Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The "Even though I didn’t do it for weight loss, I dropped about 10 pounds since the start of the diet" era

When it comes to feminism, I'm admittedly a bit all over the place. I can't get myself to care about wedding symbolism, let alone the question of which female celebrities identify as feminist robots as versus as humanist robots. But I'm deeply, deeply opposed to the thing where, if you're a woman (and this impacts men, too, but so much less), you could always be eating better, and you must forever be reminded of this. This is most awful when applied to women who are heavy (because it's always presented as, that the world will end if a woman is fat, which, no). But you maybe see the phenomenon's full evil the most clearly when it gets applied to women who would in no way - not socially, not medically - even plausibly stand to benefit from losing weight, who might actually be worse off skinnier, but who must nevertheless, because Woman, strive to be more toned or balanced or who even knows.

If this were simply about fatphobia, we could condemn it but call it by that relatively limited definition. Instead, it's fatphobia and woman-phobia. It's not just about getting/staying thin, it's about it never being OK for any woman to not think about what she eats. (And by "think about what she eats," I don't mean, Thai or Vietnamese?)

What somehow gets to me the most is the new Empowered genre, which goes beyond This Is Not A Diet diets, and is only deep, deep between the lines about... how it's not OK to just eat whatever. Because... what? Unclear. It's just not. Because Health, presumably, but what if you're feeling fine to begin with? What if there's no reason whatsoever to believe that introducing tremendous food concern into your life wouldn't make you less healthy? How is this possibility inevitably skipped over?

So yes, I'm thinking partly of Cupcakes and Cashmere featuring a nutritionist who's advocating (seriously) a #KonMari approach to diet, where you get rid of all your good socks and then are like, where are my socks?, and then lose 10 pounds. This nutritionist begins with a whole disclaimer about how she's not about smoothies and bowls (which are now a thing in Toronto, despite the snow and general non-SoCal-ness, which is just odd), but about - and aren't they always? - finding ways to get people (women) to be more thoughtful about (to think more about) what they eat. To be more aware. Which is about weight loss, but not necessarily, so it's not supposed to count.

But mainly I'm thinking about Refinery29 featuring a quack dermatologist's diet plan. "'You'll gain incredible radiance, greater contours, decreased puffiness, and higher cheekbones,'" Dr. Quack tells the author, a slim young woman with no perceivable skin concerns. And note that, apart from "radiance," the alleged skin concerns here are all weight concerns. You eat differently, and your face will look different, because you'll lose weight. And what do you think happens? "I glowed, my cheekbones stood at attention, and my clothes fit me a little bit better. For the first time since I started working out, I saw the beginnings of abs definition — something that had eluded me before." Also, "the contours of my face were more defined," notes the author, but surely this isn't any of it about weight, right? "Even though I didn’t do it for weight loss, I dropped about 10 pounds since the start of the diet." Was this woman ten pounds overweight before? Irrelevant - in this arena, the between-the-lines thinner is better still reigns. And we're somehow supposed to not read all the stuff about contours and cheekbones as being about weight. It's about skin tone, about decreasing euphemistic puffiness.

Which just, ugh. If you want to spend up on skincare products, enjoy. They probably won't do anything other than decrease your shoe-shopping budget (we all have priorities), but they won't involve giving up pasta/cheese/coffee/wine/joy for the sake of imperceptible physical changes. It's the diet thing, with its 24/7 attentiveness requirement, that needs to stop.

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