Is it even OK to want to lose weight anymore?

Image:  Portrait of Gerard Andriesz Bicker,  Bartholomeus van der Helst, c. 1642, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

Image: Portrait of Gerard Andriesz Bicker, Bartholomeus van der Helst, c. 1642, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

I ❤️️ this kid so much. 

IDK how you feel about this Dutch youth-about-town. I am IN LOVE with him; not even kidding. I want to pinch him and hug him and tell him how adorable he is.

From the entry on the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam) website, I learned this: Like his father, the twenty-year-old Gerard Bicker is portrayed as self-assured, his arm akimbo. The striking differences in the garments worn by father and son confirm that they are from different generations. While his father Andries is dressed in dignified black clothing with an old-fashioned ruff, Gerard wears a colourful and showy outfit with a flat collar and elegant gloves. Gerard was not awarded as many key administrative positions in Amsterdam.

Maybe it was his saucy fashion sense?

Or maybe it was fat phobia.

Fat phobia is something I think about a fair bit, because a lot of us have suffered its* effects, of which restricted access to "key administrative positions" are only one documented result. (*And I say "its" as if fat phobia is just floating untethered out there and might randomly knock us over, when, really, fat phobia is people.)

Fat phobia and fat shaming do only harm. Prejudice and hatred are downright terrible ways to fuel change. They don't work. I am glad there are people in this world pushing back on fat hatred and phobia, and fighting for equal access to health care, work and other opportunities.

Here's the thing though: As adorable as I find Gerard Bicker, and as much I think he and any other fat person on earth deserves love and respect for no reason at all, I don't think he looks very comfortable. I imagine he was not so healthy.

And so I can't align myself with things like Health at Every Size (HAES), which is one of the most public ways people are responding to fat phobia. The contradiction is right in the name. Would any of us say that a woman so thin she doesn't menstruate is healthy? Health is clearly not possible at every size.

We live in a world that's never going to praise us for our looks faster than it will tear us down - ask anyone from your mother to Madonna to Leslie Jones to Elton John. This is a world of unforgiving beauty standards, which is always drawing the veil of "health" over its obsession with thinness. We're right to be suspicious when claims like "I'm only concerned for your health!" are made.

But what about those of us who are clear that health, weight and beauty are all different things? What about those of us who aren't seeking approval or trying to meet frankly impossible "norms" but are actually having a physical, self-contained experience of not feeling all that great in our body because we can feel it's really too big? 

How can we feel okay about honestly wanting to shed some weight? How do we go about taking care of ourselves and our weight without feeling - and looking - like we're knuckling under to fat phobia and diet mania and compulsory weight limits and just plain mean people? Like we just let the world knock us down and keep us down? 

Well, one way I like to do that is to never ever talk about what I eat and whyunless someone asks me first. And they need to ask because they're looking to help themselves, not me. If there were even a whiff of "concern over my health," I would shut that down so fast - although it's been years since anyone's had the nerve, and I doubt that's solely because of my now-normal weight.

And this is one reason why I love the idea of EATING MEALS so damn much: you never have to talk about it. It's the stealthiest thing in the world! (I meannnnn. The main reason I love meals is that eating meals is the fastest, easiest way to stop disordered eating and start losing some weight.)

I would certainly never ever offer a preemptive apology for eating. Hello, my name is Max, and I'm an ANIMAL! Animals EAT! Frequently, if the environment allows. So if anyone needed to talk to me about the crazy, crazy act of eating, I would be ready with a clapback.

Oh does this seem like a lot? You should have seen what I had for breakfast, if you think this is a lot!

That kind of talk, it just sounds like sovereignty. People recognize it - bullies clock it especially quickly - and before you know it, they just start looking for softer targets. It's quite predictable.

So if you decide you never have to justify or apologize for eating, well then you're ipso facto eating for yourself. And if you eat for yourself, and just give your body what it needs, it will give you back what you need. Beauty standards and self-hatred are nowhere in this picture. You get to feel yourself - from the inside - instead of trying to control what you eat so you can control the size of your body so you can control how people treat you so you can feel okay. 

You just already feel okay.

So! That makes this a few thoughts on a very big matter. People like Susie Orbach and Lindy West and Roxane Gay have written whole books on this topic, and there's much to talk about. I'd really love to hear what you think about it. Just hit Reply. 

* You know, I'm not actually sure that Gerard would have suffered from fat-shaming back in the day 1642. Beauty standards, obviously, are not fixed throughout history. They've seldom been more narrow than they are now, though.

PS  New program: Body of Knowledge Weekly, aka accountability for sovereign adults. It started this week and 50 of you are having fun already with it. See all the details here, and if you're looking to make habit change easy this year, join us.

Max Daniels