Society's obsession with dieting and thinness is not only harmful to our physical and mental health but also reinforces oppressive patriarchal ideals. The prevailing notion that being thin equates to moral superiority is not just false but deeply problematic.
One of the significant issues with this belief is that it perpetuates the idea that our worth as individuals is directly tied to our physical appearance. This leads to feelings of shame and inadequacy, especially for those who do not fit into societal beauty standards. It also reinforces the harmful notion that our bodies are something to be controlled and manipulated rather than celebrated and respected.
The diet industry, a multibillion-dollar enterprise, thrives on profiting from insecurities and shame. It is crucial to acknowledge that diets don't work in the long term and can lead to a disordered relationship with food. Growing up in the 80s, Weight Watchers and Special-K diet adverts targeting kids were deemed normal, reflecting the pervasive diet culture.
Despite the evidence, the misconception that weight and health are synonymous persists. A person can be healthy at any size and weight. This may seem counterintuitive, but numerous studies support this claim. Weight cycling (losing and gaining weight) has been proven to be detrimental to your health, increasing your risk of heart disease and stress levels—which, in turn, prompts your body to store more fat as it perceives a threat.
Discussing food restriction without delving into its racist, classist history is inadequate. The pious racism of the past actively sought ways to differentiate between the slender, privileged individuals and the labouring class forced to work tirelessly. Understanding this history can help us decide whether upholding these outdated ideals is beneficial.
In the words of Samirah Ahmed, "Your body is not a political playground." The amount of food you consume does not determine your value, although societal norms demonising fatness and fat people may lead you to believe otherwise. The desire to conform to these norms does not alter your inherent worth.
Knowing that your weight does not equate to your health, would you still wish to manipulate your body into a different shape? Most would, due to the privilege it affords within society. Understanding the history of body image and the narratives we internalise can help us choose how we want to perceive ourselves and what we want to impart to younger generations. Can we be the last generation navigating through a diet-obsessed world that deems eating as a failure?