Melissa Toler is a health coach colleague and when I read her latest blog post, I wished I had written the same thing. So rather than re-invent the wheel, she gave me permission to feature her piece on my blog. This is really important and echoes my philosophy of health and my health coaching practice as well. I hope it resonates with you, too.
Why I Stopped Selling Weight Loss
Even though my bank account could use some of the $60 billion that Americans pump into the diet and weight loss industry every year, I'm opting out.
I've decided to stop selling weight loss. There was no lightbulb moment, no big breakthrough. This didn't happen overnight. It's been a gradual shift that's been in the works for a while.
My decision came almost a year ago, but I've been hesitant to write about it until now.
You might be asking "What does it mean to not sell weight loss?". It means that I won't tell you what you should eat, how much you should exercise or how much you should weigh.
I won't include testimonials on my website of women celebrating how many pounds or inches they've lost from working with me.
I don't work with women whose primary goal is to lose weight.
I don't even HINT at the idea that your life will be magically transformed or that you'll be a better person once you lose weight.
There are already plenty of people, qualified and not qualified, to help you with that.
And before we go any further: I'm not criticizing women who want to lose weight. I believe that you can do whatever you want with YOUR body. My critique is of the system and culture that convinces us that weight loss is a REQUIREMENT for a healthy, happy, full life. That it's an essential part of being a woman.
Because it isn't.
But you wouldn't know that by looking around. Our culture is fixated on fixing fatness...especially female fatness.
We're constantly reminded that body fat is bad on the female form and you should always be trying to get rid of it.
I've thrown a few thousand dollars into the hands of marketers who sold me on the idea that something was wrong with my body and I needed their product to fix it.
Think back to the first time you spent money to lose weight. Have you ever stopped? Your first time is NEVER your last time. That's the way it's designed...to keep you coming back for more and more and more...
I don't want any part of that..and here's why.
As someone who has actively participated in, and been bamboozled by, the diet industry for over 25 years, I've learned a lot of things along the way.
My break from diet culture and diet mentality has opened my eyes to the manipulation that kept me signing up for one diet after another.
Once I started to pay attention, I noticed that:
1.Weight loss marketing is full of fear. Fat-phobia runs rampant in our culture. You fear that you won't be beautiful, lovable or successful if you're not thin. Being programmed to believe that fat is the absolute worst thing you can be means you'll do whatever it takes to be less fat, right? That includes spending hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars to ease those fears.
2. Weight loss marketing is based in shame. When you've been told that your worth as a human being is based on your weight, it's kinda hard not to feel terrible about yourself. The intense feeling that you're a bad person simply because of the way you look is enough to keep you riding the diet rollercoaster for decades.
3. Weight loss marketers pretend to care about your health. Let's be real: in many circles, 'eating healthy' is just a euphemism for a diet and being healthy is usually code for losing weight. The reality is that weight loss companies don't give a flying fuck about your health. They only care about you dumping more cash into their coffers indefinitely.
And the biggest one of all:
4. Weight loss marketing is insidious and endless. Have you noticed? It happens all year long.
It starts in January with "New Year, New You", followed quickly by the "if-you-fell-off-the-wagon-let-us-help-you-get-back-on-track" ads in late February/early March. Then bikini season rolls around so you've got to get ready for that, because otherwise what the hell are you doing with your life???
Right around September (now known as the 'new January') is when you need to get back on track after a summer full of backyard BBQs, beer, and ice cream cones.
Then we close out the year with pre- and post- holiday season fear-mongering. This is when you spend the 8 weeks between Halloween and New Year's Eve obsessing about eating candy and drinking too much egg nog.
And we turn around and do it all over again...year after year.
I hate to watch women go through this cycle. What I hate even more, though, is watching women sell this nonsense to other women.
I become angry when I see women using fear- and shame-based marketing tactics to sell weight loss. Whether it's a 1200-calorie diet, a spot-reducing fitness plan or bullshit body wrap, it makes me want to rip my eyelashes out with a pair of hot tweezers.
When I take a step back and my nostrils stop flaring, I realize my anger isn't towards the women who do this. I believe that they believe they're helping people. (Well, at least some of them do. There are quite a few who know that their product doesn't work and that people will keep coming back forever and ever.)
The women who sell weight loss have succumbed to diet culture like everyone else. They've been convinced that the most important thing about being a woman is losing weight, getting your body back (from where??), or fitting into skinny jeans.
AND, they've realized they can make money (sometimes lots of it) selling this idea to others.
I have many friends who sell weight loss; these are incredible women whom I adore. They may even be reading these words right now. I don't think any of them are charlatans...at all.
So, I don't hate the player. It's the game I despise.
I would love it if we stopped selling the weight loss dream to each other, but that's probably not going to happen any time soon.
However, I believe we have a collective responsibility to offer women something different or we'll continue to perpetuate the cycle for generations.
I may be a dreamer, but I'm also realistic enough to know that when someone's income stream is wrapped up in fat-phobia and maintaining the status quo, they probably can't hear this.
I still believe this is an important conversation to have. And if you sell weight loss to women, it may be something for you to reflect on.
In the past year, I've done a lot of self-reflection about what I want to bring into the world. Right now, my business is more aligned with my beliefs than ever before.
Even though I'm not selling weight loss, I AM selling something.
I offer an alternative to the shame-filled, self-hating weight loss paradigm. My work is all about raising awareness of how our diet-obsessed, fat-phobic culture has ruined our relationship with food, our bodies, and each other.
I teach women the skills to make decisions on their own instead of relying on someone else to guide their every move.
But not everyone is buying. I make less money now than I did when weight loss was still on the table.
I'm not surprised. I get it. I even planned for it. My work goes against every single thing we've been taught about food, our bodies and our weight.
Many women would prefer to sign up for another round of Weight Watchers or try a clean-eating challenge because it's familiar. The devil you know...
There's a HUGE risk in letting go of the dream of being smaller. Lots of women aren't ready to take that leap yet.
And that's ok.
I wish I could do this work for free, but that's not the world we live in. The bank likes to receive my mortgage payments in U.S. currency, so I have to charge money for what I do.
I offer a lot of free resources because if you ever decide to work with me I want you to be an informed consumer. I want you to want what I'm selling and make the choice based on the truth.
The weight loss industry thrives on making us go out of our minds trying to figure out what's wrong with us and going into our wallets to try to fix it.
I just can't be a part of it.
MY PROMISE TO YOU:
I won't sell you something that I don't believe in.
I won't tell you that a great life is a direct result of mastering your body.
I won't even tell you that MY thing is the thing that will make your life better.
Because if I did, I'd only be perpetuating the cycle I claim to detest.
I know I'm fighting an uphill battle, I feel it every day. Some days I want to give up, but I don't. I keep moving.
Letting go of the diet mentality has freed up my time, mental space, emotional energy, and money.
I refuse to spend any of those precious resources selling you a lie.