Editor-in-Chief Lucy Dunn discusses the fluctuation of the weight-loss and body-positive rhetorics ever-present at New Year, and suggests, instead, body indifference should be our aspiration.
CW: eating disorders
Yesterday was the “hangriest day of the year” for Glasgwegians, according to new WW* research. How so? Because, following New Year’s resolutions, more than a third of adults in Glasgow went on restrictive diets and it’s around this time that “the resolve cracks”, as one Weight Watchers PR put it. Conversely, this is also when the body-posi insta-activism slams across social media again, and no matter how much you fight your way through the swamp of food, bodies, weight and self-worth posts, you can’t quite ever seem to avoid them either.
It’s that time of year, isn’t it? It’s expectation if not tradition to indulge on repeat at the start of the holidays and then, as past years have generally played out, spend the first week of the New Year trying to guestimate your approximate weight gain on the daily and crying into your already soggy-looking fruit salad whilst making up new resolutions that will ensure you will never eat another carb ever again.
“It’s expectation if not tradition to indulge on repeat at the start of the holidays…”
On walking past any mirror or reflective surface, I used to push my head to my neck and consult my side profile earnestly wondering how many extra “chins” I’d garnered over the previous week, simultaneously trying to remember how many inches of stomach fat those 2013 Instagram posts used to say was acceptable to pinch out from your abdomen. Because obviously a “size zero” insta account knew best. This was all much before Instagram was flooded with a new wave of body-posi fitness guru, of course, that demanded you love yourself and said “thank you” to your body every morning and every night for just ticking along. A positive shift? Definitely. The answer? I don’t know.
Now, we’re only just scraping the end of the festive season, and Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are full of warnings about the inevitable weight loss waterfall that January is going to hit us with. Maybe too full, I controversially posit.
It’s good to know we’re all in it together in the fight against the fatphobia, but that doesn’t stop the internalisation of it in our heads, and I wonder how much help the thousandth “here’s your reminder that we don’t need to lose weight this new year :)” or “remind yourself that your eating over Christmas is an act of self-love for your body!” actually brings the passive scroller. Maybe I’m a cynic, but having been told much of my adult life that “you don’t need to lose any more weight” in a soft attempt to help end my weight loss whilst still being caught in the addictive cycle of wanting nothing but that – and at some points being spurred on by this – has only made me uneasy about the effectiveness of this messaging.
“I wonder how much help the thousandth ‘here’s your reminder that we don’t need to lose weight this new year :)’ actually brings the passive scroller.”
I think these tweets can serve to invalidate, or at the very least, neutralise the eating disorder issue. It also sets up a moral highground stance on the part of the tweeter; if you do succumb to the demons, you’re weaker – lesser. And a “reminder” that you shouldn’t fall into the weight loss-addict trap seems to insinuate that without its issuing, you’d simply forget. Oh shit, just me starving myself again. Woops, just me binning every single bit of food I own to subconsciously avoid a 2am binge. Ah help, I’ve just taken ten times the recommended amount of weight loss pills, if only I’d had that reminder!
The issue is, for some of us at least, is that through years of abusing our minds and bodies to reach constantly shifting, unattainable goals set initially by heroin-chic models but perpetuated by our inner monologues, we grow in ourselves a repulsion to anything that’s not slimness. So no matter how many people post infographics full of body-positive discourse, if you’re still wired in that ED way, you’ll remain immune to the mob mentality. Pity them, even. They’re just trying to justify their own insecurities. Don’t let them drag you down. The hierarchy of eating disorders creates a mindset that is cruel and unforgiving.
“If you’re still wired in that ED way, you’ll remain immune to the mob mentality. Pity them, even.”
These infographics and tweets, to me, feel like that “nOoOo don’t kill yourself you’re too sexy” snapchat. We can’t deny the good intention is there, sort of, but the force of its impact is barely enough to leave a scratch. In some cases, I’ve found them weirdly triggering. I suggest – radical in an age of insta-activism, perhaps – that we leave them by the wayside altogether. Focus on doing away with the toxicity of the original Y2K era, absolutely. But these constant, public reminders can unwittingly draw rifts – external and internal – in a process of recovery that is jumbled and ugly.
If we want to talk about normalisation, let’s normalise not caring about weight at all. Be body indifferent, not body positive. I’ve heard podcasters and writers and journalists talk about body indifference as though it’s a negative, or a halfway point on a process to reach the full-on, blow-out positivity about our sizes and shapes that we have a God-given right to. Personally, I see it as the pinnacle. Indifference to clothes sizes – at first, forced, and now, almost there – and indifference to food types, portions and calorie counts has helped me come leaps and bounds in a journey I truly never thought I’d make. Remove the emotion from it. Make it bland and uninteresting. Find other things to focus your energy on.
“Indifference to food types, portions and calorie counts has helped me come leaps and bounds in a journey I truly never thought I’d make.”
Honestly, I don’t want to be reminded not to feel bad about what I have or have not eaten over the festive period; that in itself promotes a cycle of conscious thought and feeling about food. I’ve had Christmases past where I wouldn’t touch chocolate at all – fearful – and others where I’d be unable to stop breaking off pieces to manically consume. It was a journey that felt impossible to escape from, but one that I feel pretty confident in saying I mostly have.
I now eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m not. I exercise when I want to move, and sit still when I don’t. I no longer spend hours on an app counting calories, breaking an eight-year-long habit. I couldn’t tell you what I’ve eaten today. I’ve not exercised to “burn off” food consumed in over a year. I’m fine with how I look – I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either. My indifference to food and weight and calorie surpluses and deficits has unchained my mind. Suddenly I can pour all that wasted energy into so many other different things; suddenly I have more time in which to live. It’s been a learned amnesia that’s done this, the de-prioritisation of a habit that has eventually stopped rearing its head – though it’s not been easy by any means. So personally, I don’t want any “reminders” about what I should or shouldn’t think about my body this year – freedom comes with forgetting.
*formerly Weight Watchers.