Losing Weight To Fit In: Is It Worth It?

When you think about the fact that dieting* doesn’t lead to long term weight loss, better health, nor even better self-esteem, what’s really left to recommend dieting?

The only thing that dieting really does is allow us to fit in.

Beth Ditto (via wiki commons)

By dieting, a fat person tells the world “Yes, I realize that I’m fat, but I’m desperately try to correct that in order to fit in.” If that dieting results in some temporary weight loss, said fat person may actually fit in a bit more, and receive some of the benefits of thinness.

The benefits of thinness in a fat-hating society are many. Being thin allows you to avoid the kinds of discrimination that fat people experience in schools, the job market, and medical treatment. Being thinner can mean fewer glares, and less uninvited judgment by others regarding food and fitness.

When you’re subject to so many negative stereotypes (lazy, slovenly, unhealthy, etc.) as a result of being part of the group, a natural reaction is to try to leave that group or “pass” for a member of a more highly regarded group. We’ve seen examples of that among negatively stereotyped minority groups before. With fatness, however, we have a variant of this situation because (a) many members of the fat group don’t perceive themselves as part of any group and (b) the dominant culture tells us that if we had more willpower and got dieting right, we wouldn’t be in that negatively stereotyped group. In other words, being fat is often seen as a choice which makes fat people even more deserving of these stereotypes.

I’m only laying all of this out on the line to bring an awareness to it. Because, frankly, I think fitting in is highly overrated. I’d rather just fit out.

Gabourey Sidibe
Gabourey Sidibe (via wiki commons)

If you take a moment to think about some of your favorite people, whether they’re your friends and family, or artists, musicians, politicians, activists or whatever, do the people you really admire really fit in? Or do they buck trends, say unpopular things, look funny, and/or have innovative ideas?

Fitting out means being who you are, even when people insist that you have to change. Fitting out means taking up space, not apologizing for yourself, and not agreeing with those who seek to label you with stereotypes.

By the way, I’m not making light of the discrimination that fat people face. It’s wrong and discrimination laws should be extended so that we can fight it better. I’m just saying that trying to become thin to avoid this discrimination is not the answer.

How To Fit Out

Fitting out can be amazingly freeing. So here are some ways to experiment with fitting out.

1) Explore Your Desires – What is it that you really want? Most of us rarely take the time to ask ourselves this question. It’s a really powerful question, and the more you ask it, and the more you allow yourself to really hear your answers, the more you can start to move in that direction. If your internal dialogue often comes down to “I want to do X, but I should do Y,” then experiment more with doing X. Let your internal guidance system make more choices. Rarely will you do anything so drastic as to jeopardize your job or important relationships. In essence, you want to explore what happens when you allow yourself to be more yourself.

2) No More Hiding – Spending a lot of life performing that you are something that you’re not is really stressful. It takes an inordinate amount of energy to pretend that you’re happy. That energy that you spend pretending to not be you could be put to much better use. When you hide who you really are, everyone misses out. You miss out on the opportunity to be more authentically you, and the world misses out on all that you have to offer. So, even from a purely altruistic standpoint, fitting out is a good idea.

Bjork (via wiki commons)

3) Look For Inspiration – In the last few years, I feel like I’ve been surrounding myself with more and more people who are willing to fit out. But here, I’m going to name a few people living today as well as a few historical figures whom I see as examples of fitting out. (By the way, this list is just a tiny sampling of people who fabulously fit out.)

Historical

  • Victoria Woodhull – Among a gazillion things, she was a clairvoyant businesswoman who ran for President in 1872 and believed in free love.
  • Albert Einstein – Aside from being the father of modern physics, he was not fond of wearing socks nor brushing his hair.
  • Lillian “Diamond Lil” Russell – Known for being “over 200 pounds” she was the major sex symbol of the 1890s, and used her fame to fight for women’s suffrage.
  • Paul Robeson – He was a lawyer/athlete/Phi Beta Kappa member and one of the greatest singers ever and he fought for civil rights despite the negative effect on his career.
  • Emma Goldman – She tried prostitution because she hated working in sweatshops, and when that didn’t work out, she became an amazing spokesperson for women’s rights and free love.

