I Am Not Your Weight Loss “Before” Picture

I don’t need you telling me why I need to lose weight.

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Photo by Christina Murphy

New Years is a hard time of the year to be a fat woman in this country.

Everywhere I look I see someone who looks like me — as the “before” picture in a diet or workout ad.

Even worse is when the “before” picture is someone much smaller than me. I seriously want to stab someone when I see a “before” picture that’s a woman who is maybe a size 10 or 12.

You know, smaller than the average woman in this country.

According to the “National Health Statistics Reports” issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in December 2018, the average woman in the United States weighs 170.6 pounds, or 77.4 kg.

The average woman in the U.S. now wears a size 16 in clothing, not that you would know it from the myriad of clothing stores that only cater to customers who wear a size 12 or smaller.

Admittedly, I’m larger than average. I’m mostly OK with that. I have done a lot of work on body positivity and self-love to get to a place where I can be confident in my body.

I teach yoga. I wear shorts and tank tops. I speak out when businesses only offer chairs that skinny people can fit into. I call out thin privilege when I see it. Spoiler alert: I see it every day. It’s totally exhausting.

I’m also a strong proponent of the “Health at Every Size” movement. Like HAES I believe that no food is “bad”, that joyful movement is healthy, and that diets do more harm than good.

Before you contact me to sell me your Beach Body program, or tell me about how great you did on Weight Watchers, or encourage me to do your “easy” detox cleanse, or share how Paleo or Atkins or Keto changed your life, let me share one thing.

I don’t care.

I have dropped 30 pounds more times than I can count, then eventually gained it back. I lost 50 pounds at least three times, and each time gained it back. I lost 100 pounds once. And I gained it all back.

I can tell you that over the first 50 years of my life I tried every diet and weight loss and exercise plan there is. Every single one.

When I turned 50 I decided that I was done.

I was done trying to force my body to meet everyone else’s ideals. I was done starving myself. I was done obsessively counting calories. I was done taking prescription diet pills that would damage my heart. I was done trying to make myself take up less space when I’m out in public. I was done with caring how my fat body affects other people.

Sure, it was really cool when I would lose weight and people would come up to me with a big smile and say things like, “Look at you! You’re just wasting away”, “You’re such an inspiration”, and “You look so great, what are you doing?”

It wasn’t so cool when the weight inevitably returned, and I saw their eyes look me up and down and turn away in disgust and disappointment. One former friend once looked at me, noticed I had gained some weight, and said “I liked you better before when you were smaller.”

Don’t be that friend.

When you compliment a person for losing weight, what you’re really saying to them is “you are not good enough.” You’re telling them that their value is based solely on their appearance. You’re telling them that you choose not to love them just the way they are.

People often shroud their fatphobia under an alleged concern for someone’s health.

It’s true that some diseases seem to be correlated with weight, but as writer Ragan Chastain frequently reminds us, correlation is not causation.

If it’s been a while since your college Statistics class, this means that just because many overweight people have diabetes, that doesn’t mean that their being fat causes them to be diabetic.

Maybe you would be surprised to hear a lot of thin people have diabetes. And high blood pressure. And unhealthy cholesterol. And bad knees. And heart disease. You know — all the things that are supposedly the diseases of obesity.

As for me, my health is quite good. I eat a lot of vegetables. I drink a lot of water. I exercise. My blood sugar, cholesterol and all my other blood markers are consistently within acceptable levels.

But even if they weren’t within acceptable parameters, that’s between me and my doctor.

As author Marilyn Wann famously wrote:

“The only thing anyone can diagnose by looking at a fat person is their own level of prejudice toward fat people.”

If you are feeling pressured to make a New Year’s resolution to change your body, first think about this: despite what we have been led to believe, there is not one diet or workout plan that has been shown to effectively manage obesity.

There literally is no evidence-based research that long-term weight loss is feasible, or even healthy. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite.

I don’t care about your Aunt Sue who lost 100 pounds and kept it off for twenty years. She’s an anomaly.

Lots of research, including the famous Biggest Loser metabolism study, has shown that weight loss damages your metabolism so significantly that it makes it nearly impossible to keep it off. And every time you lose weight and re-gain it, it’s harder to lose it again.

One thing that dieting causes: eating disorders.

The connection between diet culture, body shame and eating disorders is so strong that the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) sponsors a “No Diet Day” (#NoDietDay) every May to highlight how harmful dieting is and encourage people to move away from a dieting mentality.

Another thing to keep in mind: many of those “before and after” pictures are fake. There’s a lot you can do with photoshop, lighting, camera angles and clenched muscles.

If you are feeling the pressure to lose weight this holiday season, I implore you to ask yourself why. Why is your appearance so important? Is it worth risking your metabolism? Is it worth the impact on your mental health?

If you are not feeling good in your body, find things that make you feel better. Bring new things in, don’t eliminate old ones.

Add healthier foods to your diet, rather than taking things away. Engage in healthy movement that you enjoy because it’s fun, not because it burns calories. Engage in stress reduction techniques. Get plenty of sleep. Dress for the body you have now and show off your curves.

You may or may not lose weight, but that’s OK. You are living your life. Enjoying it.

And regardless of whether you are fat or thin or just average, please remember one important thing: I am not a “before” picture. I am perfect just the way I am right now. And so are you.

(Originally published on News Break)

Written by

Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit rosebakenterprises.com or follow @authorrosebak on social media.

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