A friend in a Beyond Chocolate group received the inevitable “Come back to fat club, you need is, you’ve obviously let yourself go, and given up on life” letter from her former class leader today. It invited her to think about the possibility of a slimmer Christmas. After all, don’t we all dream of the little black dress, and the endless parties where we won’t actually be able to eat or drink anything for fear of piling on the pounds, but at least we’ll have done the zip up on our outfit?
What it really led me to think about, though, was the weight loss awards that each diet club has. Not the little stickers you get at each half stone, though I remember eagerly awaiting each one of those to add to my diet club portfolio. No, I mean the ones where the winner gets a photo shoot and makes it into the magazine for hundreds of thousands of desperate dieters to view and think “Wow, she did it, she’s wonderful, she’s clever, and she weighed about the same as me, so I must be able to lose weight with this club too!”
I never lost enough at class to be nominated for one of these super prizes. Even when I lost 4 stone, it wasn’t enough. I hadn’t made it to goal. I was a failure in my own eyes and I perceived myself as a failure to the rest of my class. And it mattered. I felt that my failure at losing all I wanted to lose was just typical of me. I failed at so much other stuff in my life, I couldn’t even get weight loss right! I wanted to be congratulated for my weight loss. For other people to look at me and to see me as successful at something. Successful at one thing. And it was a pattern I followed throughout my weightloss life. Every new diet, an opportunity to show the world around me that I’m not the big failure they all think I am. I can get one thing right! But every time I failed, and didn’t make it anywhere near nomination status, or weight loss success story status, enforced in me the belief that I was no good. A belief that I didn’t have the power to achieve anything.
It’s taken a long time, but it’s dawned on me today, these awards, these success stories, they’re not here to make us feel good about ourselves. They’re created and used to show us we NEED their weight loss products. They are putting across the belief that alone we are incapable of looking after ourselves and becoming slim. And that if we’re not slim, we are Big Fat Failures. To achieve slimness is to be the best we can be. We are not our best if we do not achieve it. And to achieve it we must deprive ourselves and remove various food stuffs from our diet. We must follow their rules to the letter, and accept that we cannot do it with out them. We need their food products, we need their support. We need to give them money, week in, week out.
For so long I wanted to be one of those success stories. Thinking adulation and praise of others would somehow complete me. But I realise finally it wouldn’t. The praise of strangers is nothing compared to the love and friendship that I have now. Genuine love of people who value me for more than a dress size. Sure, a photo shoot and new outfit would be nice, but so is a guilt free avocado whenever I want it! Weight loss continues to be a gradual thing, but it is happening. Quietly, without adulation or condemnation, and with no “You need us” letters coming through the door.
Those stories in all the magazines are there to encourage you, right to a seat in the nearest slimming club.