Imagine if you’d never been told that there was anything wrong with your body size, shape or appearance. Imagine if you’d been raised with the message of love and acceptance in the exact body you have right now, without needing to change a thing.
This is a quote from Christy Harrison’s blog. She is an Intuitive Eating Dietitian and a Health-at-Every-Size coach. She asks us to imagine living with a foundation of body acceptance. How different would it feel to navigate the world? To go about your day, making any adjustments and allowances that your body needs, without judgement or shame? To trust deeply in your body’s wisdom, and in your worth and value as a human being?
Lately I have been thinking that the diet, fitness and weight loss industry may truly be the problem, not the solution, to our body shame.
As a child, I was put on a diet at age 8 and was taken to diet doctors, put on restrictive meal plans, weighed and measured and year after year. Despite all that, my weight kept increasing when I reached 212 pounds at the age of 12, my mother took me to a weight loss “specialist” who injected cows urine into my system to help speed up my metabolism and gave my mom diet pills to help her curb her appetite.
I discovered the fitness industry when I was 17 years old. I walked into my first jazzercise class, and I fell in love with exercise. I loved dance, movement, the music, and the community. I felt free and empowered… and then my body started to change. I started being praised and acknowledged for taking charge and looking better, and so I decided to become an aerobics instructor. I wanted to preach and teach about the benefits of exercise and to help others fight their fat.
But year after year I struggled more and more with my own weight and eating disorder, and year after year new diet and exercise plans were revealed as the one we had all been waiting for. Even today, the weight loss industry continues to grow and is now a 66 billion dollar industry selling everything from diet pills, meal plans and gym memberships. Has anyone noticed that it’s not working?
An average woman makes 5 to 6 attempts to lose weight on a new diet and spend up to 17 years in her lifetime dieting, yet the success rate is less than 1/10th of 1% of people who lose the weight actually keep it off. Can you imagine if you bought a new phone and only had 1/10th of 1% of a chance of getting one that worked and you just kept buying a new one hoping that you would finally be that lucky 1/10th of 1%? Can you imagine if college students were applying to colleges and quitting and reenrolling 5-6 times a year into a different college and the graduation rate was 1/10th of 1%? We would be outraged! We would pay attention. Instead we just keep pouring money into the weight loss industry that is built on insuring our poor self-image and our fat phobia.
Maybe it isn’t that we need to restrict more and workout harder. Maybe what we need is a radical new approach. Maybe we need more self-acceptance and less shame. Maybe it is time to wake up and see that after all these years what we have been doing is not working.
As I raise 3 young girls who are now about the age I was when I got indoctrinated into diet culture and body shame, I am hoping to usher in a new way. A kinder way.
When we are so body-focused, we stop looking at the whole person, our inherent worthiness, value and beauty.
How do we end the war against our body? We have to practice loving ourselves as human beings, not body parts. Weight loss is not the answer, love is.
It’s hard to break free from fat phobia and body shaming and get rid of our weight loss obsession, but if it is not working and we are not getting thinner and happier, it’s time try something new.