This blog is gonna have to be a quick one because I have to go to a friend's play and I have to scan some documents for my new job as the Managing Director of the tres fab Michelle Tea's company, Radar Productions, and I also have to find time to flat iron my bangs and get a latte.
Ok, so as life would have it I came across a few things this month that made me really stop and have a ponder. I read a book that was sort of focused on weight loss recently (and I mean I kinda knew it was gonna be focused on weight loss but it kinda went in a direction I wasn't entirely expecting) and also had an amazing conversation about the myth of "emotional eating." And the realization was this:
Some people believe that self love is a weight loss tool.
Wait! Wait! I know it seems counterintuitive. Especially since my work - and the work of the other coaches, lecturers and activists I admire - focuses entirely on NOT losing weight. Especially since our work seeks to demystify weight loss as a cure for all of life's woes.
And yet it seems there are some who are done with the idea of "traditional" dieting and believe that "self love" is the true path to the Land of Skinny. The idea is that if you love yourself that your mind and body will perfectly synch and "automatically" do all the things that make you "healthy." And because we culturally have almost no framework or understanding of health outside the idea that thin = healthy, there's a belief that when body zen is achieved that thinness will come "naturally."
The truth is: you can't "love" your body into thinness.
But then it really hit me. Thinness is not only seen as a guarantee of access to romance, success, and happiness. It is also culturally seen as the ultimate way to show that you CARE about and LOVE your body.
Maybe I was being naive or had my head under a rock. Maybe this has been going on for a long ass time and I just totally missed the way that body love/body acceptance language was being used to promote what I am against.
Actually when I thought about it harder I realized that long ago - in the midst of my own dieting hell - that I too may have believed this for a hot second. It actually dovetailed really nicely into my Pentecostal upbringing which argued that dieting was part of treating my body "like a temple," which when translated meant that being thin was a way to honor the gift that God had given me - my body. But we all know that's some patriarchal bullshit.
I think the internal thought process of the "body love diet" maybe goes something like this:
"Omg. If I LOVE my body I will inevitably 'treat it better' and so it will automatically become thin because I am only fat as a result of the way I 'abuse' food and 'harm' my body."
I'm really skeptical of this idea that people are killing themselves with food but I remember that I used to think that all the time.
But let me be clear: trying to force your body to be a certain size isn't self love.
There's this myth that fat people are fat because we are holding onto some greater emotional problem. Our culture sees fat as a manifestation of a pathology of self harm and self loathing. But THAT'S. NOT. TRUE.
Self love will not inevitably lead to weight loss. Believing that you're fat because you don't love yourself "enough" or the "right" way is harmful and false thinking.
Your body isn't wrong. Our relationships with our bodies are complicated! I know. It's not easy to love yourself in a culture that tells you that you'll never be good enough (remember how I said that in Hot & Heavy?). But real love isn't perfect! It doesn't always (or even often) look shiny and sparkly and perfect and each day of a self-love relationship doesn't start with staring adoringly at yourself in the mirror. What loving relationship do you know that's perfect? Nones, ghurl. But trust me when I say your body deserves love - real love - and not the sneaky kind that masquerades as love but is actually all that nasty ass self-hate again.
#LoseHateNotWeight forever ♡
p.s. I have a Virgie VIP mailing list now! You should totally sign up (go here - you can subscribe right under my picture)!
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.