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.
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.