I thought long and hard about this one. It all started when I posted an article by my she-ro, Virgie Tovar, "Can you give me some body positive weight loss tips?", and my friend Maggie and I got into a discussion about whether or not that was an appropriate question to ask a fat activist.
So, let's get to it. Can you be body positive and want to lose weight?
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: bodily autonomy is a rallying cry of the body positive movement. You should be able to do what you want for your body and have that choice be recognized, validated, and celebrated.
Now, it gets complicated, because being body positive means accepting and loving your body just as it is, first and foremost. It means freeing yourself from the negative messages of diet culture, and a world that wants to convince you that your body isn't good enough.
So is it counter-intuitive to be body positive and want to lose weight? Sometimes, yeah. In fact, most of the time it is pretty counter-intuitive, because full acceptance means you're good with things As They Are, not how they will be 10 lbs from now.
That said, there are at least several reasons folks want to lose weight. Maybe they've been advised that it would help a medical condition they have. Perhaps they felt better at a lower weight. Post-partum, a lot of ladies want to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy.
That all sounds reasonable, right? Well, I think we should look critically at the driving force behind those motivations, just to be sure we're on track. The medical industry uses weight loss a lot as a panacea, and doesn't work with its fat patients to address their deeper medical issues independent of weight. Be critical of an off-the-hip "lose weight" diagnosis, because it's been used for so long as the answer to everything. It's lazy. Your healthcare professional should do better.
As for feeling better at a lower weight, there could be some truth to that. My joints are still achy from the pregnancy weight and the extra weight I'm carrying now because of breastfeeding. However, those could also be hormonal changes. My body is super out of whack as it recovers, so who knows? I'm waiting to see how things play out.
I'm also resisting all the post-partum cultural messages that say we have to snap back into action as if we never had a baby, as if we could erase our own body's history by having an immediately flat stomach. (Though let's be honest, I've never had a flat stomach. Ever.) I'm doing a lot of writing about accepting your body post-partum as is, because those messages are damaging.
So, once you've figured out why you want to lose weight and have determined that it's less of a cultural pressure to do so, and something you'd like to do just for yourself, I think you can be body positive and try to make a change to your body. The key factor is to be loving as hell about it.
Just like exercising more, or eating a bunch of plants, drinking water, and other healthy decisions, you can approach losing weight the same way. Make incremental changes, don't obsessively track shit, do NOT beat yourself up if it doesn't happen quickly (expect that it WON'T), and give yourself nice messages and practice self-care every day. Know you're doing what you want to do FOR YOU, not for anyone else. That's how to be body positive about any bodily change.
Now then, to answer the unsaid question here: can you be fat positive and want to lose weight?
It's as easy as that. It's pretty much against all stated goals of the fat positive movement to try to be losing weight while you're participating. Does that suck? Maybe. Could that make one feel excluded? Sure. But is that the fat positive movement's problem? NOPE.
Look, there are so few spaces where it is okay to be fat positive. Don't waltz in to those spaces and ask for validation for weight loss. It's not cool. Fat folks have to do a lot of work just to exist in the world. They face discrimination, hate crimes, and a whole host of other bad shit just because of their bodies.
So do not perform weight loss in front of them. Don't ask for help, don't post to social media about your weight loss struggles, don't bring it up. Not the space for it. You can go literally ANYWHERE ELSE and have the choice to lose weight and your performance of it validated. Make Jillian Michaels your BFF or whatever. But don't be a dick to fat people. They get enough of that already.