Yes, I’ve gained weight. No, you cannot comment on it. An anti-diet culture manifesto.

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August 30, 2020 by Cláudia

During my formative teenage years, my body was what society considers slim. Even throughout my most depressive years, I still had a healthy-ish relationship with my body and my weight. I never went on a diet, never counted calories or overexercised. Ultimately, I did not give much thought about my weight whatsoever. But when my mental health started improving so did my appetite, which meant that while I was becoming more stable and calm, I was also quickly gaining a lot of weight. And I was happy about it. Society, however, was not. I wrote about the ambivalent feelings of gaining weight because of significant improvement of my mental health in the post “Thoughts on (gaining) weight and diet culture“.

People around me (family, friends and strangers) started to overwhelm me with comments about my weight gain, something I had never experienced before. It became very clear to me that it made them uncomfortable that I was happier and more confident in a bigger body.

Captura de Ecrã (56)
Credit to: Ro González @beautifullyflawedbean

At that point, I finally understood that fatphobia has nothing to do with health and everything to do with societal norms. Here I am, feeling much better and proud of my progress, yet people constantly comment on my weight as if I was better before. Before, when I was too anxious to hold down food, couldn’t sleep and didn’t do any exercise. Now I am calmer and happier and my body is stronger and healthier. Yet, no one cumpliments my body anymore. Instead everyone that knew me before comments that I am fatter. As if that is inherently a terrible shameful thing.

My own experience with weight gain has lead me to look at the wider context of diet culture and fat phobia, realizing it is both all around me and within me.

Diet culture is the generalized beauty standard that equates thinness with beauty and moral values such as hard-work, integrity and moral superiority. This worship of thinness leads to unhealthy body image and hypervigilant behaviours regarding one’s weight.

It also leads to entitlement to police other people’s weight and food choices in the name of health. Since in our society there is a hierarchy in body types, people feel allowed and even compelled to interfere in this extremely personal area – what food each one puts inside their body.

Diet culture makes people feel free to comment on someone’s body and nutritional choices “for their own good”. Diet culture makes people think it is natural to go for weeks only drinking herbal tea and lemon juice but unnatural to have a bigger body that is strong and healthy. Diet culture makes employers chose the skinnier applicant for a job. It aggravates eating disorders and negative self-image.

I do not want to contribute to this toxic, self-hating and misogynistic culture. So here is my anti-diet culture manifesto. These are both external and internal actions that I will implement in order to diminish diet culture’s influence on me and the ones that surround me:

1. Thin does not equate good just as fat does not equate bad. I will work hard within myself to dismantle this thought system and truly understand that all body types are valid.

2. Fat shaming is unacceptable, racist, ableist and misogynistic. I will not accept it when I witness it and will speak up. I will also challenge my own thoughts and instincts if I find myself falling into diet culture narratives.

3. Diet culture is extremely damaging to everyone’s self-image. I will start to politely ask friends and family to not comment on my weigh gain or weight loss unless I asked them. I will also never comment on someone else’s weight loss or gain unless it was solicited. I will work internally to divorce weight from any judgement so that I will not have the impulse to comment on someone’s weight.

4. Our worth is not dictated by a number on a scale. Say it with me: Our worth is not dictated by a number on a scale. I will never weigh myself again. I will be proud of my body for what it is and let go of weight goals and weight stats (even though I really love statistics).

Weight is just a small part of who we are and certainly not the most important one. Just imagine what we could achieve collectively if we weren’t spending so much time and energy trying to lose weight that we didn’t even need to lose in the first place. Let’s work to feel comfortable in our own bodies. And to uplift others to feel comfortable in their own bodies.

Our bodies are amazing. Powerful. They carry us everyday. Whenever I am feeling anxious about my body I take a deep breath and say to myself:

My body is strong. My body is healthy. No one needs to love my body other than me.

Further reading:

15 thoughts on “Yes, I’ve gained weight. No, you cannot comment on it. An anti-diet culture manifesto.

  1. I’ve always been self-conscious about my weight. I’m male, and I remember hiding under a picnic table at the pool in elementary school so I wouldn’t have to take my shirt off because I thought I was fat. When the world around you has a certain ideal aesthetic, and tends to market and make clothes for body shapes other than your own it makes that little seed of insecurity grow so much. I think everyone could use a little more body positivity given the societal pressures the other way.

    Thanks so much for this insightful view of the subject!

    Like

  2. Wise Hearted says:

    Claudia, this is a very wise post. One every women should read for it’s not just the young who struggle with weight issues, we older ones too. But for the older woman it’s usually the health issue that being over weight bring that causes the struggle. Things like, high blood pressure, high fat in the blood and all that. If I wanted to lose weight for looks then I would be trying all those , “weight lose” programs and taking pills or drinking yucky stuff because I would want it off fast. But to lose due to health is usually a process and one worth working at. I never had a weight problem till I was in my 50. I am 73 now and about 40 pounds over weight. I am currently on a diet, just watching what I eat more diet. At my age to get skinny would be awful, all that skin that is pumped up by a little fat would sag much more and make me look older. Something to think about when one is older. They bury very few fat older people. Usually some health issue has taken away all that fat and let a shell of a person. I love people and people mean cooking and eating with them…sooooooooo. Well, I am making taco’s for my family tonight and I plan on eating three…guess I don’t worry too much about my weight anymore. This is a well written wise post.

    Like

  3. Our worth is not dictated by a number on the scale!!
    I’ve been able to take a lot from this for my own personal learning. Especially the context in which you give it. And I think I do will take on part of your third point that seeks not to comment on anyone’s weight without being asked and most importantly without history.
    Glad to know you are in a healthier place than before!
    Our worth is not dictated by a number on the scale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cláudia says:

      Yes! I love this. This is still a very preliminary work in progress, I’m sure it will still undergo many changes. There are still a lot of questions and doubts that I have.
      Thank you!

      Like

  4. MPH Graduate says:

    This was amazing, normally we (society) says, “every little girl should read this”, well I think every grown woman should. It’s about being comfortable in your, my…”our” skin. Also, someone who loves you just as you are!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Erin says:

    This is such a great post, and what a mic-drop of a last sentence! Thanks for the mention, too, that means the world to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is good to see you being self-confident, and happy.

    Like

  7. I couldn’t agree more with all you stated. I have always wished that worth was not linked to this scale number, even as I contributed to it by telling those women in my life how good they look since I knew it made them feel good. I wonder how much harm I did by reenforcing these destructive norms. Over the years I started to complement accomplishments and taste in outfits, things more about them as people than appearance. Hopefully it makes a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cláudia says:

      Hey, thank you for taking the time to comment! Yes, I have been thinking the same thing, the amount of times I have complimented my female friends on their weightloss because I knew it was their goal. I feel like this needs a bit more deconstructing as it is such a personal and ambivalent thing. On one hand, I want to work towards dismanteling diet culture and collectively building a healthier relationship with our bodies. On the other hand, I want to uplift and support other women for their choices, even if it is somehow participating in diet culture. So it’s still something I am trying to navigate.
      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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