Every New Year’s Eve, 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, “weight loss” always weasels its way onto the list. I 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 creating a workout plan or trying to eat more vegetables; 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, actually means very little about someone’s overall health). Every year, we see commercials, ads, magazines, and social media posts around this time of year to advertise the best ways to lose weight and advise on how to drop excess pounds (usually with some form of “Finally!” or “Once and for all!”). As a plus-size person, it’s damn exhausting. Here’s why (and what to do about it).
Why weight loss pressure is damaging
Plus-size people are inundated with reasons why the way they look 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, book more therapy sessions, find a new vegetable to cook with, and hit a fitness goal or milestone. But as a plus-size person, seeing countless people make it their #1 goal for the year to lose 10, 15, or 20 pounds just makes us feel like our bodies are wrong.
Of course, we all want to feel and look our 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 a bad thing. This time of the year, it feels like I’m being thrown reason after reason why people will put time, energy, and money so they don’t look like me.
If weight loss is not a goal, it’s often seen as “brave”
On the other hand, 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. Why are we brave for simply choosing to not give into the pressures of diet culture? Why is it brave to be triggered instead of motivated by the idea of trying keto or paleo or whatever random diet is being shoved down our throats? I’m not brave for choosing to love myself instead of promoting the thin ideal, and to say so makes the point that wanting to lose weight should just be the norm, when in fact, it’s OK to not want or try for weight loss (and it’s also OK if you feel like weight loss is a healthy goal for you—let’s stop judging all women for their health goals, no matter what they are).
Plus-size bodies look like “before” pictures, as if something needs to be changed
We’ve probably all seen posts about how every body looks different, based on how you pose. 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 in some of these examples. The body positivity movement was created by fat people and 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 or that the sheer nature of becoming thinner will make you a happier person.
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, and you’ll be beautiful after.
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 or be more. The truth is that weight loss pressure is damaging for everyone, regardless of pant size or where you shop for clothes—it’s telling all of us that we are not good enough as we are.
Feeling triggered by the weight loss pressure? Here’s how to deal:
Set boundaries with loved ones
If you have loved ones who make comments about weight, engage in assertive communication about how it affects you. There’s nothing worse than working on something within yourself just to deal with the people around you not understanding it and making comments (whether it’s about your weight or their’s). Set boundaries for what kind of communication you have with each other, whether it’s talking about meals, health goals, how much or how little you’re eating, or what exercise you’re doing. Also, be aware that a loved one doesn’t have to comment on your weight for it to feel triggering. If a friend or family member talks about their own body negatively or stresses about their eating or exercise habits to you, kindly let them know that you’re working on not talking that way to yourself and would appreciate if they wouldn’t make those comments around you.
Set intentions with health goals
When you feel the weight loss pressure come on as you’re making health goals, establish clear intentions. What do you truly want to accomplish? “Get healthier” might feel like an obvious goal to make at the beginning of 2022, but it’s easy to get confused about what “healthy” actually means. Make goals tangible and give specifics, like “drink one more glass of water a day” or “go on a walk four times a week.” If you’re tempted to use a form of measurement to track progress with your health goals, ditch the scale or calorie counting and instead measure nutrients, glasses of water, hours spent sleeping, or how many push-ups you can do. More importantly, track how you feel—in energy, stress levels, or overall happiness—and know that the most effective measurement of health is listening to what your body is trying telling you.
Address all-or-nothing thinking
When you feel yourself leaning into the mindset that someone smaller than you wanting to lose weight is 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 or just good old fashioned journaling are great tools to learn coping mechanisms to help with this type of thinking and remind yourself that other people’s health goals and body preferences say absolutely nothing about what your own self-worth or New Year’s resolutions should be.