A month or so ago, I made myself a pretty nice breakfast. It looked pretty good, so I took a picture of it, and posted it on Tumblr. (Yes, I am the kind of person who shares pictures of their breakfast on the internet. Reserve your judgement because I do not care.) The breakfast in question consisted of an English muffin, a smallish portion of scrambled eggs, some tomatoes, and an apple. A while later I check back and see that it has been reblogged a few times. Awesome, I think, I’m glad other people thought it looked good. I see that some of the tumblrs reblogging it are weight loss blogs. I look at them and they’re all calling themselves healthy weight loss blogs. This isn’t about eating disorders or thinspiration, they say, it’s about setting goals and being fit and healthy. People post their weight, their exercise regimen, their daily diets, pictures of themselves. It all does seem very healthy; there’s no admiration of excessively emaciated people, no mention of depriving yourself or exercising until you’re in pain, no evident fear of food.
Then I started to see things saying what people looked forward to. Some said being able to run a marathon or accomplish some other impressive physical feat. Some want to fit into or look good in a certain item. Some (and this is where it gets sinister) are looking forward to feeling worthy of love. Feeling as though they are good enough for their partner. Not hating what they see in the mirror. To no longer having to stay out of photographs, crop their body out, photoshop themselves, try to erase their body out of existence. Seeing people who used to mock them, ‘showing them all’. Being able to enjoy their life without constantly feeling bad about themselves. No longer being the ‘fat friend’.
These attitudes aren’t uncommon. They’re devastating, but quite widespread. What shocked me was the blog culture that celebrated and condoned them. When a woman on one of these blogs says, for example, ‘I can’t wait until I lose weight and then I will feel like I deserve my boyfriend’s love’, the community will say, ‘Well done. Keep going. You can lose weight, you will feel like you deserve his love.’ What they should be saying is, ‘How worthy you are of love does not depend on how much physical space your body occupies, your gravitational pull on the earth. If someone loves you, you are probably worthy of their love. Losing weight won’t change that. Losing weight won’t change how you feel about yourself. This is not a healthy way to look at yourself’.
The people taking part in these blogs are losing weight in physically healthy ways; eating a varied, balanced diet, exercising regularly, drinking lots of water. But it is not mentally healthy. It is not healthy to feel that you are not worthy of your place in society. Losing weight is not a quick fix for low self-esteem. If you’ve been bullied for your looks, you do not need to change the way you look. You do not need to change anything about yourself. You don’t need to go back and show those people that you have adapted your body so that they will find it acceptable.
Change your body, change your life, change yourself, that’s all ok: but do it for yourself. You do not need to lose weight for your boyfriend, or for your family, or for your bullies. You do not need to lose weight for society, for the male gaze, for the general public. You do not need to lose weight for any reason other than wanting to lose weight.