If you live in a fat body, I want you to know that I understand why you may want to lose weight. And more importantly, even though I don’t promote weight loss in my work, I want you to know that I honor your desire to lose weight. It is totally and completely normal.
The reason it’s normal to hope for weight loss is that living in a fat body in our society is hard. Those of us in larger bodies face oppression on a daily basis, and that oppression increases the larger we are. (For instance I, in what many call a “medium fat” body, face far fewer day-to-day challenges than my super-fat friends.)
It’s unfair for anyone to judge a fat individual who wants to lose weight. After all, losing weight seems like it will unlock positive outcomes like:
- Being able to walk into nearly any store and buy reasonably-priced clothing
- Being able to sit in chairs without fear of our legs bruising, or accidentally breaking them
- Being able to fly without fear of getting kicked off the flight, not being able to fit in the restroom, or having rude neighbors
- Feeling comfortable rather than self-conscious in public spaces
- Earning more money and being treated more fairly in the job market
- Being supported without bias by doctors and other medical practitioners
- Getting more attention from our sexual partners of choice
- Avoiding micro-aggressions from strangers about our bodies
- Better health and less pain (the health part this is a myth but a common belief, and I discuss pain in #7 below)
When we theoretically have all of this waiting for us “on the other side” of weight loss, it is no wonder many of us spend our entire lives trying to get smaller.
Here’s the thing, though. Our society pretends that losing weight permanently is no big deal, when actually it’s nearly impossible. Medical practitioners who promote weight loss to cure our ills are simply not acknowledging that the vast majority of people who try to lose weight regain it within 2-5 years.1
We’re told that all we need to do is move more and eat less, when in reality our bodies work against us to regain the weight. (Read How weight loss attempts backfire for a lot more scientific explanation around this.)
Seriously, when you dig into the data, the average weight lost on programs like Weight Watchers is only about 3-5%2,3,4, and then most people regain that weight within 5 years (often going over their original weight). For those of us who are in large bodies, that is a tiny fraction of the weight we’d probably need to lose to blend into the smaller half of society.
The truth is, there is no proven way to lose weight in the long-term. The tiny number of people who do lose weight for long periods of time pretty much make maintaining their weight a full-time job, exercising multiple times a day and watching their food intake extremely carefully. Disordered eating and compulsive exercise are often part of the picture.
It’s also known that weight cycling (losing weight and regaining it, over and over) is not good for general health.5,6,7
When you take all of these factors into account, attempting weight loss just doesn’t really make sense. Holding out hope for long-term weight loss is, sadly, waiting for something that is probably never going to come—and results in making yourself miserable in the meantime. (I recommend reading Body acceptance begins with grieving the thin ideal for help coping with this realization. I know it’s a really tough one.)
Believe me, I wish this wasn’t the case
Let me be clear: it frigging sucks that losing weight isn’t possible when there is so much oppression endured while being in a larger body. Sizeism is rampant in our society and it is horrible.
Would I lose weight if I could? Sure I would—not because there is anything inherently wrong with being my size, but because of how inhospitable our culture is to people in fat bodies.
I consider the end-goal to be making society more accepting of size diversity and less oppressive to fat bodies. My dream is a world where no one needs to lose weight—because everyone’s treated equally regardless of the size of their body.
This is why I consider myself a fat activist in addition to a coach for fat people. I consider healing our society an important part of my mission, in addition to helping individuals heal their relationship to food and their body.
But all is not lost, I promise
I know it can be hard to think about the difficulties we face in larger bodies, but my purpose for writing this post is to help!
There is a lot we can do to live our best lives without wasting another minute trying to lose weight. This is what I focus on in my work with clients. And seriously, life in a fat body can be great, particularly when you make a few changes in how you think about the world and how you think about yourself.
Let me explain how…
Keys to living your best fat life!
1. Understand why losing weight isn’t necessary for health
Even if we could learn to accept our bodies as they are, health is important to many people. Once you understand how biased weight science is and why your size has minimal impact on your health, it can be a lot easier to give up on the desire to lose weight.
One day I will finally write a treatise explaining this in detail, but in the meantime, pick up the book Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. Or coach with me and I’ll explain it in bite-size chunks!
2. Feel good about the size and shape of your body
When I coach people we don’t necessarily aim for living in a constant state of “body love”… it’s just not super-realistic. Your feelings about your body will be in constant flux, but I can help you move towards acceptance and positive feelings more often than not. I can also help you improve your ability to handle the down days.