Current

Emma Goldman (via wiki commons)

  • Beth Ditto – Fat and fabulous frontwoman for The Gossip, she regularly gets nearly naked on stage, is considered a fashion icon and is much-beloved despite not fitting the current image of what women in music should look like.
  • Gabourey Sidibe – Fat and fabulous Oscar-nominated actress who blew the press’s mind due to her quick wit and all around awesomeness. (Their minds shouldn’t have been so blown, but it was great to see.)
  • Alan Grayson – Famous for telling it like it is. Rather than playing politics, this former Congressman told the world that the Republican healthcare plan was, “Don’t get sick. And if you get sick, die quickly.”
  • Bjork – Swan dress. All a capella albums. Anarchic youth.
  • Helena Bonham Carter – Utterly mesmerizing actress who wears utterly bizarre clothing on red carpets and doesn’t give a crap.

*You can substitute dieting with bariatric surgery throughout this post.

Let me know how you’re going to fit out in the comments section below!

Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. is a certified holistic health counselor who specializes in transforming your relationship with food and your body. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/stay-in-touch/ to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining.

5 thoughts on “Losing Weight To Fit In: Is It Worth It?”

  1. I guess I’m just confused about this. On one hand, this article seems to address the problems with “dieting.” On the other, it looks like it’s saying it’s okay to be fat. But then following the link to the website, it looks like the site and program are offering a way to lose weight that isn’t “dieting.” “Dieting” is in quotes because, I mean, what are we talking about? Super restrictive programs that monitor and proscribe everything you ingest? Yeah, I think people are starting to realize those programs aren’t sustainable long term. There are healthy, realistic ways to lose weight (if that’s what you want to do).

    So I just don’t understand the message here. Is it “Be happy at whatever size you are” or, “Follow my program to get to the size you want to be”?

    1. I know this is a super late response, but the link in the first sentence is NOT to a diet program. It’s HAES, which is a method of listening to your body and taking care of yourself without worrying about whether or not your size changes.

  2. Interesting article, thank you. It reminded me of a book I read a couple years ago called “Hello, I’m Special: How individuality became the new conformity. ” I have always been told to distinguish yourself from the pack and be unique, but this book raised questions about why we cast dispersions on conformity and how sometimes it can be good. I guess we can conform to certain things and individualize in others. It seems, especially with the advent of hipster culture, that we are spending a lot of time distinguishing ourselves from people when perhaps we should be relating and looking for commonalities. Sorry this is a bit of a stream of conscious on the issue of fitting in/fitting out.

    When it comes to weight, this is a particular issue where individuality, in my opinion, trumps conformity. Diversity in physical appearance is important and should be celebrated.

  3. Hi Golda!!!

    I loved your article, I’ve struggled with weight and have all my life mainly from “well meaning” people all my life telling me that I should lose weight until I believed it. Therefore now, doesn’t matter how much I weigh or what I look like, I still FEEL fat.

    So I have a question for you. It’s something I’ve noticed, with celebrities in particular. Every time someone who is “fat” makes it into the mainstream, accepted segment of society, of course the issue of weight comes up. At first (and I know I’m generalizing) they start off telling us how happy they are with their weight and how they’ve struggled all their life but have just learned to love themselves. I start to get excited about having a great role model out in the world for all the people who are not a size zero and . . .

    THEN, inevitably and predictably they turn around and lose all the weight!!!!!!

    So I think the pressure to fit in is stronger than we can imagine. They always say it was to be healthy and that they feel much better now, and I’m sure they do, since they are now more accepted.

    So do you really think exploring your desires, looking for inspiration and not hiding does the trick? These people are doing all of that. They’re in the spotlight and it seems that brings on the most pressure of all!

  4. Thanks to Pop Culture Happy Hour (on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=129472378), I like to ask myself “What is making me happy today?” with an emphasis on ME. I’m asking the question of myself so I get to be selfish here. :)

    Whatever I come up with, I roll with. I am not asking “What would make my mother happy?” or “What would make my neighbor happy?” It’s all on me.

    Thus, today, white nail polish is making me happy. White white white nail polish. And lemongrass paint (but that’s what’s making my house happy). :)

    Also, those feather ears on Bjork are making me happy.

    I guess in general, I’m not really looking to fit anywhere, in or out. I’m a round peg, chillin out. There are no square holes, there are no round holes. It’s just me, the peg, chillin. :)

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