A lot of people just assume that you're healthy if you've lost weight.
When you see someone who has lost weight, you don't actually witness a montage featuring some cool glam rock where your friend is doing jump ropes, eating vegetables, and celebrating on top of a mountain (That'd be cool though.)
BUT..... Weight loss also means more than just health to the people who are impressed by it.
Weight loss is a form of cultural capital. This is a fancy sociology term for the phenomenon of finding somebody cool for traits besides money, like middle schoolers admiring yo-yo tricks or possession of giga-pets.
In modern society, today, however, being thin or losing weight signifies social power. It's something that my homegirl, Isabel Foxen Duke recently discussed in a podcast with Summer Innanen and it's something I've mentioned before in my blog posts.
Being skinny often means:
1) You are more "attractive."
In a Tinder-focused dating world, people are doing a lot of judging books by covers. Usually our standards for beauty are based off what we see over and over again in films, movies, television, and magazines. Unfortunately, what is considered "beautiful" is often being thin.
Being more attractive is a form of social currency and therefore power. It means, especially as a female, that you've got access to better potential mates. According to an article from Business Insider, it means you might even earn more money.
2) You are "good" because you have "willpower."
In a world where calories in and calories out is the dialogue of diet culture, someone who has successfully lost weight shows great strength of character. If you can exercise more and eat less, you must be "good." I attempted to write a paper about this in college so I think it deserves more than a few sentences in my blog post (in fact, I recommend this piece by Sarah Yahm). Sticking to a diet constitutes being a moral person because you have not "succumbed" to the "gluttony."
3) You are capable of anything. It's the American Dream for the American body.
Someone being skinny or being able to achieve a new body size is kind of a proof-of-concept (more on this coming soon) for the rest of us that we too can become "skinny."It tells us that we are capable and reinforces the moral imperative to be "good" with food and exercise so we too can achieve the ideal body.
Unfortunately, the downside of this belief is that it reinforces the idea that fat shaming and discrimination are okay because we have these people who have "overcome" their obesity or overweight-ness. So, people who can't get a handle on it basically deserve the treatment that they get.
All this to say that weight discrimination is not really fair:
Attractiveness shouldn't be based off what a bunch of suits at magazine and television companies think is attractive. Also, why not just have more diverse bodies represented in the media anyway? This would solve a lot of problems.
If you've been reading this blog, you know that diets don't work. Willpower doesn't work. Your body is too smart to let you starve it without figuring out how to compensate.
If diets don't work, it's not really fair to believe that any kind of body you might want is achievable. It's especially not fair to treat other people differently if their bodies don't look like the bodies you saw while watching Hulu last night.
In the comments, let me know the reasons that weight loss appeals to you or if any of these really resonate with you.
PS — my girl Isabel Foxen Duke just put out an amazing free video training series about emotional eating, binge-eating and generally “feeling crazy around food.” Ya know, like thinking about food and dieting all day long, only to end up with your fingers in a jar of peanut butter that evening. If “feeling crazy around food and weight” is a sentiment you relate to, I highly encourage you to sign up for her free training here.