You might like to read my article, The very first thing you should do to improve your body image, if you’d like to start working on body acceptance right away.
3. Heal your own internalized fatphobia and shame
When we believe what others think of us, their micro- and macro-aggressions hurt ever so much more. When we grow up in a fatphobic society, it’s only natural to start to internalize negative beliefs about fat people. The good news is that these beliefs can be unlearned. This article of mine gives a taste of how to start.
4. Tap into your innate resilience
Fat people are already super-resilient. Without this resilience we wouldn’t be surviving in this thin-obsessed culture.
Learning to trust and fortify your own resilience will help galvanize you against incidents of fatphobia out in the world.
5. Make peace with food
Life in a fat body is so much better if you’re not feeling guilty about half the food that’s crossing your lips. Learning to eat intuitively (i.e., take your cues from your body instead of trying to create rules for yourself) is a fabulous way to make peace.
6. Find forms of movement that feel great
Moving your body is so miserable when you’re doing it because you feel you “should”. It’s way more enjoyable—and sustainable—when you find forms of movement that are fun and make you happy (this concept is known as “joyful movement“).
Key to this approach is learning to consider movement types morally equal to each other. A walk is equal to a cross-fit workout, and both are equal to an impromptu dance party in your kitchen.
7. Musculoskeletal pain? Find movement specialists to help
There are tons of myths out there about fatness and how our bodies can’t handle bearing this much weight. The truth is that our bodies are built to withstand a lot. (This video from trainer Kevin Moore explains this wonderfully.)
Improving our strength, mobility, flexibility, and alignment (under supervised care of a physical therapist, certified personal trainer, or similar) can resolve common physical discomforts like joint pain and plantar fasciitis. I recommend looking into HAES-informed movement specialists (or, at minimum, practitioners who are weight neutral) for this kind of support.
Some HAES-informed trainers I recommend include:
- Cinder Ernst (online and in Napa, CA)
- Gillian Byers (online and in Newberg, OR)
- Wren Withers (Portland, OR)
8. Find fashion that fits and helps you express your personality to the world
More and more plus-size clothing lines are starting up, and many of them do cater to the higher end of plus (say, 5x and above)! Finding clothing that is comfortable and helps you express yourself can be so healing and fulfilling.
9. Find supportive tools and strategies to help you feel more comfortable in your body
There are tons of solutions out there for the discomforts that can come from having more fat on your body. Chub rub solutions are plentiful, as are other hygiene, accessibility and mobility solutions. These too can help make this journey much easier. More of Me to Love has some great resources, for starters.
10. Find supportive, fat positive community
Finding people who unconditionally love and accept you no matter your size/shape is healing. Having recently found fat-positive community myself for the first time, I know there is simply no substitute. You too can find people like this, promise. As Made on a Generous Plan grows, I hope to be able to facilitate this as well!
It’s ok not to be there yet
You don’t need to have given up on the desire to lose weight to start this work. Ambivalence is so valid and normal in this process, particularly for people in larger bodies.
I do, however, hope that I’ve also provided a vision for how life can be fabulous even without losing weight. These approaches won’t eradicate the sizeism that fat people endure every day, but they will make it more tolerable and make life a lot more enjoyable overall.
- Mann, Traci, et al. “Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer.” American Psychologist 62.3 (2007): 220.
- Ahern, Amy L., et al. “Weight Watchers on prescription: an observational study of weight change among adults referred to Weight Watchers by the NHS.” BMC Public Health 11.1 (2011): 434.
- Dansinger, Michael L., et al. “Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial.” Jama 293.1 (2005): 43-53.
- Tsai, Adam Gilden, and Thomas A. Wadden. “Systematic review: an evaluation of major commercial weight loss programs in the United States.” Annals of internal medicine 142.1 (2005): 56-66.
- Strohacker, K., and B. K. McFarlin. “Influence of obesity, physical inactivity, and weight cycling on chronic inflammation.” Frontiers in bioscience (Elite edition) 2 (2009): 98-104.
- Montani, Jean-Pierre, et al. “Weight cycling during growth and beyond as a risk factor for later cardiovascular diseases: the’repeated overshoot’theory.” International journal of obesity 30.S4 (2006): S58.
- Guagnano, M. T., et al. “Weight fluctuations could increase blood pressure in android obese women.” Clinical Science 96.6 (1999): 677-680.