Is Losing Weight Conforming?
By Jeany Miller
From the Diary of a Fat Woman Blog Series
I was recently out with my best guy friend and his 17-year-old daughter when she announced she was on a “diet.” The first problem with this statement is her current weight; she has a willowy shape without an ounce of fat on any part of her body. She runs approximately five miles per day and is careful to never indulge in sweets.
If you’re like me, you might be asking yourself right now why this young lady, who is slim and athletic, would ever choose to go on a diet. But the answer is surprisingly simple. “With millions of Americans on a diet at any given time and thousands of different weight-loss plans to choose from, it’s obvious that Americans highly value thinness,” says Jeffrey Sobal, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell. “Being thin or large has numerous social meanings for people in many aspects of life.”
Obviously, for girls like my friend’s daughter, being thin is so important that she not only exercises more than most people I know, but she also diets on a regular basis. To me, this is a sad indicator of just how deep the need to be thin runs in society. Similarly, it begs an uncomfortable question of me: what is wrong that I don’t feel compelled to diet and workout the way other people do?
Although I’m far from okay with my weight, still I sit here and do nothing about it. I’ve tried a million times to eat better and begin an exercise regimen, but I don’t stick with anything long enough to see results. In short, I always go back to my old habits. Why?
Sobal goes on to say, “Weight control is not just a health issue but a major social and cultural force in our society. For many people, weight is a major concern because failure to control it can have devastating social consequences.”
I have encountered uncomfortable situations in which people have made derogatory comments about my weight. I’ve looked in the mirror a million times and seen someone with a thick waist, large breasts, and big bottom that could really use some time in the gym. And yet I find it easier to remain the same rather than get my act together, fight back against the insults, and work for a better physique. Is this some kind of rebellion, or do I unconsciously revel in knowing I’m not the best I can be?
“What you weigh is a simple fact, but what you do with that fact in developing your identity or resisting stigma and eating disorders in a society that highly values thinness and often discriminates against fat people is complex,” says Sobal.
Does this statement mean people should resist conforming to ideals of thinness and just be themselves? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s certainly the way I interpret it. I don’t think it’s rebellion, or lack of concern, or any other phenomenon that keeps me from trying to shed 70 pounds and wear a size 6. I think that I just want to be me, whether I’m thin and beautiful or not. But buried beneath that desire is a longing to be accepted by others. Therein is the problem, because fat, as a rule, is ridiculed and held as an object of pity at every turn.
I don’t want to be an object of any sort. I simply want to be the person I’m meant to be, regardless of my size. And if I’m destined to be overweight, I have to accept that without waiting for the rest of the world to do the same. Perhaps someday the widespread obsession with thinness will give way to a desire to know and love people for who they truly are.