A friend of mine posted this article about Kellogg’s co-opting the self-acceptance movement over on FaceBook today. It was both what I was expecting to read and significantly more.
Let’s take a look at some highlights:
It wasn’t long ago that Special K was selling us on the idea that we could “drop a jean size in two weeks” by replacing meals with cereal, shakes and their other food-ish products. In fact, the cereal has long been marketed as a weight loss/weight maintenance plan. This is a brand that once recommended pinching yourself on a regular basis to determine if you should watch your weight. […]
We start to get tired of beating ourselves up day-in-day-out. We’re broken down. We feel like crap about ourselves. And a growing number of us start to seek out alternatives that don’t make us feel so, well, crappy. The internet and social media provide larger platforms for grassroots body acceptance and body positive communities that offer these alternatives. Liberating messages about how to reject the body hate are found, liked, shared, pinned and retweeted all over the damn place. […]
What would happen if advertisers tried this newfangled “empowerment” thing, too? To sell the same old disempowering products. Hey, it might work! Now, where to find some feel-good messages that will really resonate with consumers? […]
In fact, companies peddling diets have a history of repackaging the work of body acceptance to sell what is, at its essence, body shame. “One of the clearest examples would be the phrase ‘diets don’t work.’ This is something fat activists were saying pretty much from the beginning,” blogger Brian Stuart told me. “An integral part of diet marketing has been to define diets as competitors’ products and your own product as something different. A ‘lifestyle change,’ a ‘whole new way of eating,’ or some such.” (emphasis added) How do they get away with these faux health messages and plagiarism? “Fat activists are so marginalized that the Fat Shame Industry knows that it can steal from them without impunity,” Stuart tweeted in response to the news that Special K has now incorporated the body positive measuring tape into its marketing.
“Actually these folks aren’t interested in you feeling better about yourself because if you did, you would probably stop buying their products,” says Sonya Renee Taylor, founder of The Body Is Not An Apology. “We must also remember that the fight against fatphobia and the fight for body acceptance is not just a self-esteem issue. This really is a civil rights and social justice issue. It’s about the way we allow some people to live out the pursuit of happiness and how we don’t allow others based on their bodies.”
Maura posted information about a LinkedIn article by Dr. David Katz which I also found on Huffington Post. “Weight Is Not a Choice” starts out with a statement that nearly all of us who have struggled with our weight can agree with:
But I immediately append something I know abundantly from my clinical experience: Two people can eat about the same, and exercise about the same, and one gets fat and the other stays thin.
Weight is powerfully influenced, but not directly determined, by our behavioral choices. Some people, making all the right choices, will be heavier than others making the same — or even less good –choices. And people making good lifestyle choices, including routine exercise, are apt to be fit even if they remain somewhat fat, and will be far better off than those who are either fat or thin, but unfit.
But sadly, it ends with selling his new book. I took a brief look at some of his books on Amazon and they seem to fall into the “eat this way to lose weight” category which, by the argument above, is anti-self-acceptance.
Where am I going with this? Well, from the body acceptance movement we are getting the message of loving ourselves and our bodies as we are. We know from massive amounts of weight loss research that the greater majority of people who lose weight through dieting don’t keep it off. We then started getting diets repackaged as lifestyle changes and that was supposed to be different. Those lifestyle changes are sometimes healthy but then, other than the weird fad diets, most calorie based diets are reasonably healthy. But we don’t tend to stick with them. Personally, I had lap-band surgery which is a huge commitment to a lifestyle change both financially and behaviorally. I still didn’t stick to it and I gained the weight back.
There’s a temptation to give up. But even on my best day of trying to accept myself as I am, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be better. I’m caught between self-acceptance (not self-hate) and chasing the next program that promises me that it’s different. Okay, I’m still struggling with real self acceptance, too. But in theory, I feel stuck between the message that I should love myself as I am and the very real “diet” mentality being sold by pretty much every program I’ve seen.
That includes Live More, Weigh Less. There have, on the one hand, been some really great messages about not waiting until we’re thin to do the things we enjoy, to wear clothes we like, to do whatever self-care like hair and nails and such that we want to do. There have been some mixed messages about eating healthy 80% of the time and splurging 20% of the time. And I’m not seeing how different that message is from the commercial diet programs. We’re not counting points but we’re not eating when we’re not hungry and we’re putting our forks down between bites — and let me be clear, those aren’t bad things. We’re also doing other things rather than eating emotionally. Not a bad thing. But is it really about accepting yourself or is it a diet program packaged in a different way?
And then there were the messages that really bothered me. There were the frequent references to “not waiting until you lose 20 pounds” or making changes before “you do permanent damage.” I can’t for the life of me find the link she posted to a testimonial from someone who had gotten “really fat” before she found the program. These are not messages of loving yourself. These are messages that suggest that there is still some ideal that you must measure up to and you better jump on board now in order to avoid getting or being fat.
I have been clear that I’m just not clicking with Sarah but that doesn’t mean I think her program is worthless. I think there are a lot of positive things you can take from this program. I plan to keep trying to put some of them in action and I plan to keep setting goals toward taking better care of myself – which honestly includes trying to not eat when I’m not hungry, etc. But I do think that overall, it’s a repackaged diet plan. It’s a plan that may work for some people.