On Weight Loss Resolutions and Feminism

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By Jillian Stacia

“Omg, I’ve eaten a thousand cookies. My pants barely fit.”

The sentence flew out of my mouth before I even realized I said it.

It was one of those moments where you literally see the words hanging in the air. It was the holidays, and I was laughing with my sisters in the kitchen. I waited to see how my words would land in the crowd, worried about how they would settle. Luckily, there wasn’t any horrible reaction. Nothing except a smile and a nod and a “me too” in a small, heartbreaking kind of way. Just another innocent comment added to the growing pile of reasons why we’re not good enough the way we are. 

***

Here’s a list of diets I’ve been on, in no particular order: Atkins, South Beach, 17 Day Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, No Carbs, No Dairy, No Gluten, No Meat, All Meat, Cookie Diet, Juice Cleanse, Weight Watchers, Paleo, and the time I ate nothing but a bag of grapes for 48 hours.

I don’t like when people say diets don’t work. They do. They just don’t last. You can’t restrict yourself forever. And of course, what you restrict, you crave- that’s just how humans operate. But diets do work. If they didn’t, no one would ever go on them. They just don’t last because no one wants to live a life of restriction. 

***

Sometimes I wonder much time I’ve spent thinking about my weight. I wish I could find some way to quantify it. How many life minutes have I spent obsessing about the number on the scale? What could I have done with that time? What couldn’t I have done?

I truly believe the diet industry is the patriarchy’s last ditch effort to keep women down. Distract them with this never-ending problem. Pin them against each other. Let them strive for the unattainable. Do anything to prevent them from noticing how brilliant they are.

***

Years ago, I was studying for college finals with a bunch of girlfriends. Somehow, we got on the topic of looks vs. brains. We started debating whether we wanted our daughters to be pretty or smart. Almost all of them said pretty. It opens more doors.

I was furious and indignant, so I said smart, but I was just trying to prove a point. The sad truth is that all of us were smart enough to know that pretty is more important in today’s society. Every woman has been taught that particularly painful lesson.

***

Every New Year, I make a resolution involving my weight. Since I became a feminist and a marketing professional, I’ve added some PR spin to make the goal seem less superficial. I wasn’t trying to be skinny per say, I was trying to be healthy. My goal of exercising 5 times a week was really to manage my stress, it had nothing to do with my waistline. Wanting to eat more vegetables was because of my desire to have more energy, not take up less space.

I’m calling bullshit on that one. Maybe not for you. But for me? That’s some bullshit. Healthy is just a cover up for thin. Healthy is just a marketing tool. The product is skinny. That’s what we’re all after at the end of the day. 

***

No one wants to talk about our obsession with weight. No one wants to act like it’s a problem. But it is. And if we don’t shine a light on it, we’ll never get better. If we don’t call out the crazy, it will never go away.

I’ve spent a lot of time working through this issue. And I’ve made progress. I’ve read books, done research, challenged my thinking and my mental framework. I’m strangely obsessed with beautiful plus size women. I tape pictures of them to my walls. I support their movements. I buy their products. In a dramatic cleansing ritual, I threw my scale off my third story balcony. I refuse to let myself count calories. I know in my brain that being skinny doesn’t matter.

But I still feel it — the shame, the preoccupation with my imperfect body, the desire to be thinner, the need to apologize when I eat too much. It never goes away, and then there’s the shame that comes with that, too. There’s the guilt that comes with gaining weight and the guilt that comes with the guilt that comes with gaining weight. It’s a vicious cycle that always ends in not enough.

***

One time, in college, I lost 40 pounds in one semester. Another time, in college, I got a 4.0. Guess which one got me more attention?

***

My 18-year-old sister is thin, and it’s the thing she gets asked about the most. As if it’s the most interesting thing about her. As if it’s the 100th most interesting thing about her. They don’t ask about her hobbies, her interests, her hopes and dreams. They comment on her body. In a nice way, in a complimentary sort of way. They ask her what size she is. They praise her for something that she has zero control over.

