is it really self acceptance?

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.

And:

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.

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7 thoughts on “is it really self acceptance?”

  1. I also found the live more weigh less program to be just another version of a diet program. The components of it have all been used by others before here so there was really nothing new or different about it. While I did like her idea of “not waiting until” to do X, I found the frequent references to weight loss to be troubling in a program about body self-acceptance. Also all the reference to do something in order to “make oneself feel pretty/beautiful” – if we are working on loving ourselves as who we are why do we have to do something? And why use such loaded words as pretty and beautiful. Who gets to set the standard for those? She also seemed to rely on spending money to have fun or feel good about yourself. Where does that leave us with no money to spend on those kinds of things? or who doesn’t get joy from it? Sure maybe we all deserve to be able to have our hair styled, go out for a meal or even buy a blender for a smoothie but the reality of the world is that we all don’t get what we deserve. I would rather feel less bad about myself for not paying a bill rather than to spend the money on a fancy outfit or hair cut that I don’t even care about to begin with. And yes she did have some good pointers in there that I can modify and apply to myself such as find a way to do something to take care of myself even if it is just reading a good book in my old flannel shirt. what works for everyone is different and if her plan works long term for others more power to them and to her. keep your chin up girl and keep on truckin 🙂

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    1. Hi jacquie. 🙂 I’m so glad I got the chance to get to know you a little during this month and I hope that you keep coming back. I am going to take what I found useful and find some other sources for challenges for myself. Goals. Ideas.

      The Body Is Not an Apology looks like it might be a source. Their “assignment” for today speaks to me in a way that lipstick and dresses and going to cafes did not. Not that any of those things are bad, but what speaks to you? No one should ever tell you what you want.

      Today’s challenge. No FAT Talk. Can you go a day without talking about your weight or using deprecating language in reference to your body?

      At the moment, I’m thinking I’ll write about my goals or ideas or challenges on Mondays. You’re welcome anytime but if you just want to join in on that, I’d love to see you.

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  2. I don’t know. I think you can only succeed at any kind of a change program if you become OK with where you are, but just want to be better. The stress of having to follow some kind of diet or regime would discourage anyone. However, being comfortable with who and where you are but deciding to make different choices–that’s powerful.

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    1. It’s always been a kind of double edged sword for me Margaret. Sometimes I can wrap my head around the idea of accepting myself (without the negative crap that began this series of posts) and still wanting to be better than I am. Other times, those ideas just seem horribly counter to each other. But I’m trying.

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      1. Good for you! Trying is all that any of us can do, no matter what changes we want to make. We all have things that we would like to improve about ourselves. Courage!!

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  3. First off – I’m not defending Sarah at all. Her comment about take care of this issue now before you do permanent damage did strike a note with me. I think she was talking about psychological damage, however my thinking was more about physiological: yo-yo dieting is incredibly harmful to the body. I’m walking proof of it. I’m actually afraid that it may be impossible for me to maintain a healthy weight without some rather intense effort because I have a fairly deranged metabolism from all the dieting. I am hopeful that Sarah just meant – get off the diet roller coaster and start living your life. And I am also walking proof that a lifetime of dieting can play havoc with one’s emotional and mental health. In my thinking anymore – dieting kills.

    That said, I’ve also got some concerns about body acceptance. I think the general premise of accepting who we are now and expecting others to accept (or at least not discriminate against us) is valid. As David Katz pointed out – we need to be concerned with our behaviors, not the the number on the scale and I thoroughly agree with that. My husband is most likely a walking time bomb – rarely does he partake of any healthy activity and he’s thin as a rail. He’s accepted immediately as healthy just on size, where I’m not. And without knowing what either our choices are, society makes those judgements. One of my huge concerns about Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity is that the result will be the stigmatization of overweight people as ‘bad’ people. Just like the stop smoking campaign did a few decades ago. I hate cigarette smoke. But I don’t hate smokers, I’m married to one. And my mother smoked until the day she turned 70. But my heart was broken when my nephew asked “does Grandma still smoke?” and when I answered yes, he got a look of total revulsion on his face. I didn’t let him get away with it and told him – “just because Grandma smokes doesn’t mean she’s a bad person.” I don’t know if he got it. But I do know this – the same goes for overweight people. We aren’t bad people and it’s wrong to make us feel that way just because of our size.

    BUT – body acceptance should not be about having one’s head in the ground about one’s health (like my husband’s). It should also be about body respect. And if we overfill our bodies with junk and and never exercise, we’re not really showing them much respect. I’m afraid that some people will take body acceptance and completely pervert it and turn it into a license to just become even more unhealthy.

    As usual – just rambling away on your blog, Zazzy

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    1. Feel free to ramble. 🙂

      My problem with the “before it’s too late” type statement was that it seemed to always be paired with the “lose 20 pounds” type statement. As someone who needs to lose many multiples of 20 pounds, I always felt as if she was saying it was too late for me. I’m pretty sure that is not what she intended but it was just one of those things that rubbed me the wrong way.

      I have the same concerns about the body acceptance movement that you have. Some – certainly not all – of what I read sounds as if “acceptance” means not being concerned with change, health or behaviors. On the one hand, it’d be a strange world if everyone were exactly the same and I think it is important that we accept ourselves and others as different. On the other, acceptance doesn’t mean not trying to be healthy. I have friends who are overweight but very active. One of them bikes, walks, swims, belly dances and eats a very healthy diet. Yet she is apparently never going to be a thin person by society’s standards. Equally, I also know naturally thin people who eat a lousy diet and never move. That’s what I’d like the judgmental people to understand.

      Like you, I’ve yo-yo dieted for so long that I am really afraid that I can’t lose weight and keep it off. Part of that is behavioral and those are behaviors I believe I need to change. There was a time that I was a more active person although overweight. Arthritis and the accident and the excess weight keeps me from being active now. But, I am also a naturally sedentary person. Not always eating healthy plus being the type of person who would far rather read than take a walk is a bad combination. On the plus side, my doctor says that other than being overweight and having diabetes, I’m quite healthy. Yay me.

      I think acceptance – and not the kind of negative acceptance I sometimes feel – is about loving yourself enough to do the things that really take care of you. That includes eating healthy, moving, reading, going to movies, and whatever else is important to you. That’s respecting yourself on many different levels.

      I’d never thought about the campaign to end childhood obesity like that. That’s a good point. It’s funny, I remember being made fun of as a child for being fat – and I wasn’t fat. I thought I was because people told me I was. I have the pictures to prove that I was just the same as any other little girl but that belief that I was fat led me to fad diets, starvation, bulimia and ultimately messed up my head and my body. The campaign is, on the surface, about healthy eating and moving your body – but you’re right, it could easily turn to more fat shame and prejudice.

      I’m glad that I got a chance to meet you during this month and I hope you keep coming back. I’m going to keep on trying to address my issues of acceptance and change. I’ve been reminded of a lot of things during the challenges and realized just how much I have tended to stay in a “give up” mindset lately.

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