The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade

This is a subject that comes up a lot within the body positive plus size community, a hell of a lot. And it’s always controversial.

Weight loss.

There tend to be two camps.

On the one side – weight loss has no place within the body positive community, we are bombarded daily with messages from both society and the media about how we should be losing weight, about how weight loss is Great Goal and how losing weight is an amazing applause worthy achievement. Can we not just have one bloody space where our bodies are loved and cared for without having to dodge diet talk?

On the other – it’s a personal choice to lose weight, and therefore no one else gets a say.

I am aware that a lot of bo-po bloggers have found that they’ve lost followers for posting about weight loss, sometimes just one post is enough to have others unfollowing in droves. And I am aware that this can feel hurtful especially when it is bloggers who they’ve counted as friends or at least friendly.

Here’s the thing. I’m one of those unfollowers.

You post a weight loss post = I unfollow. Sometimes I don’t, maybe you’ve phrased it in a certain way, or it’s on a platform where I can hide the individual post. But mostly, I’m gone.

Is it because I dislike you? No, the fact that I was following you in the first place shows I respect and care for you, and I don’t unfollow without regret. I do miss your updates and my glimpses into your life.

Do I think you are an evil anti-bopo betrayer? No, not even slightly – unless you are saying others should lose weight of course.

Do I think you are wrong for posting it? No, I’d rather you didn’t, but it’s up to you. Just as it’s up to me to unfollow.

Here’s the thing, you are doing what you feel is right for you, and I am doing what I need to do for my mental health.

And I’m not alone in this, I know because I’ve spoken to others who unfollow – in the same way that you no doubt talk amongst those who get unfollowed.

I will never ever tell you how wrong you are to lose weight, because it’s not a right or wrong situation.

I do disagree with using a body positive platform to do it from, but I have my reasons, I’m not just playing purity politics.

Here’s how it is for me right now, I’m speaking now – not as a blogger, not as a body positive artist, but as a fat woman trying to find a safe space to exist in. I’m not alone, I’m one in many, and our experiences have so many similarities.

I (we) go through life being reminded that I am too fat – whether it’s shops not catering to my size, stares in the street, diet ads when food shopping, or just looking around at all the women represented in the media – including supposedly plus size models. I am too fat. My body is wrong and should be changed.

On top of that I have the inner voice, the one that remembers how it felt to starve, to restrict, to hunger. The one who desires the praise that weight loss brought. The one who looks at the other slim women at work and compares my own body – negatively. The one who cannot quite bring myself to wear crop tops or shorts outside of safe areas for fear of looks of disgust.

Yes, I have all these other amazing voices around me, all those bloggers and models and artists who say all bodies are good bodies, and who mean it. Who lift up other women instead of tearing them down. But their voices, loud as they are, are still a whisper in comparison.

So I wrap myself in them, I cocoon myself in a carefully edited safety net online. Because then sometimes, just sometimes, I’m safe. I can quieten the destructive voices – the ones that cry for me to starve and carve my body into an acceptable shape. I can breathe free without the weight of general opinion crushing me.

But sometimes a fracture appears in my safe space, maybe it’s just a number – one that I remember from the days of daily weigh ins and spreadsheets of obsessive weight loss, but that number, that single number, has the ability to unleash a flood of self loathing into my safe space. Maybe it’s a phrase, “I’ve lost..”, one that was my daily mantra to stop me nourishing my body.

Some days I’ve built up a thick enough shell that it’s merely a trickle, one easily plugged. But not always, and the more fractures, the harder it is to stay safe. A drip drip soon becomes a flood.

I’d love to support you in your journey towards loving your body, weight loss or not, but I can’t support you when I am drowning.

And I’m not going to cry for you because you’ve been given the choice between lose followers or create a seperate diet/weight loss account. You have a choice after all.

You didn’t give me that choice when you poked holes into my safety net. And what hurts most, is that as someone within the body positive community, you had to know that it would hurt some of us this way – that the greatest value in our body positive community is creating a safe space in which to learn to care for our bodies, bodies that we’ve been conditioned to hate and to hurt. You, you who feels like weight loss is something you need, you should know better than most the pressure to lose.

So you make your choice, but don’t you dare act like my unfollowing is a malicious act.

Since I wrote this the wonderful Just Me Leah has also given a really frank and honest account of her experience with the pressure to lose weight.

8 thoughts on “The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade

  1. Brilliantly said and I agree completely. There is one thing I would add, one Bo Po blogger I used to follow even shares posts from followers who tell her how she has inspired them to lose weight, and that I really feel is a kick in the teeth!

