It’s that time of year again. That wonderful time when gyms and industries geared to making us feel bad about ourselves get a slew of new memberships because it’s a new year and it’s a new you! If you want to spend your time and money chasing the magical weight loss solution that will somehow solve all of your health/self-esteem issues, that’s fine (it’s not but that’s not what we’re talking about today). You can do what you want but think twice about how you talk about it because conversations based in weight loss are extremely abelist and classist.
Chances are the person speaking about their goals doesn’t mean to be abelist. They don’t think they’re being classist but the fact of the matter is that the weight loss industry is skewed strongly in the favor of able bodied people who are likely working at a level above poverty.
When we talk about weight loss there is often a component of working out and there are a ton of suggestions for how to work out with or without a gym, low impact, high impact, whatever. With all the options out there, one can question how can it be abelist? But the fact of the matter is that there are many people for whom even the most low impact of work outs is too much or very, very difficult.
Also, if you feel the need to mention some internet story you say with some disabled person who was ripped like Jesus even though they are missing a leg or something, just stop. Not here for the inspiration porn either.
Disability isn’t always obvious. Many people live with chronic, invisible illnesses and casually recommending water aerobics to someone ignores the very real health struggles they may have. Simply insisting that someone just needs to “try” ignores the struggles of people who have other health issues above and beyond their love handles and muffin top.
Some people have gained weight due to medication. Telling a person that they’ll feel better if they take the weight off is a slap in the face to a person who picked up extra pounds due to taking medication that keeps them alive and able to function.
Then there is the matter of telling someone to just “eat better” which is so problematic. Unfortunately “good” food (defined here as foods that are rich in nutrients for the purposes of this blog. In reality there is no such thing as good or bad food) is very expensive and many people live in food deserts adding an extra expense to going to get the food.
This is where the classism comes in with the added bonus of intersectionality because sadly, many disabled people live at or below the poverty line. Simply saying eat better ignores the fact that food is a commodity that many people do not have solid access too.
Then there are the invisible costs to food which include full kitchens to prepare and store as well as time to plan and cook. These are things that many people do not have in abundance and talking about food as if it falls from the sky ready to eat like we live in the world of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs stinks of privilege.
When we talk about weight loss, we talk about it as if it will be easy and all you need is willpower. This is what the diet industry wants you to believe. The fact of the matter is that a lot goes into losing weight or why weight was gained to begin with. Having the health and resources to lose weight is not something that everyone has access to and if you’re talking about it, then you should be mindful of that.
The circumstances that allow people to focus on exercise and diet are a privilege. Having access to grocery stores, gyms, and safe walking areas are privileges. Having the space to store food and the time to prepare it are privileges. Having a body strong and healthy enough to engage in physical activity is a huge privilege. Be mindful that not everyone has these.