clear, I aint no size two

But I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do

‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

And all the right junk in all the right places

This is sending a very clear message that even larger body types are only attractive if they can move in a particular way and have their ‘junk’ in all the ‘right’ places. As the body image movement grows and plus size models become increasingly popular, there is emerging a new bias.

Is this really accepting diversity? I look at the woman above and look down at myself and compare my soft round belly to her flat stomach and small waist and still feel inadequate. I’ve had three children, three caesareans and I have lost and regained over 120kg in my lifetime. As a result my skin is stretched and wrinkled and no amount of cross fit, herbal wraps or dieting is going to change that.

Back to Meghan’s song…

“Yeah my mama she told me, ‘don’t worry about your size’

Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”

Disregard the gender and hetero bias for now, is this the message we want to tell our daughters? Don’t worry about your size because men prefer a fleshier body in bed? AKA it’s ok to be fat because it provides a little cushion for the pushin’?

As a parent, the message I want to tell my children is, don’t worry about your size because:

  • You are not a sex toy put on this earth for the entertainment of others

  • Your mind is far more interesting than your body

  • Your kindness and compassion will shine like a beacon

  • Your strength and courage will inspire others

  • Your creativity and passion will enrich the world