Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Stuck in the Middle: Navigating Diet Culture vs. The Body Positivity Movement

Hi there! I’m a fat woman. I’m about 250 pounds at somewhere between 5 feet, 9 inches, and 5 feet, 11 inches.

What I have to say is super impacted by this. Otherwise, why would I write it now? I’ve written 11 articles for Her Campus so far, and my weight hasn’t come up until now.

Now, you may have noticed I am indeed a plus-sized individual from my profile photo (or other photos of myself from previous articles), but otherwise, how would you know?

With a literal GLOBAL PANDEMIC happening, I’ve realized that I'm not as healthy as I want to be. I’m realizing this as I learn about what COVID is and how it affects people. As this disease affects the respiratory system—you know, the stuff that helps you breathe—I start to worry about my health. If I get winded going up the stairs, a disease that affects a person’s breathing is not going to be kind to me. 

Also, due to the LITERAL PANDEMIC, a ton of stuff I would normally do is currently on hold. I really like to shop. I also like to go eat at a restaurant when I shop. I like to visit the amusement park by my home (ValleyFair in Shakopee, MN), and—guess what!—I like to eat there too!

I now have a ton of time on my hands, much less access to the unhealthy food places that I enjoy, and a deep sense of worry for my own health if I catch COVID.

What should be pretty easy to do? Answer: lose weight.

So why am I hesitant to get started?

Easy... it’s the ongoing struggle between the body positive movement and diet culture. You heard me. The people saying that “all bodies are good bodies” are preventing me from getting healthy. 

Now, are these people physically stopping me from exercising and eating right? No. But like most people, I crave approval. So much. John Mulaney’s quote about “running for mayor of NOTHING?” fits about half of my personality, as much as I try not to care what people think of me.

So from where does my hesitancy come? Well, six-time-Grammy Award-winning singer Adele recently lost weight. And a lot of it.

People on the internet lost their g*dd*mn minds. There are grown *ss adults screaming about how their take on her weight loss was the only correct one; everyone else was either glorifying unhealthiness or being fatphobic.

People I personally know have expressed strong feelings about this, and their responses have somewhat taken our relationship down a peg. 

I feel like there is no right way to ever bring up my goals for weight loss. If I focus on the health aspect, I, a fat woman, am being offensive for “assuming every other fat person on the planet is choosing to be unhealthy.” If I focus on cosmetic reasons, I’m “part of the problem” in oppressing fat people (which I currently am) in the name of the man.

For diet culture, a ton of the diet and fitness plans are either super hard to maintain (either because they’ll put you in the hospital or because they are so strict that your entire life is controlled by it), or they rely entirely on a product that may or may not work for you. Some are so heavily marketed that you can’t even scroll through memes on Instagram without seeing “Do you want to glow up over quarantine? Link in my bio [insert ridiculous amounts of emojis here in an attempt to appeal to the youngins here].”

As for body positivity, disregarding concern over health for the sake of marketing your own podcast—or whatever bullsh*t you’re using to remain relevant after ending a project—is super bad too! It leads people who look up to you to believe that their feelings about their body either match yours, or they’re wrong. I personally unfollowed one of my idols from my favorite show because of her repeated inflammatory remarks that belittled my own d*mn feelings about myself.

I understand that looking at the systemic inequity in food availability and criticizing how unhealthy meals are so much cheaper than healthier ones should help bring awareness to how poverty influences weight. I 100% agree that people should be paid enough to buy fruits, vegetables and fresh ingredients for themselves and their families! I think that a box of Gushers shouldn’t be cheaper than a bell pepper! That’s ridiculous, and I understand not wanting to shame people for doing the best that they can. 

And telling people they aren’t worthy of love because they’re fat? Why does anyone think that’s okay?

I also understand that a box of Gushers will not sustain your body and help you get the energy you need to live your life. I understand the health risks related to obesity and how a healthy diet and exercise will add years to your life. I recognize how eating enough vegetables and drinking enough water will make you feel a lot more mobile and how eating leaner meals also helps the environment. I know all of the recommendations for women my age to ensure they feel good and can do whatever they need to do.

What I don’t understand is why people still think that their opinions on another person’s body matter! People who literally do not know Adele in any capacity think that their take on her own weight loss is in any way needed. It’s almost worse when your friends and family have an opinion on your body—though their thoughts are usually from a misplaced sense of concern and love for you. 

So how should we deal with this problem?

By spilling all of my feelings about this topic into an article, I think I’ve figured it out.

Whatever I choose to do with my own body is what I want to do with it. I have looked at this choice from all the angles. I have considered my health and well-being. If a person’s body is their temple, another person’s opinion, either positive or negative, should have absolutely no weight in how the temple is run. 

So, what should you do if you see someone take care of their body in a way that you think you should comment on? If you are their personal doctor, trainer, or therapist, do your job!

And if you aren’t: Mind your own d*mn business.

Update: I have lost five pounds since this article was written.

Meg Chaffee is a junior at Winona State University studying History and Political Science. She hopes to teach high school social studies, because she wouldn’t be able to deal with her students eating smart glue during craft activities just because it has the word “smart” on it. She wrote a story on Watt-pad (during middle school, in an account she can no longer access) that received far too many votes for several awards, and no, she will not give you the name. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, and watching The Good Place repeatedly on Netflix.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️