A Wolf in Body Liberation Clothing (and a little of my story too)
Now I’m seeing even sneakier ads from a new company that is billing itself as being the anti-diet culture company, co-opting the language of body liberation and intuitive eating. <Insert Talia grumble here.>
Image description: an advertisement for an online nutrition company that we'll call "Company W." The ad starts with a testimonial boasting weight loss success. It then goes on to divide the screen in 2. On the left side is "Diet Culture" and on the right side is "Company W;" whereas diet culture is restrictive, Company W claims to be flexible and about freedom. Read on to find out why this seriously bums Talia out...
How can you tell if a company is promoting trustworthy
body liberation content?
If it’s ultimately about weight loss, the answer is that it's not.
Any health coach who promises long-term weight loss is not grounded in science. Even if they have good intentions. Yes, you can lose weight in the short term. But your beautiful body will not sustain it. If you’ve ever lost weight and gained it back, you are not a failure. This is a sign that your body is working as intended. 95% of all intentional weight loss plans result in regained weight within 5 years. So if a company claims to be anti-diet but guarantees weight loss, that’s just the same old body negative wolf, dressed in a body liberation sheep costume.
(sorry wolves, no shade intended).
PSA: Anything that touts weight loss is diet culture
The basic scoop: when you learn to trust and listen to your body, your body will be the size and shape it is meant to be. We are not all supposed to be the same small size. Companies can promise you freedom, but at the end of the day if they're helping you coax your body into a size it doesn't want to be: that is restriction.
So why does this rile me up?
If I’m being honest, it’s because these ads would’ve worked on me.
I used to have a rough relationship with food. I would have a few “good days” where I consumed small meals and patted myself on the back. Then I’d suddenly feel “out of control,” like all I could think about was food. I would eat a lot, feel terrible, then swear to “be good” the next day. Then the cycle would start over again.
I was desperate for anything that would help me feel more in control, and so I started looking for apps that could help me do that.
I ended up downloading a calorie tracking app. At first it felt amazing; control! Then it got hard. Then it got even harder. The National Eating Disorders Association says that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those people develop eating disorders. I’m lucky I didn’t develop a full blown eating disorder, but it could've gone another way.
Then one day I suddenly asked myself: “Am I really gonna keep doing this for the rest of my life? Will I always put so much stock in what I eat and what I weigh?"
I realized I had a choice. I could:
Keep trying to control my body forever or….
I didn’t even know what Something Else was but I vaguely remembered my friend Rachel talking about body positivity. So I started to research. That's when I learned about intuitive eating.
If “Company W” had existed back then, I might’ve gone for it. Here’s what would’ve happened:
First: I would’ve loved it. It would’ve felt like freedom to try a new control strategy.
Then: My body would have started resisting and I would’ve blamed myself for it no longer working.
And then: I’d find myself in the same spiral I always did.
I’m lucky I instead found resources that helped me choose to trust my body. It was scary to move in the direction of trust. It involved a lot of letting go of old expectations.
There’s no shame in wanting to lose weight. It’s a natural by-product of living in a world that worships thinness. That’s why I’m not mad at myself for the years I spent wanting to be ever smaller. How could I not? But I am mad at the culture that made me waste so much time focusing on body control.
And I'm mad that there are companies preying on that insecurity (and on bad science).
Thank goodness I chose option b: “Something Else.” Because deep down a part of me knew I couldn’t sustain that cycle for the rest of my life.
Don't buy into it; intentional weight loss is not sustainable. I know how hard it is to let go of the fantasy of being smaller, especially in a fatphobic world. Honestly you don't have to let go of it until you're ready to. But in the meantime, maybe don't feed the wolves.
Sending body love,
P.S. This is not to say that you can’t ever work with a nutritionist. Look for one who is aligned with intuitive eating and health at every size- they can help you figure out whatever health challenges are going on without sending you down the diet/obsessive path.
P.P.S. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, here is the eating disorder hotline. There are also eating disorder specialists who are intuitive eating certified.