Tag Archives: weight loss

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Watch Your Weight

Laurie and Debbie say:

At this time of year, we are bombarded with mainstream media lists of New Year’s resolutions, and it’s almost impossible to find one that doesn’t include weight loss. Here’s what we hate about that:

Making good changes is often impossible if your focus is weight loss.

Here’s Ragen Chastain from Dances with Fat:

“Join the gym, become more active, get healthier!” There are no guarantees but this is ok advice if someone has access to and can afford a gym, if going to the gym sounds like something they want to do, and if they are interested in movement as a path to health.  “Join the gym, become more active, and then you lose weight”.   Horrible advice no matter what the circumstances-  there is no evidence to support that people will lose weight long term, in fact, there is a lot of evidence that increased activity increases health but does not lead to weight loss.  Sadly, since many gyms choose to grossly overstate what the evidence shows they can achieve, when people don’t lose weight, or when they lose it short term and then plateau and start gaining it back, they quit going to the gym (or whatever activity they picked to make them healthier) because they think it’s not “working” because they’ve been wrongly convinced by the gym that if they aren’t thinner then they aren’t healthier.

Humans are (as a group) goal-oriented. We like to know where we’re going; we like to see progress; we like to move forward. If the goal is “become more active, get healthier,” then that can work. Maybe we can walk further without getting tired, climb more stairs, lift heavier weights. Maybe something hurts less, or stops hurting. Maybe anxiety decreases and brain weasels shut up. Or maybe we are just more cheerful and enjoy life more.

But since weight loss for any length of time is not achievable for most people, it works against making the changes that have a fine chance of making our bodies feel well in one way or another.

The other thing we hate about dieting for weight loss is that it discourages us from listening to our bodies, from noticing changes, from appreciating success. It reduces everything to numbers. If you’ve ever said, or heard someone say, “I need to lose 7-1/2 pounds,” when you know perfectly well that your weight changes more than half a pound in the course of the day, then this is obvious. But it’s equally true if the number in your head is 40 pounds, or 150. Obsession with numbers gets in the way of seeing/feeling what’s actually changing.

So don’t watch your weight. Smash the scale. Listen to your body, and do what feels good.

The Hidden Truths of Major Weight Loss

(crossposted on Feministe)

Laurie and Debbie say:

Julia Kozerski lost 160 pounds, exactly the way that fat people are encouraged to. She changed her diet, she built in exercise, she stayed constant. Her goal was to change her body, and she succeeded. She went from weighing 338 (fat women can always tell you the exact number) to about 180. She’s also a photographer, and she has documented the experience extensively.

before and after self-portraits of Kozerski

It’s the wonder-and-dream story of most fat women in America and the western world. But it’s not a whole story. Here’s a full frontal nude of how she looks now.

“Everything starts sagging, and you’ve got stretch marks, and clothes fit differently, you’re kind of panicking, and you’re saying, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Because this shirt doesn’t look right,'” she says. “I was very, very – I don’t want to say depressed, but I would get really down on myself about, like, ‘I’m not doing this correctly,’ or, ‘This isn’t what it’s supposed to look like.'”

As Alexandra Symonds at New York Magazine says:

After all that work, it can be a disappointing blow to discover that bodies that have lost 50-plus pounds simply don’t look like bodies that have maintained a steady weight since reaching adulthood. (While cosmetic surgeries like those detailed here can treat loose skin, stretch marks, and sagginess, they’re also expensive, invasive, and mostly absent from the fairy-tale weight loss success stories we see depicted so often.)

“It’s a fantasy, that when we lose weight, everything wrong in our lives is going to be right — that means our relationships are going to be right, we’re going to feel completely differently about ourselves,” says Geneen Roth, a New York Times bestselling author of books on eating who also leads retreats and workshops, and who herself lost between 60 and 70 pounds in her late twenties. “People are shocked to find out that this thing that they’ve been longing for and waiting for and working for is not what they thought it was.”

Nude of Kozerski from the back

It should go without saying that Kozerski is remarkably brave to put these images out, and not everyone wants to see them or hear about her experience:

Even when talking about her weight loss, Kozerski says there’s no room to share the full experience – like when she went on a popular talk show to share her story. “They’re putting me in Spanx, and I’m like, ‘This is not what I want to talk about; this is not at all how I want to come out,'” she says. “I would rather put it all out there.”

So she’s not just brave; she’s also speaking truth to power. The diet industry (not to mention the weight-loss surgery industry) does not want women (or anyone) to know that they won’t emerge from the surgery with the bodies they see in advertisements. They absolutely don’t want people to know that choosing to lose large amounts of weight is choosing, in effect, voluntary disfigurement. (ETA: by the same kinds of cultural standards that equate fat and ugliness. Since many or perhaps most people striving for major weight loss are striving for conventional beauty, this is something they should have a right to know.) The weight-loss brigade doesn’t want people to know that as long as the weight stays off, the newly-skinnier person will always have to figure out what to do with the volume of the sagging skin. Spandex stops being a fashion statement and becomes a necessity. As Symonds says, “While cosmetic surgeries like those detailed here can treat loose skin, stretch marks, and sagginess, they’re also expensive, invasive, and mostly absent from the fairy-tale weight loss success stories we see depicted so often.”

Sure, if you lose a lot of weight and keep it off, some things will probably improve. For sure, the world will treat you better, especially when your loose skin is held back by Spandex or removed by costly cosmetic surgery. And some worlds may open up to you. Symonds–trying very hard to write a pro-weight-loss article and tell the truth at the same time–says: “Julia Kozerski waxes poetic about farmers’ markets and bike rides.”

But how many women in this time and place, this culture where smooth, unwrinkled skin is valued almost as much as thin bodies, would really choose the weight loss if they knew what they were choosing?

Thanks to our friend Lizzy for the NY Magazine link.