New Year’s Resolutions: Lose Fat Hatred

Laurie and Debbie say:

Happy New Year!

We’ve been big fans of s.e. smith at This Ain’t Livin’ for a long time, so it’s great to have such a timely post to write about. In the maelstrom of New Year’s resolutions, she wants us all to remember:

Fat hatred kills. It kills every day in insidious, sneaky ways, and every January, the dieting resolutions are a reminder of how fat hatred kills, by creating such intense social pressure to lose weight. Some of the people pushing their bodies in the coming days and weeks may push them too far. Some people consumed in self hate may turn to more aggressive measures when their weight loss doesn’t go fast enough, like eating disorders and excessive exercise, or invasive surgical procedures to completely reroute their digestive tracts so they can’t absorb nutrients properly.

Others may push the people around them into bad places; the parent who stresses out a teenager, for example, with constant dieting and exercise talk and statements about how fat is disgusting. The ‘pacts’ to lose weight in the new year where people may become competitive, or may goad and push each other into dangerous activities. When one partner loses more weight more quickly than the other because of quirks of biology, metabolism, life, bodies, it suddenly becomes a measure of personal worth instead of a fact of life. The person who keeps the weight off by force of will, by radically cutting calories and exercising aggressively, becomes a figure of hatred and envy while the person who gains the weight back is ‘disgusting.’

Read the rest; it’s all this good.

It got us to thinking about several things: first of all, how New Year’s resolutions have a tendency to be slightly disguised lists of what we don’t like about ourselves. The whole standard list of resolutions–not just “lose weight,” but “cleaner house,” “more organized,” “finish my novel” and so many more–are really rephrased self-criticisms. They sound all virtuous and improving, and it’s a little too easy to ignore the ways in which they encourage us to undermine ourselves.

Second, the specific “lose weight” resolution has a nasty unintended consequence. Because losing weight, and keeping it off, is so extraordinarily difficult (and for some people, impossible without major intervention), it’s a resolution with an especially high failure rate. (Don’t believe losing weight is difficult? See this recent article, or Gina Kolata’s brilliant Rethinking Thin, among many other sources.) Resolutions to do things that actually affect your health and can be not only easy but pleasant, like eating more vegetables and getting more exercise, are a lot more effective in improving your life. Since the giant cultural push is to frame those things in terms of “losing weight,” people who don’t succeed at weight loss are more likely to go back to junk food and couch surfing because they feel like failures, while they might actually make real change if they picked more achievable goals.

Finally, s.e. smith is so articulate about how fat hatred kills that she doesn’t have to move to the next step: hatred kills. Being hated and oppressed is a key factor in life expectancy, health, and quality of life. And hating isn’t good for a person either. Fat hatred doesn’t just kill because it’s fat hatred; it kills because it’s hatred.