This week someone shared with me their triumphant story about going on a diet and losing weight and becoming a health coach and living happily ever after.
The conversation started when this person friended me on Facebook and then proceeded to suggest that I share her information with others after I finished scrolling through her Facebook page. (A little ballsy if you ask me but I am a sucky marketer so what do I know.)
I checked out her page and was met with pictures of before and after's of people changing their body size and I pretty much knew what I'd stumbled into right away. Diet culture. Yuck.
I hesitated, not knowing what to do. I'm a friendly person and while I don't think I had to DO anything, I felt like doing something.
So I unfriended her with this message:
Oops - a quick scroll tells me we have vastly different philosophies about health. I am recovering from disordered eating and know that true health is weight neutral and it's how you love yourself not how thin you are. I have unfriended you for my own mental health but it's nothing personal.
Unfortunately diets and intentional weight loss are harmful and mostly cause weight gain. And before and after pictures only help to fuel our obsession with size. I help women find freedom from this obsession - you can read more on my website elizabethhallcoaching.com.
She responded by saying that her clients want weight loss and so that is what she supports them with and that it's not about the numbers on the scale. She also mentioned that her program was science based.
So I decided to continue the conversation with:
It's wonderful that you want to help people with their health and I get it - we've been told for so long that the way to do it is through diet and exercise - and I am not at all trying to be disrespectful but if it was not about the numbers on the scale then there wouldn't be before and after pictures of bodies getting smaller on your Facebook page. I am all for eating well and joyful movement - but it doesn't mean everyone will be smaller. I'm an advocate for a Health at Every Size® approach and helping people learn to trust their own bodies. I hope that makes sense!
I try to be respectful of where others are coming from, but some people only feel shame when they see before and after pictures and then continue to do things that aren't beneficial for their health in the long run - restricting calories and food groups - over-exercising etc. Not to mention the weight comes back and then they feel worse.
Since she mentioned science I also thought I'd ask:
If you don't mind my asking -what is your program's long term data (3-5 years) on sustaining the weight loss? Do you have a body image support component that helps people understand that fat is not a moral failing - it's a body type? Just curious!
That is when she decided to share her story in a triumphant and teary video about her losing weight and finding herself.
I didn't want to rain on her parade too badly, but this is what I wanted her to know:
Thank you for sharing your story - it is indeed very powerful. But what I see is a woman who triumphed over a difficult situation (some health concerns she mentioned) by finding purpose and meaning and community. You can do all those things and be a good wife and mother no matter what your size is. I know your passion is now tied to weight loss so I won't disparage that - but a lifestyle is a diet and I'll bite my tongue on the rest of it.
What I want people to know is - no matter what their weight is - they are worthy and valuable and can have the teary and touching personal journey without losing a single pound. Everyone has the capacity to tap into their inner wisdom and lead a brilliant life. Your joy and your love for yourself and your family - and feeding that joy is the most important part.
If I really wanted to rain on her parade, and if I didn't bite my tongue, I would have told her that her video was recorded 2 months ago, please get back in touch in 3-5 years when you have maintained the weight loss and have not embraced disordered eating to do so. If you can achieve this and all of your clients can achieve it too, than it’s nothing short of a miracle because so far not many others have been able to do so.
And if your life becomes consumed with keeping the weight off and feeling like a hypocrite when you can't, then maybe you should bookmark my page.
I also would have gone on and on about how damaging it is to women to continue to promote thinness as the ideal. Health is one thing but it's not tied to thinness, and all the fear around health is not healthy either.
And then I would have mentioned all the factors that are really important to our health like connection and spirituality and emotional intelligence. Or good jobs, good healthcare, good education, and social systems that truly support people. Or rest, work that we love, joyful movement and having fun.
I hope she remembers all that when the weight comes back.