BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) ––– Based on an International Food Information Council survey, 43% of respondents report going on a diet, with 47% saying they did it to lose weight. You may choose one of the many popular diet trends out of convenience. However, research shows that many gain the weight back, but that may not be your fault.
“This is the way the program is designed to go,” says Clinical Psychologist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, and author of The Diet-Free Revolution Alexis Conason.
Fat Liberation Activist Ragen Chastain adds, “What the diet industry has done brilliantly is take credit for the first part where people lose weight, short term, and then blame people and get us to blame ourselves and others for the second part where they gain the weight back.”
It can be frustrating to feel like you failed.
“It’s not uncommon for people to become more and more desperate and do more and more extreme things to try to keep that weight loss off,” says Conason. So you may feel tempted to give dieting another chance, but that’s part of the plan. “By blaming people for the natural outcome, they’ve built a repeat business model,” says Chastain.
But why do people feel the need to lose weight?
“The mainstream culture that so many of us live in equates weight with moral value and this sense that if you’re in a larger body, there’s something wrong with you, you’re not trying hard enough, you’re lazy, and that if you’re in a smaller body, then you’re virtuous, and you’re righteous,” Conason explains.
She describes dieting as a bad relationship, “Oftentimes, we get caught in this kind of push and pull with dieting that we believe it’s going to save us and it’s going to be the answer, and it’s going to bring us all the good things we want in life, but then it disappoints us.”
Some of that pressure is enforced by our activity online. “Social media plays an incredible role in weight stigma in the ways that especially influencer culture, really centers this stereotype of beauty,” says Chastain.
It’s important to remember not to believe everything you see online. “People fail to remember that social media is very carefully curated and edited and filtered, and people are promoting the best version of themselves that may not be authentic,” says Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Kristin West.
Conason explains that midset applies to some of the profiles that claim to be fitness or nutrition accounts. She says they often encourage eating disorder behavior, giving the example of thinner influencers posting about what they eat in a day. Eat Fit BR Registered Dietician Savannah Latimer says these can cause you to “have a bad relationship with food, and it can be very damaging and long-term, you will struggle with body image.”
With so many negative connotations, people have resisted this dieting culture for decades through social movements. One such movement is body positivity. “Body positivity actually started in the sixties as a social movement for people that were fighting for equal rights for all body types,” says Latimer.
As the movement got more popular, it began to get watered down.
“It’s sort of been a co-opted movement at this point,” says Chastain, adding, “you’ll hear those kinds of influencers say, it’s okay to be fat as long as you’re healthy, as long as you have certain mobility, et cetera.”
But the meaning began to change as well. “The body positivity movement has also gotten misconstrued to mean I have to feel great about my body all the time and loving what our body looks like,” says Conason.
So now, the focus is shifting to body neutrality. “This idea that my body’s not good or bad, it just is. I’m accepting it as it is now, even if I don’t love it all the time,” says Conason.
There is also a strong push to remove the stigma around weight entirely. “People have the right to exist in fat bodies. It doesn’t matter why they’re fat, it doesn’t matter if there are health impacts of being fat, it doesn’t matter if they could or want to become thin,” says Chastain.
But whatever the movement, the diet industry is taking note and adapting. “They’re seeing what we’re doing, that it is working, and they’re co-opting the language of fat liberation to sell diets,” says Chastain.
So before starting a diet or taking advice from someone online, discuss your options with a weight-inclusive doctor or dietician who is experienced in the health at every size approach.