Good question. For all that taking control of your own body is a central precept of feminism, women today are still unsure where to look when it comes to their weight.
I’m a feminist through and through. I also ended up overweight for a few years, and finally decided to do something about it a year ago. Naturally, I looked within the feminist framework that I am used to, and hit a snag. Nothing quite seemed to fit. I realised that what I really wanted, and could see precious few signs of, was a feminist weight loss movement.
One of the central paradoxes of weight loss is that dissatisfaction with being overweight is necessary to start the journey, but hating your body will sabotage it. And right now, the choices for women seem to be either the highly anti-feminist camp that pushes unrealistic ideals of thinness on women along with a host of body image issues that make a healthy weight very difficult to achieve, or the Fat Acceptance movement which is fabulously feministy in all sorts of ways, including promoting loving your body, but which holds that diets never work and that we should just learn to be happy about being fat. Note, by the way, that I’m talking about a movement for women who choose to engage in weight loss. I would never for a moment suggest that other women should lose weight. This is about choice.
I found that I wanted a third way. I wanted to be able to pursue healthy weight loss in a way that dealt with all the patriarchal stuff that messes women up with regard to their weight (and hits a fair number of men on its way, come to that), that recognises the complexities and paradoxes of the situation instead of going to extremes, and I wanted to be able to talk about it with other people. At the moment, there are a couple of excellent bloggers around. A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss has scads of wonderful articles, and Greta Christina has written a wonderful manifesto and open letter to the fat positive movement which hits the nail right on the head.
What worked out for me in the end is that for most of the time I spent losing weight, I participated in a forum which was generally excellent about such matters. We talked about weight loss together, we discussed the issues that were facing us as women who were losing weight, and while the word “feminist” may not have come up very often, the whole group had a marvellously woman-positive approach. I learnt a great deal from that forum. While I was there, I came up with the idea of a feminist weight loss group blog, and spoke to other women who were enthusiastic about the idea.
Unfortunately, life got in the way, and around the same time I reached a point where I moved from thriving best with group support to finishing the journey on my own. The blog idea was shelved for the time being. I finished losing the weight a few months ago, moved to the maintenance stage, and was generally concentrating on other things, until I read an article in the news about how doctors should address overweight patients. It didn’t even begin to address the subtleties of the problem, missing the entire point that doctors don’t have the faintest idea what to do with their overweight patients. I thought about it, and I got indignant, and I kept thinking of more things I wanted to say about it, and then I realised that the time was right to start this blog.
So here we are at last. I’ll be writing both about my personal journey and my general thoughts on the whole issue of feminism and weight loss. Over time, I hope that other writers will join me, so that we can make this the group blog we originally envisioned. I’m interested in hearing from anyone who fits somewhere on this spectrum, whether they’re actively losing weight or just concerned at the choices offered to women in this area. You are all very much welcome.