If you’re shocked by the title of this blog post, I’d love to know why.
Is it because you’re surprised that someone my size (UK 18-22) isn’t desperately trying to change their body?
Is it because you think I ought to be?
Is it because you have spent so long in the pursuit of weight loss yourself, that you have no idea what it would be like to opt out of it?
Believe me, I never thought I’d be saying this either. I spent the first 25 years of my life thinking that I should eat less, weigh less, be less.
I spent the first 25 years of my life thinking that my weight was the reason I felt sad so often, or why I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 21, or why I would feel awkward in social situations.
I thought my weight was the root of all my problems. And in a way it was – but not because of the number on the scales. No, it was because I dedicated so much of my life and energy and mental headspace to thinking I had to lose it, that it negatively affected every other part of me.
And it’s sort of a social contract we all sign, isn’t it? Especially women and female identifying humans. We all agree that as soon as we’re aware of our size in comparison to others, we shalt judge them and ourselves. We shalt bond as females over our shared experience of falling ‘off the wagon’ (there is no wagon), or feeling guilty for that slice of cake, or acknowledging that we’re fat but reassuring everyone around us that we’re trying not to be.
So imagine my shock and awe when I realised…guess what? You don’t have to try and lose weight. You don’t have to count your calories every day. You don’t have to apologise for your body or what you feed it. You don’t have to do any of that stuff.
And it doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a life of loneliness and misery. It’s actually one of the most freeing and liberating things you can do for your body and mind.
To be clear, my statement that I’m never trying to lose weight again doesn’t mean I’m trying to get bigger. It also doesn’t mean I never will. It just means that losing weight will never be my intention.
I might get bigger, I might get smaller. Our bodies are constantly changing and so my weight may go up or down for all kinds of reasons, but whatever the result, I’m not intending it. My only intention is to accept my body as it is, always, and to treat it with kindness and compassion and the best way I can at any given time.
Here’s why I’m never trying to lose weight again:
It doesn’t work
Have you ever been to Slimming World, or know someone who has?
Have you noticed that every week they’re there, paying their £5 and getting weighed and maybe losing some, maybe not, and sometimes they get a certificate and sometimes they even reach their goal weight or lose a significant amount, but then a year or two down the line they’re the same size they were (if not bigger) and they have to join again?
Yeah, that’s because diets don’t work.
Or, if they do lose weight and keep it off for a significant amount of time, their habits around food look so controlling and restrictive that if you weren’t congratulating them for turning their life around, you’d be diagnosing them with an eating disorder?
Yeah, that’s because diets don’t work, and what’s actually happened is this person has developed disordered eating habits that aren’t sustainable.
Do you ever find that if you promise yourself that this time, this will be the time I lose the weight, and you start off well and you’re eating so ‘clean’ and you lose some, but then it becomes like the hardest thing on Earth to stop thinking about food and all you want is chocolate and you end up bingeing your face off, and then you feel terrible and promise to start again on Monday?
Yeah, that’s because diets don’t work, and our bodies are physically programmed to stop you from starving them, so when it happens, they freak out.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
Diet culture likes to tell us that the reason we haven’t lost weight yet is because we’re too lazy, or too greedy, or we just don’t have enough willpower.
But here’s a question – if intentionally losing weight works, then how would places like Weight Watchers or Slimming World still be in business?
Surely we’d all pop in, learn the magic system, never overeat again and then be on our merry way, however many pounds lighter and 100% happier?
Yeah, it never quite works like that.
The reason it’s so hard for so many of us to intentionally lose weight is because it doesn’t work. You are not the problem. The diet is the problem.
Once more for the people in the back – YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. THE DIET IS THE PROBLEM.
And this isn’t just us fatties trying to let ourselves off the hook. Science actually supports this.
According to numerous studies that actually monitor participants for an extended period of time (like 5 years or more), up to 95% of people who lose a significant amount of weight will regain it or more.
Why? Oh yeah. Cause diets don’t work.
And before you tell me ‘But I’m in the 5%! I’m one of that lucky few that can do this!’ – well, you might be. There is the odd unicorn out there who doesn’t suffer from any disordered relationship to food who can make changes in a healthful way and keep it off. But friend – it’s a really small minority.
Obviously I am not an expert, or a nutritionist, or a dietitian. But here’s some links to people that are, talking about why what I’ve just said is true. There is a much bigger conversation around this topic, but these will get you started:
- This episode of Paige Smather’s podcast Nutrition Matters with Fiona Willer, talking about breaking down weight science
- This episode of Laura Thomas’s Don’t Salt My Game with Dr Linda Bacon, all about her Health At Every Size research and what we get wrong about weight and health. Fun fact – the first time I listened to this in my car driving home from work, I cried.
