This question may sound strange. But think about it. Seriously. Does dieting make you a better person? Are you morally superior if you’re pursuing weight loss?
The sad truth is our society’s been brainwashed to believe we’re morally superior if we’re dieting
Don’t believe me? Consider this. Picture what thoughts run through your head when you see a thin person eating a burger and fries. Are you envious of them? Think to yourself how unfair it is they get to eat that way?
Now imagine you see a person in a larger body eating a burger and fries. What snap judgments happen in your head? Are you disgusted? Feel sorry for them? Do you think they’re lazy, weak, or less valuable?
Lastly- imagine seeing a larger person eating a salad. Would you silently congratulate them? Feel like, “at least they are trying?”
When it comes to dieting, language matters
How many times have you ordered a salad explaining, “I’m trying to be good.”? Or accepted a piece of cake stating, “I’m so bad.” By constantly labeling food as good and bad, we then generalize the label onto ourselves. Here’s another one. Ever had a “cheat” day? Or said, “I’m cheating on my diet.”? Again notice the morality in this statement.
The language we choose shapes our perceptions. Is someone actually a bad person because they ate a piece of chocolate? Are you really a “good” person just because you ate a salad? Logic tells me no… Sadly, diet culture tells me yes. Are you a cheater because you ate a piece of candy? Again, this language adds morality onto the act of simply eating something delicious.
Attaching morality onto our eating habits may sound harmless on the surface.
The problem is- we tend to attach our worth as humans onto our eating habits and body shape and size.
Human beings come in all shapes and sizes. Diversity is a beautiful part of nature. We don’t choose our genetics, the environment we’re raised in, our race, socioeconomic level, or our life stressors. ALL of these things influence our body shape, size, and health. And NONE of these things should define how good or bad of a person we are.
Whether you admit it or not, we’ve all been brainwashed.
We live in a fatphobic society that spouts out the message fat is bad and thin is good. From the medical establishment to the media, this message rules. Fatter people are hired and paid less than equally qualified thin people. Worse, they’re given less ethical medical care (symptoms are ignored while blanket prescriptions to “just lose weight” are handed out).
Just as sexism, racism, and ableism all impact us, fatphobia too surrounds us. And leads to oppression.
The intersection of sexism and fatphobia
Women and fems are socialized to be loving, giving, and put ourselves last. New mothers are told their job is to always put their child first, while often their male partners continue on in their careers and lifestyles.
Being a “good mom” means focusing on your child and not yourself. Putting your needs on the back burner. This lines up nicely with fatphobia. Deny your body and deny yourself. In order to be a “good” mom. Or a “good person.”
In a World Run by Fatphobia- Dieting Seems Like the Answer
Bottom line- our society teaches that people in smaller bodies are morally better people than those in fat bodies. Stereotypes abound in our movies, television, and books. Fat people get worse treatment and care by doctors, employers, and peers. The fashion industry caters to the small percentage of women who are under a size 14 and common seating and airplanes are made for smaller people. No wonder so many people turn to dieting.
In a fatphobic world, dieting does seem like the answer. But it relies on the fallacy that the problem is being fat.
When in reality the problem is a culture that is prejudiced against fat people.
Why dieting is never the answer.
Dieting won’t fix the harm that our society doles out to fat people. First, diets fail for 95-97% of the people who try them. Second, your body size does not determine your value as a human being.
Imagine the cutest, fattest, most squishy little baby you can. With rolls on her arms and legs, bright eyes, and a big smile. Would you EVER assume that the baby was bad? Or morally inferior to a scrawny baby the same age? Of course not. That would be ridiculous.
Yet somewhere along the way we swallow the party line that fat is bad, lazy, and morally inferior. And it is a lie.
“Good fatty, bad fatty”
The phenomenon known as “good fatty” is all too common among folks in larger bodies. Basically, someone in a larger body is seen as morally better if they’re always dieting. They are, in essence, performing what society expects. Because we believe thinner is better, those who aren’t thin should at least try their best to become thin.
But what if we weren’t told from the time we were born that thinner is better?
What if we appreciated body diversity the same way we recognize humans are born with a genetic predisposition to be tall, or short, or with brown hair, etc.
Would we stop judging other humans? Could we refrain from walking into a room and immediately ranking others based on their weight?
Today’s beauty ideal sets a very rigid standard that many people can never fit into. Only those who won the “genetic lottery” and were born with characteristics that meet the beauty standard benefit.
Think about your own values.
Consider what qualities you actually attribute to a “good” person. Everyone has their own unique set of values. For me, a good person is someone who is honest, authentic, and kind. They connect with others and are committed to learning and growing. They find joy in the moment and also work hard. After years of doing this work, it is crystal clear in my mind. Being in a smaller body does not make someone better than me. Not in any way.
Ask yourself what YOU value in others. And in yourself. And then pursue those things.