In some respects, we as a society have become more accepting of others and their challenges. We seem to understand that people have emotional or professional slumps in their lives or wake up on the wrong side of the bed. However, I’ve realized that this understanding disappears when it comes to an aspect of a person’s life where they may need it the most: during a “weight loss” journey.
Society has a very black-and-white perspective on what it is to lose weight. This might be because being overweight is not as socially acceptable as being in a bad mood is or because it’s easy to judge someone based on their appearance. Regardless of the reason, when it comes to losing weight, it seems that if you are not making progress, you’re failing.
Although TikTok and Instagram are littered with “transformation Thursday” posts or “two-month transformation” videos, what is hardly detailed in these is the actual journey. Losing weight is a hard road. For most people, it’s less of a linear process and more of a roller coaster. Changing your entire lifestyle while people criticize you half the time and applaud you the rest of the time can be confusing and tiring. There are weeks where no matter how much you work, you don’t lose weight, and there are days that pass where you gain weight. This is the natural process of not only going on a “weight loss journey,” but of just being human. However, as natural as this is, it seems that inconsistent weight loss is the least acceptable method of progress. Gaining a few pounds after losing 20 is viewed as going downhill and eating food that is considered unhealthy is failing. The effect of this ideology bleeds into the people who are on this journey and transforms a slip-up that should be forgiven into a mistake that a person ends up beating themselves up about.
Ultimately, this makes it more challenging to lose weight. There is no longer only the challenge that comes with transforming a lifestyle and creating a new routine, but also coping with the guilt and pressure of having a “cheat meal” of s’mores at the beach or skipping a workout to spend time with friends. This makes it easier to fall into a trap of self-deprecation or binge-eating streaks—if someone feels like they are failing, it makes them less likely to keep trying.
The solution to this problem, like many societal issues, is not easy or quick. There needs to be an ideological change about weight in general. This kind of social change would require rebuilding the beauty standard, removing weight loss as a goal every “overweight” person should achieve and even understanding that everybody is different and should be respected.
We have come to a point where we need to not only work on being more accepting as a society but asking ourselves why things aren’t accepted in the first place. Instead of expecting people to want to lose weight, people should be encouraged to accept their healthy, strong bodies as they are. If people do want to lose weight, they shouldn’t be held to a perfect standard of linear weight loss and picture-perfect workout routines. The world is not black and white — and neither is anyone’s personal journey.