Losing weight is a tricky business – losing weight in the public eye is trickier and losing weight when you are in a position of influence within the body positive community is trickier still. I first wrote about this subject when plus size and vintage model, Georgina Horne, appeared on Channel 4’s Plus Size Wars and defended her decision to embark on a weight loss journey. With over 70k followers on Instagram alone, she’d be hard pushed to please everyone; but as news of her proposed weight loss was made public property, she was soon being accused of double-crossing the plus size sisterhood to which she belongs. Sadly, this is the case with many women who approach their bodies with love in a public setting. When speaking from an influential pedestal in the body positive community (particularly the fat positive community), if you express a desire to lose weight you are soon accused of shunning your ‘plus-size roots’. Many people who have previously looked up to you seem to believe that they’ve been lulled into a false sense of security and that you are not the body/fat positive advocate that you once claimed to be.
As a body and fat positive advocate myself, it saddens me that some women can turn on others in this way, particularly when seeming to profess body love and support for all bodies. Which begs the question – when in the body positive community, why does losing weight mean gaining hate?
I follow a substantial number of body positive supporters on social media, Instagram being at the forefront, and broaching the subject of weight loss is often a cautious affair. As any body positive activist will know, the decision to publicise our lives on social media is an arbitrary one and you are never sure of the reaction that is going to come your way when posting certain things.My friend Lindsay, @buckleyourboots on Instagram, recently posted a ‘gym selfie’ and wrote eloquently about her desire to lose weight: “Yes, I’m here to make a change”, she wrote. “But no I am not here because I hate my body… we all have the right to love ourselves and our bodies, no matter the size and shape, or if you want to make a change – be that to gain or lose weight”.
As much as I am invested in the body positive community, I found it surprising that Lindsay should feel the need to defend her choice, and indeed, her fundamental right to live in her body as she pleases – and she’s not the only one. Cazzy, @mama_cazzy on Instagram, recently penned a note to announce that she is giving her body an overhaul, with no goal in mind. She says (in her ever so fabulous way) that she feels being slimmer will bring a multitude of miraculous happenings her way, and who are we to question her motives?
If we are to discuss weight loss within the bopo community, then I think it is important to touch upon weight gain too. ED Recovery is prevalent within social media – often, charting the journey to overcome such an illness is followed, praised and supported. But commenting on someone’s weight gain can be detrimental too. When pointing out someone’s weight gain, you never know the journey that they’ve been on (or are still on), or the mindset that might be lingering from a past relationship with their body. Speaking about her experience throughout her ED recovery journey, @nourishandeat suggests that “telling someone in recovery that they look ‘healthier’ can translate to ‘look like they’ve gained weight” and instead, people should “focus on emotional changes, ‘you look happier’ is so much better than ‘you look healthier”. Therein lies the problem, there is so much attention paid to body shape or size, that people forget the emotional relationship that can be had with your body – and indeed, how that can have an effect on your mentality.
Body positivity is subjective and how someone wants to treat their body is completely up to them – weight loss and weight gain are hankered after for so many different reasons: ED recovery, bullying, health reasons, aesthetic reasons, personal preference, or for no reason at all. Most women within the bopo community acknowledge that the responsibility of body love lies with the owner of that body, and that regardless of whether someone wants to lose weight, gain weight, or stay the same weight they still have the right to love their bodies. However, as with Georgina’s experience, and the need that other feel to defend their body choices, this isn’t always the case.
When we put someone on a pedestal and idolise them – whether that’s for their achievements, their beliefs, what they stand for or how they present themselves. We can often feel offended when they decide to do or say something that we disagree with. I can only assume that the people who call others out for abandoning the plus size sisterhood, and those who feel it is their place to comment on another’s weight, are disappointed that the person they pinned their hope on is conforming to societies ideals. But, for some of ‘our own’ to receive such negativity in a community that is supposed to support everyone is surprising, no matter how you have perceived them in the past. Surely then, if you persecute someone for their decision on how they’re going to live in their body, are you not as bad as the bullies and trolls who tell you how to live in yours? Are you then not a purveyor of body shaming – it works both ways you know. We need to acknowledge more and more that body love is not exclusive of anyone, but inclusive of everyone.