British Columbia·Opinion

Why weight loss isn't on my New Year's resolution list anymore

In a culture that stigmatizes fatness, it is not surprising that every Jan. 1, many of us locate the problem within our bodies and vow to lose weight.

Resolutions out of a place of guilt or shame are not the nicest way to start off new year

When we treat our bodies as a weight-loss project, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, writes Layla Cameron. (VGstockstudio/Shutterstock)

When we make resolutions, more often than not we are committing to resolve something that we identify as a problem.

In a culture that stigmatizes fatness, it is not surprising that every Jan. 1, many of us locate the problem within our bodies and vow to lose weight.

But when we treat our bodies as a weight-loss project, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. When we resolve to lose weight, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Statistically the majority of weight-loss attempts fail. And most dieters end up at a higher weight than what they started at. This weight cycling has severe health consequences such as an increased chance of having a stroke or impairing the immune system.

Irrational resolutions

There is a reason why resolutions focused on dieting or obsessive exercising are often abandoned after a few weeks: they don't work, and they don't feel good.

Our attitudes toward fatness often have little to do with fatness itself, but what it seems to stand for. Many associate having a thin body with being more attractive, more worthy of love, or as the key to achieving professional success.

New Year's resolutions make us think that if we fix ourselves, those things will come to us.

This way of thinking isn't completely irrational: It is true that thin people are more likely to be successful than fat people. Thin people make more money than fat folks and, in one study of more than 2,000 human resource professionals, 93 per cent said they would hire a non-fat candidate over a fat candidate with the exact same qualifications. 

Guise of health

This does not prove that fat employees perform more poorly than thin ones, or that fat people are less attractive or less deserving of love. What this indicates is that fatphobia permeates every aspect of our lives.

If we are going to resolve any problems, identifying and dismantling the institutional and systemic forms of discrimination and oppression that fat people experience would be a good place to start.

As anti-fat sentiments are often justified under the guise of health concerns, critical research in the field of fat studies that contradicts our understanding of fatness as a disease, or as life-threatening, might alleviate some of those anxieties 

What if New Year's resolutions were a commitment to seek more of what brought us joy in the past year? 

When we invest in the activities, people, and even foods that we know for a fact bring us happiness, we benefit so much more than if we remain fixated on the number on a scale. We deserve to be happy now, and not just when we feel our bodies have earned it.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.

About the Author

Layla Cameron is a PhD student in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. She also works as a journalist, filmmaker, and fat activist. You can learn more about Layla and her work at www.laylacameron.com.

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