This, too, is a cage.

***

Here’s the most important rule, the one I broke earlier: do not complain about your body in front of other women, especially younger women and girls. Do not talk about your love handles or your new exercise program or your new diet. Do not compare notes or trade war stories or glamorize something that imprisons so many of us. Stop glorifying your battle scars.

This is the key, ladies. This is the way out. It’s through chosen silence. It’s through changing the channel. It’s choosing to look the other way. To put our energy elsewhere.

Do not talk about other people’s bodies. Do not point or mock or make fun of or even compliment. Stop acting like the body is the most important thing, like it’s the only thing. Search for something else to say.

Don’t comment when a young woman has lost weight. Don’t comment when a young woman has gained weight. Don’t comment on a celebrity’s weight, on a politician’s weight, on your mother in law’s weight. Just don’t comment.

It’s not about your words — it’s about your actions. You can tell your daughter she’s beautiful at any size, but until you truly love your own beautiful belly, she won’t really believe you. You can’t preach about acceptance and self-love unless you practice it. It won’t do any good. We have to back up our words with our actions. We have to dig our own way out.

***

There is a certain amount of grace that must be involved when you’re trying to stop others from battling a problem that you yourself haven’t been able to solve. Do not feel bad. This is natural. Hold hands and walk forward and do the best you can. There is beauty in learning together. There is beauty in owning your struggle. There is honor in doing hard things, in teaching others before the lessons have truly sunk in. In leading and failing and rising by example. Insert grace here.

***

There is so much more to this life than weight. There is so much more to being a woman than being a certain size. Be sexy. Be wild. Be smart. Be inquisitive. Walk on the grass with your bare feet and catch fireflies and drink wine from a mason jar and make art and swim in the creek naked. Stop caring about how your hips look in a bathing suit, care about the impact you’re having on this world. Care about the way you show up for your neighbor. Care about your job and your interests and your passions. Care about your body and love it in every way you can. That means eating cake and kale and going to yoga and sleeping when you’re tired.

Nourish yourself this year. Not just with food, but with life. Not with restriction, but with abundance. Do not deny, indulge. Do not contain. Be free.


Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via unsplash}

15 thoughts on “On Weight Loss Resolutions and Feminism

  1. katiemdean says:

    I love this! I think this is such an important topic that isn’t talked about enough. Through the years I have turned into a huge feminist and I now notice masculinity everywhere I didn’t before. But I am also a strong believing in the fact that you are beautiful just the way you are. One of my favorite quotes about size is “you have fat, but you are not fat. Just like you have fingernails, but you are not fingernails.” 🙂

    Like

  2. slimmingbsimcha says:

    I don’t totally agree with you.

    I think that there is more to life than being skinny or pretty, but I think that if you are an unhealthy weight then it isn’t just about looks. Wanting to lose weight and following a plan to do so (sometimes known as a diet) is necessary to live longer and live well. Being overweight and not being able to live how you want to, dress how you want to, particulate fully in society as you want to isn’t a feminist issue, it is a physical and mental health issue.

    If someone has put in tremendous effort top lose weight, why shouldn’t that be recognised? It is a major achievement.

    If however you aren’t talking about those of us who need to lose large amounts of weight, but those who are a healthy weight and obsess over a pound here or there, that is a different story altogether.

    Like

  3. secretblogr says:

    I loved this post! Confidence is so important for women, especially young girls. But the fact that we praise thin bodies with skinny waistlines is absurd. The pictures of women is magazines are photoshopped and women reached for tone body types even though they are unrealistic and unreachable. Our society focuses on beautyour instead of brainsending when it really should be the opposite. Yes, eating healthy and working out is important, but we don’t have to go to extreme measures to “be” healthy. I hope that one day every woman and girl will be confident in their own bodies and appreciate what they were given instead of wishing they were skinnier. Thank you again for writing this post.

