Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple followers on Instagram send me messages asking about my opinion regarding weight loss and body positivity. Specifically, they were wondering if I thought it was possible to reconcile the two.
What I’m about to say is going to be rather controversial and/or unpopular among some in the body positive community. There are friends and people I personally look up to who disagree. But, this is my blog and my opinion so, here goes:
Yes. I personally think it is possible to be body positive and still want to lose weight.
The way I see it, there are two levels to body positivity: there is internal bopo and there is external bopo. To me, it is totally possible to be body positive towards bodies outside of yours while still struggling internally with your own image.
I say this with confidence because I’ve been in that place before. I’ve been in that place where I was unhappy with my body and wanted to lose weight and, at the same time, was able to look at women larger than I was with such admiration. When the movie Precious came out in 2009, I was all in on wanting to lose weight and yet championed Gabourey Sidibe. Looking at bodies so different from my own and seeing the beauty in them is what allowed me to start to see my own body in that same light. Lindy West shares a similar epiphany in her book Shrill.
Because, here’s the thing: body positivity isn’t just about you. In fact, if your approach to body positivity is just about you and your body, that is self-centered, self-serving, selfish, and fuck you.
Historically, body positivity was about fat bodies. This was before “plus size” white women co-opted the phrase and turned it into an industry that involved photos taken at awkward angles to show off their belly rolls so they could monetize self-love.
I actually don’t have a problem with online influencers making money. We all have bills to pay. But if you preach body positivity and all I see you talk about are size 14 cishet white women, I’m going to call bullshit.
These days, body positivity is about all bodies and yet, thanks to those influencers above, fat bodies are still being marginalized, even within the very community and movement they started.
Body positivity isn’t about loving yourself. Body positivity should not be be confused with self-love. Body positivity is about supporting marginalized bodies. Men, women, and non-binary people of larger sizes. Men, women, and non-binary people with disabilities. Men, women, and non-binary people of color. The bodies of trans men and women, regardless of where they are in their transition.
Body positivity is about recognizing that bodies are neutral, they are neither “good” nor “bad,” despite what diet culture wants you to believe.
The real question isn’t “Can you be body positive and still want to lose weight?” The real question should be “What does my version of body positivity look like and is it causing harm to marginalized bodies?”
I think it’s also important to analyze where your desire to lose weight comes from. Do you want to lose weight because you don’t want to have a body like mine? That’s not only not body positive, it’s super fatphobic. That tells me that you think fat bodies like mine are bad. If you think fat bodies are bad, then you aren’t body positive.
Fat bodies, like all bodies, are neutral. They are neither good nor bad. No body is more superior than another just as no body has more value than another. Likewise, no body has less value than another. If you think thin bodies are more worthy than fat bodies, then you aren’t body positive.
Just as fat bodies are neither good nor bad, the people who have fat bodies are also neither good nor bad. My value as a person is not determined by the number on the scale. If you think thin people are inherently better than fat people then you aren’t body positive.
At the beginning of the year, Roxane Gay had weight loss surgery. Many in the body positivity felt it was a betrayal of sorts. Me? I got too much shit to deal with to worry about what Roxane Gay does, or does not do, with her own body. But I also know that Roxane does a lot to promote the voices of margenalized bodies. For fuck’s sake, she announced her weight loss surgery in a pop up magazine on Medium created with the intent of “exploring our ever-changing relationship with our bodies — the emotional, the psychological, the cultural, and the scientific.”
The fact that there are people out there in the world who feel Roxane owes them fatness blows my mind. We already live in a world that assigns value based on the size of our bodies and yet there are people within the body positive community who believe that Roxane suddenly has less value because she does not weight as much as she used to.
Again, I don’t give a fuck what Roxane does with her body in regards to losing weight. I don’t give a fuck what you do with your body. Not only am I in full support of body autonomy, I really don’t care about your weight loss goals.
What I do care about is your answers to the following questions:
Do you look at bodies like mine and recoil? Not body positive.
Did you believe that Roxane Gay should have had weight loss surgery years before out of some concern troll bullshit? Not body positive.
Do you look at photos of me and think “Well, at least I’m not THAT fat”? Not body positive.
Do you believe fat people are lazy gluttons based purely on the size of their body? Not body positive.
Do you believe you are more deserving of a traditionally attractive partner than a fat person? Not body positive.
Do you believe thin people are automatically happier, healthier, with more fulfilling lives than fat people? Not body positive.
Are you okay with fat bodies as long as they exercise and/or eat healthy? Not body positive.
Do you look at fat people and feel sad for them? Not body positive.
Do you say shit like “I feel fat today”? Not body positive. Also, fat is not a fucking feeling.
Real talk: a couple weeks ago, I talked about my diet culture and dress stress. I’m getting married in less than three weeks. Hanging in the closet of our guest bedroom is a gorgeous, expensive dress I need to fit in on the day of our wedding because it’s not like I just grab another big white poufy dress out of my closet that morning.
I don’t weigh myself that frequently, but because of the dress I have resumed a weekly weigh-in. Last Sunday I stepped on the scale and was presented with a number that gave me pause. In fact, it gave me enough pause to download an old knock-off Weight Watchers app and use it for the past week in an effort to reduce my weight back to a number I felt comfortable with in regard to my wedding dress.
Am I suddenly not body positive? Because for a brief period of time I am monitoring my food intake with the intention of losing about 5 pounds, I suddenly have to turn in my Body Positive Card despite all the other work I do with this blog, with social media, with amplifying the voices of other marginalized voices.
If that’s true, then that’s not a body positive community I want to be a member of.