  2. Hugs. This is a subject which is fraught with danger so well done for tackling it. My thoughts on this subject are so long I could probably devote a blog to them. I *may* have seen a couple of Facebook posts yesterday which may have prompted this (or it might be a coincidence) and it’s so difficult. For me, all kinds of triggering goes on when people bring diet talk into my spaces – and by my spaces I mean my social media feeds. I do unfollow people who devote a lot of time to diet posts – let’s say the magic number is 50%. If someone posts photos of their face/kids/animals/other interests half as often as they post diet stuff, I’ll probably keep them around, but if they become consumed with dieting (as many dieters do because they’re hangry all the time) I will unfollow or mute on Twitter/Facebook. It’s not just triggering, it’s actually boring to see 3 plates of food a day. If they mix it up I’ll probably keep them around, but definitely not if they lose 2 pounds then start bodyshaming fat people because they’re already mentally divorced from their own body type.

    Where the difficulty comes for me is that I 100% believe we’re all autonomous over our own bodies and should do what the hell we like to/with them. Saying ‘You do you, and I’ll do me, but I’m not personally into dieting for myself’ is considered fascism by avid dieters. Because I was put on a diet before puberty, 25 years of dieting has fucked me up mentally for life, so I can say/think ‘I don’t want to see it right now, and I still like you, but I’m out of here for my mental health.’ However, this really tends to piss off the most zealous dieters (and I’m talking generally here about all the dieters I’ve ever known, not just community members) who really want to subject their spangly new thinner selves on everyyyyyyyyone. I may be wrong, but I get a feeling a few people in the whatsapp chats (which I left to preserve my MH – not for the dieting stuff, mainly for being blanked) consider me persona non grata after I was foolish enough to air my position on dieting a couple of times. So basically if dieting isn’t for me, I can’t be one of them. It comes down to camps of pro dieters vs no dieters at a basic level.

    And there’s the rub – I’m expected to allow dieters to be themselves in whatever form it takes, but they can’t stand the thought of me not clapping them on the back for something which reduces me to the 17 year old girl living only on satsumas and carrots, chugging vodka to take my mind away from the incessant growling of my empty stomach. And that I can’t fucking abide. That somehow because I’m not cheering every past, present and future dieter on, I’m not their kind of person. It’s not enough to comment on blogs and interact on social media, I actually have to go out of my way to congratulate them on doing something which takes me back to a really bad place. THAT is what boils my piss. Diet, don’t diet – whatever. I hope if people DO exist who’ve put me on a shitlist for being anti diet for myself (and it’s not just paranoia, lol) they don’t expect me to clap them on the back when they’ve never given two shits about me. And there’s the crux – dieters know they get approval from the whole damn world for losing weight, yet they still demand acceptance cookies from people they KNOW they’re hurting, and we’re the ones considered in the wrong. Whut?

    And as to the insidious way it’s creeping into bopo spaces, and the way brands react to newly thinner plus bloggers, holy cow, we have a whole new clusterfuck. You know what, I AM going to blog about this. Again, great post. xx

  3. MoG this just reminds me what a thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate woman you are. I think you have addressed a complex and controversial topic well, and put your reasoning across in such a comprehensive and clear way.
    I don’t think people should have to apologise for avoiding things that test their resilience and mental health. It’s clear to me that any unfollowing tends to be not about judgement of the other person but self preservation. And self preservation is key. I agree with Leah about you do you, and I’ll do me. For me, excessive dieting updates do make me turn away from accounts for a bit, although I can’t remember yet having to unfollow someone. But that’s me. For whatever reason, I may have more mental capacity to deal with these particular triggers. That doesn’t mean you have to! You do you, and I’ll do me. To me, existing within any community is about compassion. Moving through that community with compassion. Understanding that people’s actions are not necessarily about you. So if someone feels the need to unfollow, let them be. Don’t assume this is a judgement. Assume this is not about you, but about their needs. And move on.
    And likewise, if someone wants to diet, leave them be. Unfollow, ignore, whatever you need to do. But as Leah said – our bodies are our own. We have the right to do with them as we wish.
    Oops, get off your soap box Hayley Ann! Lol!
    Love you MoG xxx

  4. This is a topic I am quite passionate about and I’m pleased to see people talking about it openly and frankly. Like you I unfollow dieters, even if I like them or enjoy their social media, because my happiness and well being MUST come first.

    It IS something that is highly contentious in the “community” and I think it’s an important converstion to have, however uncomfortable, because merely accepting that it’s someone’s choice puts a lot of EDsurvivors and other vulnerable people within the community at risk.

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