When you think about the fact that dieting* doesn’t lead to long term weight loss, better health, nor even better self-esteem, what’s really left to recommend dieting?
The only thing that dieting really does is allow us to fit in.
I CAN Fit In
By dieting, a fat person tells the world “Yes, I realize that I’m fat, but I’m desperately trying to correct that in order to fit in.”
If that dieting results in some temporary weight loss, said fat person may actually fit in a bit more, and receive some of the benefits of thinness. At the very least, a fat person is fitting in by claiming s/he doesn’t want to be so.
The benefits of thinness in a fat-hating society are many. Being thin allows you to avoid the kinds of discrimination that fat people experience in schools, the job market, and medical treatment. Being thinner can mean fewer glares, and less uninvited judgment by others regarding food and fitness.
The “Choice” Dilemma
When you’re subject to so many negative stereotypes (lazy, slovenly, unhealthy, etc.) as a result of being part of the group, a natural reaction is to try to leave that group or “pass” for a member of a more highly regarded group.
We’ve seen examples of that among negatively stereotyped minority groups before. With fatness, however, we have a variant of this situation because (a) many members of the fat group don’t perceive themselves as part of any group and (b) the dominant culture tells us that if we had more willpower and got dieting right, we wouldn’t be in that negatively stereotyped group. In other words, being fat is often seen as a choice which makes fat people even more deserving of these stereotypes.
You May Want to Fit In But I’m Going to Fit Out
I’m only laying all of this on the line to bring an awareness to it. Because, frankly, I think fitting in is highly overrated. I’d rather just fit out.
If you take a moment to think about some of your favorite people, whether they’re your friends and family, or artists, musicians, politicians, activists or whatever, do the people you really admire fit in nicely? Or, are they admirable because they buck trends, say unpopular things, look funny, and/or have innovative ideas?
Fitting out means being who you are, even when people insist that you have to change. Fitting out means taking up space, not apologizing for yourself, and not agreeing with those who seek to label you with stereotypes.
By the way, I’m not making light of the discrimination that fat people face. It’s wrong and discrimination laws should be extended so that we can fight it better. I’m just saying that trying to become thin to avoid this discrimination is not the answer.
How To Fit Out - Won’t You Join Me
Fitting out can be amazingly freeing, and I want to offer you a few ways to experiment with fitting out.
1) Explore Your Desires—What is it that you really want? Most of us rarely take the time to ask ourselves this question. It’s a really powerful question, and the more you ask it, and the more you allow yourself to really hear your answers, the more you can start to move in that direction. If your internal dialogue often comes down to “I want to do X, but I should do Y,” then experiment more with doing X. Let your internal guidance system make more choices. Rarely will you do anything so drastic as to jeopardize your job or important relationships. In essence, you want to explore what happens when you allow yourself to be more yourself.
2) No More Hiding —Spending your life performing as one thing that you simply are not is really stressful. It takes an inordinate amount of energy to pretend that you’re happy. That energy that you spend pretending not to be you could be put to much better use. When you hide who you really are, everyone misses out. You miss out on the opportunity to be more authentically you, and the world misses out on all that you have to offer. So, even from a purely altruistic standpoint, fitting out is a good idea.
3) Look For Inspiration—In the last few years, I feel like I’ve been surrounding myself with more and more people who are willing to fit out. But here, I’m going to name a few people living today as well as a few historical figures whom I see as examples of fitting out. (By the way, this list is just a tiny sampling of people who fabulously fit out.)
- Victoria Woodhull—Among a gazillion things, she was a clairvoyant businesswoman who ran for President in 1872 and believed in free love.
- Albert Einstein —Aside from being the father of modern physics, he was neither fond of wearing socks nor brushing his hair.
- Lillian “Diamond Lil” Russell—Known for being “over 200 pounds” she was the major sex symbol of the 1890’s, and used her fame to fight for women’s suffrage.
- Paul Robeson —He was a lawyer/athlete/Phi Beta Kappa member and one of the greatest singers ever and he fought for civil rights despite the negative effect on his career.
- Emma Goldman—She tried prostitution because she hated working in sweatshops, and when that didn’t work out, she became an amazing spokesperson for women’s rights and free love.
- Beth Ditto —Fat and fabulous frontwoman for The Gossip, she regularly gets nearly naked on stage, is considered a fashion icon and is much beloved despite not fitting the current image of what women in music should look like.
- Gabourey Sidibe —Fat and fabulous Oscar-nominated actress who blew the press’s mind due to her quick wit and all around awesomeness. (Their minds shouldn’t have been so blown, but it was great to see.)
- Alan Grayson—Famous for telling it like it is. Rather than playing politics, this former Congressman told the world that the Republican healthcare plan was, “Don’t get sick. And if you get sick, die quickly.”
- Bjork —Swan dress. All a capella albums. Anarchic youth.
- Helena Bonham Carter—Utterly mesmerizing actress who wears utterly bizarre clothing on red carpets and doesn’t give a crap.
*You can substitute dieting with bariatric surgery throughout this post.
Let me know how you’re going to fit out in the comments section below!
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness. She counsels women and men throughout the country on how to get off the dieting roller coaster, give their bodies what they really crave, and love their bodies and themselves. Golda's counseling and activism work have been featured on CBS's The Early Show, ABC's Nightline and Time Out New York. For more support with healing your relationship with food and your body, get your free copy of Golda's Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining by clicking here.