I recently came across an amazing statement shared by Tumblr user locsgirl that struck right to a concept I've been mulling over:
Don’t even try to tell me that fat people losing weight is just ‘personal choice’ ‘cause everyone knows that’s a flat-out lie. As if fatness isn’t demonized as the worst thing ever, as if it’s not seen as a fate worse than death, as if it’s not a mortal fear of millions of people, as if people who lose weight don’t get ridiculously and excessively praised and rewarded.This is so important. The fact of the matter is that in a society which privileges thinness, when a fat person decides to lose weight, it doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's nearly impossible to say that this choice isn't somehow influenced by fatphobia. Just the same way that women can choose to wear high heels or makeup or cleavage revealing tops...sure it's might be a "personal choice," but can we really extract it from the patriarchal society from which it stems?
In this example, can we really extract the fatphobia?
Far be it from me to ever tell someone what they should do with their bodies or to shame or mock them for those choices...just because a choice is informed by societal pressures doesn't mean I can shit on it. But I'm simply not going to pretend that the choice was value neutral. It's hard enough to view your own normal weight fluctuations as neutral, but when you are intentionally changing your body, you will hear outside opinions about it. Like locsgirl says, fatness is so demonized and weight loss is so praised. Even if someone could make the initial choice to lose weight uninfluenced, there's no way that the praise they'd encounter along the way wouldn't have an effect on them. (And I'm speaking from personal experience on that one.) This is part of why I try to just not comment on someone's weight at all...I don't want to contribute to implicit fatphobia. (Besides, there are so many, much more important things you can compliment your friends on.)
Social media gives us a unique chance to see this happen in print in real time. Think about the statuses you probably encountered in your own social media use. Someone posts about how they're getting closer to their weight loss goal, and the encouraging comments and "likes" pile up. How often to you see someone receive the same for weight gain? (Let alone even publicly state that it's something they are doing?) One of my Facebook acquaintances not long ago posted about how she wanted to put on some weight and was working with her doctor to do so (she's pretty thin.) People couldn't refrain from telling her how "lucky" she is and how they wish that was their problem too. There was almost no praise for her making that choice. It was fascinating, but not surprising.
So again, I understand that everyone can do what they want with their bodies and I will respect that. But that doesn't make it just a "personal choice." The pressure to lose weight is too strong, especially on women, to be disregarded.
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