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Anti-diet work - not an easy ride...

I am going to be honest with you: my working life would be a lot easier and more lucrative if I subscribed to the usual weight-loss advice of meal and diet planning and telling people what to eat and when.

I get disheartened sometimes when I see friends and acquaintances share fat-shaming memes, join weight-loss groups, talk about having been ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because of what they ate, and beat themselves up about their weight. I hardly know anyone who exercises simply for the way it makes them feel. Going on ‘healthy diets’, joining gyms, having rules around when to eat because it apparently matters – a lot of this is done in the name of ‘healthy lifestyle changes’, but the real reason and secret hope that lies behind all this is weight loss.

a quote to describe how health is more than your weight

It really is an uphill struggle for the anti-diet world, because diet culture has been around for decades and is very persuasive. Added to that, public health messages blaming a whole range of diseases on body fat are hugely unhelpful. Everyone who is not in the Health at Every Size® arena believes they are slowly killing themselves if they become larger. With tons of evidence showing that it is NOT body weight or BMI that makes you ill, but that systemic oppression, racism, weight stigma, socio-economic disadvantages and stress are the real culprits here, I find it hard to understand why healthcare professionals are not educated in this and still recommend weight loss as the first point of call for people in larger bodies. Being made to feel ashamed of your body, being told it isn’t healthy just because of its size, being reduced to a number on the scales, is all very harmful. And the mantra ‘First, do no harm’ doesn’t seem to apply here, as recommending futile weigh loss programmes is commonplace. These programmes are futile, because diets can be very harmful: they are unlikely to work long-term (about 95% of dieters regain the lost weight or more), they cause stress to the body (calorie reduction diets put the body in starvation mode, can increase stress hormones and alter gut health) and to the mind (food becomes something to obsess over, and any slip-ups from our carefully planned-out meals will inevitable result in shame and guilt).

girl in larger body looking funky and being herself

If you read this blog, I would love for you to consider an alternative to thinking that weight loss will make you happier, healthier, more successful, more comfortable, etc. I would like you to think about why you think that, and what diet culture has contributed to your thinking. Read widely around this topic to educate yourself (have a look at my resources list for recommendations!). Look at the Health at Every Size® website to find out how the intersectionality of racism, ableism, discrimination, sexism, and oppression has contributed to our current body ‘ideals’. Check yourself when you are about to post a gif or a meme that is fat shaming or makes fun of the ‘hazards of weight gain’. This is currently seemingly acceptable discrimination (and you may not even have considered it as such, surely it’s just a bit of humour and harmless fun??), but would you post something that was racist or sexist? Why discriminate against people in larger bodies?

The reason I keep ploughing on and am not giving up and going back to work in a weight-centred framework is that I passionately believe that size should not matter, that health is achievable for all bodies (and that it should be achievable with no barriers to it because of your background, socio-economic status, race, gender or disability), that we need to re-focus our approach: from putting guilt and shame on to people, to giving them skills and empowerment to know what they need and what makes them feel good.