I have to admit, this is a post about a specific conversation. But it got me thinking, and it got me thinking about something that I find tough to think about. So I figured getting it out of my system might stop it circling around in my mind.
You may have read before that I have struggled with disordered eating. I still struggle with the thoughts and still have the same triggers.
I want to talk about some of those. Shouldn’t need saying, but trigger warnings galore here.
This post is, in a way, a continuation of my thoughts on #DropThePlus but at a bit of a tangent.
#DropThePlus argues that the label “plus size” is a trigger for low self esteem, self hatred and eating disorders, in that many girls and women feel embarrassed or ashamed to be buying “plus size” clothes. Obviously somewhere along the line they’ve been taught that being “plus size” is a Bad Thing, and that it should be a source of shame and upset. #DropThePlus argues that it’s the wording, this suggestion that there is normal and that “plus”, due to it being used to differentiate, can be read to mean “abnormal”.
But this isn’t the only way we are taught that “plus size” is bad. Not by a long stretch.
Nb: This bit is going to be tough to write, so bear with me if I’m less articulate than normal.
My personal experience of triggers wasn’t fashion models, I’ve never been all that interested in fashion. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve ever bought a (non plus size, non vintage) fashion magazine, possibly in my teens? Though I may have bought it for an art project? Either way, they are something I’ve mostly (and deliberately) avoided. Even shunning them in waiting rooms.
Now I haven’t always been plus size, so my relationship with food and weight wasn’t problematic until my early 20’s. Obviously I wasn’t immune to all the messages in society that equated skinny with good and fat with bad, but I wasn’t really consciously aware – that would be thin privilege in action.
When I did become consciously aware my first real triggers were situations where weight loss was the subject. Not being thin, but losing weight.
I’d been thin, I knew it didn’t mean I was happy, I had long term depression and a self harm habit.
But weight loss? I’d seen all the magazine covers where you had two pictures, one of a miserable fat person, looking tired and unconfident, and one of the same person, slimmer, smiling and looking groomed and full of life. Weight loss made you happy right?
And the diet books? Lots of smiling faces!
All the talk of diets was about dedication, determination, strength, and perseverance. These are all great qualities! Especially if you are suffering self doubt and feeling sapped of energy and enthusiasm. I wanted to be one of those determined people who’d found inner strength and done something they felt proud of.
I cannot have been the only person to buy into the message that dieting/weight loss would buy happiness, and the way it is marketed to you is all about reinforcing that message.
Just look at the message behind some diet book covers. What do they say?
Look at her happy smiling face, doesn’t she look full of life? The confident pose, the big grin – she looks so happy to be there.
She looks like she could take on the world!
Even the font used is light and carefree, no heavy depression in sight here. All bright colours and soft lines, nothing harsh or dark or depressing to see here.
“Your perfect body” Who wouldn’t want a perfect body right?
How about this one?
Again, nice big smile. Again, she looks confident and cheerful.
She’s in a relaxed setting, screams summer holidays.
The font used slopes up, giving a more cheerful look.
Colours used are soft, and gentle and soothing.
You too could be this content, if you just lost weight, and according to the cover blurb, this weight loss can be fun!
The font used is a nice smooth rounded font, not harshness, no sadness, all positive happy vibes.
And the text?
“Bite-sized inspiration to feed your soul, nurture your spirit and help you drop a dress size or seven in as little as 5 minutes a day”
Inspiration! For your soul! Nurture your spirit! It sounds so easy and so fulfilling to drop those dress sizes.
Now, I never bought a diet book, I didn’t need to.
I’d already absorbed those messages from similarly ecstatically happy ladies on the covers of myriad other diet books and the fronts of magazines. I just knew weight loss would be a good thing. It had made them happy and confident, why wouldn’t it work for me?
And staying big must be bad, otherwise why would they be so happy to have lost it?
I didn’t even have to work hard to find those triggers, they were everywhere. Whole shelves in supermarkets, often whole displays in books stores, adverts on websites aimed at girls and women, you name it really. It’s very in your face.
And there are just so many diet books, it’s such a huge and crowded marketplace, and every single book just adds weight to the idea that fat is bad and you need to lose it to be happy or worth happiness.
For all I know some of those books open up to a message saying, “fuck the diet, you are worthy of happiness whatever your size”. But how am I meant to know without reading loads of them? One book in however many is still a minority, and when it’s cover is selling the “weightloss = happiness” story then does it’s internal message really negate it? And when the cover is equating happiness with weightloss the author, the publisher, etc are all profiting from women’s insecurity, they benefit from women hating themselves for their weight.
In my opinion, no. But what would I know? I’m only one of those hurt by it.