Both include links to studies and other research. I ain’t a scientist and so am not going to have social media debates where I pretend like I am – but before you jump to the conclusion that this is fat acceptance gone mad, just have a think. Did any of the examples above resonate with you or someone in your life?
Isn’t it possible, if you really think about it, that our experiences are telling us something?
Isn’t is possible, just a tiny bit possible, that the way we think about weight loss is wrong?
It won’t really change anything
We’re sold the idea that if we lose weight, our lives will change. We’ll be happy, finally. We’ll fall in love, we’ll get that dream job, we’ll do those things we’ve always wanted to do (but felt too fat to do them) and all our problems will disappear.
We’re sold the idea of a dream life, if only we can lose a few pounds.
But the thing is, even if I could lose all the weight I used to dream of, I would still be me.
I would still be Sophie Butcher, an introvert who wears glasses and isn’t always great at small talk and loves lists but gets nervous about meeting new people.
I’d still have the same skills, the same talents, the same beautiful flaws, the same job; I’d still be me. Just thinner.
And sure, I’d worry less about fitting in aeroplane seats and find it easier to buy clothes that I like, and would probably face less fatphobic shit from the world, and those things would be great – but I’d still be me.
All the things I sometimes don’t like about myself that aren’t aesthetics – that I let fear hold me back, that I am a top procrastinator, that I would become a recluse given the chance – would all still be there if I lost weight.
So, what I’m trying to do is look at issues I have underneath my rolls and stretchmarks and spotty skin and work on them, instead. Because maybe I can change those. And, I bet, they’ll make me much happier in the long run than dropping some dress sizes.
I can improve my health without it
Ah, the ‘health’ argument.
There’s nothing more frustrating than people suddenly becoming qualified doctors once you say you’re not trying to lose weight any more or that you’re fat and happy, and ask – but what about your health?
We, as a society, desperately need to separate weight from health.
Here’s some statements to just clear all this up:
- If you are thin, it does not automatically mean that you are healthy
- If you are not thin, it does not automatically mean that you are not healthy
- People of any size can take actions to improve their health that do not involve weight loss
The reason that people remark on the health of a fat person and not a thin one is not because they’re actually worried about their health – it’s because they’re fatphobic.
One look at someone’s size does not tell you anything about their life.
And – even if someone chooses not to actively work to improve their health, that’s okay too. Health is not a moral obligation.
I could talk about the double standards of healthism all day, but all of this is to say: I am not personally giving up on my health by choosing to not try and lose weight.
(But even if I was, that’s okay).
I know I could eat more vegetables and move my body more and that’s all fine, I’ll do my best to do so. And doing those things and other health promoting behaviours will have a far more positive impact than going back to my weight loss mentality and totally fucking with my head just to lose a few pounds.
It will never not trigger me
Recently I’ve gotten to a somewhat better place with my disordered eating. I’m not fully recovered just yet, by any means, but have come a long way in the past year or so.
There’s lots of underlying things that pushed me into my binge eating disorder but something I’ve learned in my recovery is that, contrary to what I’d always thought, bingeing is often caused by restriction.
I used to think – all this talk about treating restriction is great, but that’s not me! I never restrict – that’s the problem!
But restriction doesn’t have to manifest in what you eat to impact your wellbeing. By mentally restricting myself so heavily, and the guilt and shame I put upon myself with every mouthful, I was worsening my binge eating habits.
Counting calories, weighing food, cutting out food groups, trading off ‘bad’ meals for ‘good’ ones, punishing myself with exercise – all common elements of weight loss diets, and all things that will drastically trigger my disordered eating if I take even one step towards them.
I heard someone (maybe Jes Baker) say this once, and I can’t quite remember the exact words, but it was something like this:
I’m choosing sanity over thinness.
For me, there’s no competition.
It makes life exhausting
Trying to figure out numerical values for everything you put in your mouth, constantly letting a number on the scales define you, doing mental maths in a restaurant to see if you’re ‘allowed’ some dessert…the list of what’s required in today’s weight loss culture is endless and formidable.
It truly is exhausting.
Our bodies need food, our soul needs food; and quite frankly, there is fucking more to life than constantly obsessing over the food we eat, or the size we are.
I’ve got big dreams and big ambitions, and every second I’ve spent worrying about my belly or bingo wings has been precious, precious time wasted where I could have been chasing those dreams.
Well, not any more.
I no longer want that for myself, and I don’t want it for anyone else in this world either.
Imagine all the stuff we could be getting done if we weren’t worrying about our weight?
For you, reader, right now, this mindset may seem impossible. Rejecting diet culture, saying no to the pressure of weight loss – it might seem like a fantasy.
But you have everything you need within you right now to be who you are, to be the very best and happiest and at peace version of yourself.
So don’t wait until you hit a number on a scale to go live your life. Go do it now. I’ll be right there with you. x