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  4. unscriptedcafe says:

    Beautiful post. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. We’re kidding ourselves here in the U.S. if we don’t believe that our society values thin. We die for it. Every. Single. Day.

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  5. lindseylivings says:

    Most women are congratulated when they lose weight, saying good for them for changing their lives. I’ve witnessed men losing weight who got asked “do you have enough money?”, “are you okay?” etc. For whatever reason women’s self worth is on our image, its pretty lame 😒

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  6. thecolourcreators says:

    I loooved reading this, and it is so empowering because the body is a natural organic thing that helps us to live our daily live and enjoy the pleasures, and it isn’t there for us to scrutinize because it isn’t an accessory or an object, it’s our home! Really good post!

    Like

  7. beanthinkin says:

    Hi!
    I’ve recently started a blog and its going to be exploring a lot of different topics because its my primary outlet for thought and we (humans) are complicated creatures with many feelings and opinions, but some of the topics I would LOVE to explore with others is menstruation, feminism, sex health and consent. I think its insane that something that over half the world experiences first hand is still considered “taboo” and would like to start getting it into the spotlight. I only got started o this project a few days ago, and I’m not a pro with blogging or wordpress, so feel free to follow or comment or contact me with suggestions.
    The plan is to start with my own experiences, maybe throw in a few period promotional works, but eventually (when there is a certain level of interest), I would like to start sharing and reblogging other peoples stories and views, through a category called “My menstrual miracles”
    I can see how this would seem like a lot of self promotion, but I really would love to get some support and suggestions on how to break this stigma.
    https://beantheredonethat94.wordpress.com
    So check it out (or don’t)
    but keep being badasses, that are taking control of both their bodies and the internet! xxx
    Elizabeth Rose

    Like

  8. adelinemulia says:

    I love this post so much, and agreeing to most of it. I’ve been trying to lose weight for almost a year, and yes, not wanting to be skinny is so hard, because growing up we are all living in a soicey who sets skinny as beautiful. I am happy I’ve stumble across this post. Thankyou!

    Like

  9. The Menopausal Runner says:

    Loved this article….you’re a wonderful writer! I agree and say to honor your body by taking pride in the way you present yourself and always stand tall. Push yourself to exercise, if anything for more oxygen flow through the body, but make sure you get enough rest too.
    I am a 57 year old woman who literally learned how to properly run a couple of years ago and haven’t stopped since. I was never athletic, so it was a challenge for sure! But because menopause started to take over and made me feel so tired and BLAH I had to do something about it! I didn’t like myself that way and not because I was gaining weight like crazy, but because I was losing my spontaneity and brightness that I so very much loved about myself. I felt like I was in limbo just growing older by the minute, but running has given that all back to me and more!
    I am so thrilled to see young women being honest with themselves while finding their potential in this life, but if you ever find yourself stuck somewhere just know that it’s ok…when you’re ready, just take yourself out of your comfort zone and find passion in something new! ❤

    Like

  10. RanterWrites says:

    This is such a good post! I’m 18 and not many people comment on my weight but I remember my aunt once told me I had lost weight at a family party. I’m not someone who is particularly bothered by my size, but when she said that I thought ‘well was there something wrong with my body before I lost weight?’ and ‘who are you to comment on my weight?’ It just felt very strange that that would be the first thing somebody commented on when seeing me, maybe because I wasn’t used to it I’m not sure…

    Like

  11. Shannon - LiveLifeTrying says:

    Great post, and I agree with much of it. I’ve been heavy for years and refused to diet for many of these reasons. I wanted cake so I was going to eat cake! And that worked for me at the time. I was heavy, but there is more to me than my weight. And there still is, but I am currently trying to lose weight. As I get older it becomes more and more apparent that I cannot carry the extra pounds and hope to live an active lifestyle in my later years. Yes, I very, very much want to be skinny and wear the cute clothes. I’ve wanted that for years, but this is much more about the feeling of accomplishment and being healthy as I age. I don’t give a rat’s patootie how others see me. I want to like what I see and how I feel.

    Like

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