Every New Year’s Eve on the dot, I grab a fresh new notebook and write some goals. And you might be surprised to know that even as a proud, plus-size woman who is in recovery for an eating disorder, without fail, “lose weight” always weasels its way onto the list.
Somehow, I always manage to convince myself after years of trying and failing that “this year will be the year!” And almost always, it doesn’t start with me creating a workout plan or trying to become healthier; I retreat to negative emotions and behaviors that mimic disordered eating patterns I thought I’d left in the past.
But why do I make this lofty goal every single year? Because we’re told it’s the #1 goal to make, especially if you’re overweight (which, might I add, is so subjective and means very little about someone’s overall health). Every year, we see commercials, ads, magazines, articles, and more about the best ways to lose weight, how to drop the pounds (usually with some form of “finally!” or “once and for all!”), and I expect in 2020, how to lose all the weight you gained in quarantine. And as a plus-size person, it’s damn exhausting.
We’re inundated with reasons why looking like us is a problem
It’s one thing to make a goal to get healthier. I think it’s a goal most of us should have every year. We could all stand to drink a little more water, try therapy, find a new vegetable you love, and hit a fitness goal or milestone. But as a plus-size person, seeing hundreds of people on social media, in ads, and more make it their #1 goal for the year to lose 10, 15, 20 pounds just makes us feel like our bodies are wrong.
Of course, it’s optimal to want to feel and look your best; and for many people, losing weight helps them do that. I don’t want to take that away. But it’s always rooted in fatphobia. People are horrified that they’ve gained weight because being anything but thin is the worst thing there is. This time of the year, it feels like I’m being thrown reason after reason why my body isn’t what people want to look at.
This time of the year, it feels like I’m being thrown reason after reason why my body isn’t what people want to look at.
Not making a weight loss goal is often seen as “brave”
But then, we have the people who want to call us out when we don’t make a weight loss goal. When I say that my #1 goal of the year is to love myself, regardless of my size or how I look, people respond as if sharing my authentic self is courageous and brave, when I don’t have a choice. Why are we brave for simply choosing to not give into the pressures of diet culture? Why is it brave to not have the mental capacity to try keto or paleo or whatever random diet being shoved down our throats in that blip in time? I’m not brave for choosing to love myself instead of promote the thin ideal, and to say so makes the point that wanting to lose weight should just be the norm, when in fact we should be actively moving away from that ideal.
My body constantly looks like a before picture
We’ve probably all seen the memes about “expectations and reality” on Instagram, sharing how posing can make your body look different. I appreciate and love the message that all bodies are beautiful, and I think it’s important to see that even people you think are the most beautiful and thin have insecurities. But as a fat person, I don’t have the option to pose in a way that makes it look like I don’t have rolls or so you can’t see my double chin—my natural body looks like the before picture for some of these memes. The body positivity movement was created by fat people, for fat people, and it’s frustrating to see these posts that are still entirely rooted in diet culture and white thin privilege be spouted as “loving oneself.” It’s crushing to constantly see a body that looks like mine be torn apart or told that it’s wrong; that having love handles is undesirable, that the sheer nature of becoming thinner will make you a happier person, when my body looks just like all of these pictures we’re supposed to be disgusted by.
Like I said, I want people to be healthy and happy, and I cannot deny that for some, losing weight can be a healthy process that makes them feel better about themselves physically and mentally. If losing weight is something you can do in a healthy way, I’m so into it. And having before pictures to recognize your progress might be a good tool for you to use. But watch how you talk about yourself in them. You were beautiful before; there was nothing aesthetically wrong with your body before.
When people we already deem as thin are told to lose weight, it sets the ideal that even thin bodies aren’t good enough
Since I was young, I’ve had a hard time discerning how someone who’s already thin could be insecure. My weight has been a topic of anxiety my whole life; how could one possibly feel bad about themself if they already have everything I’ve ever wanted? But when it’s a goal for everyone to lose weight, what’s the ideal? If thin bodies aren’t good enough, what does that make mine? It feels like I’m chasing after something I can’t even achieve because even once you achieve it, you’re expected to do more, be more.
So, how can you deal?
There’s no way for us to get around New Year’s resolutions, but there are ways to handle the season without feeling like the punchline all the time.
Set boundaries with loved ones
If you have loved ones who make comments about weight often, engage in assertive communication about how it affects you. There’s nothing worse than working on something within yourself all to have to deal with the people around you not understanding it. Set boundaries for the communication you have with each other, whether it’s talking about meals, health goals, how much or how little you’re eating, how much activity you’re engaging in, and more.
When you feel the weight loss pressure come along as you’re working on being healthier, it’s important to set really clear intentions for yourself. What do you truly want to accomplish? “Get healthier” might feel like an easy goal, but it’s easy to get jumbled. Make this goal tangible, like do 10 pull-ups or eat more protein three times a week for a month.
Address all-or-nothing thinking
When you feel yourself leaning into the mindset that someone smaller than you wanting to lose weight has a reflection of your own self-worth, it’s time to reassess your focus. Is there fact in what you’re thinking, or are you creating this narrative in your head because you’re self-conscious? Therapy is a great tool to learn coping mechanisms to help with this type of thinking, or I love journaling.