Spotlight: Dieting, Body Positivity, and Fat Shaming

Loyal readers of The Highlighter will notice that I tend to follow topics over time. For a several years, I’ve been interested in articles on dieting, body positivity, and fat shaming. Here are my favorites. Let me know what you think of this spotlight!

Roxane Gay’s New Memoir, Hunger, Is Her Most Feminist Act Yet

This is a profile of author Roxane Gay and a review of her new book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Ms. Gay writes about her weight, what it feels like to be fat, how our society can’t talk about fatness, and about how being a fat person of color negates gender. In addition to decrying the weight-loss industry, and self-help books, Ms. Gay writes about her shame, and whether there is a bottom of it, and how the shame and weight gain emerged from being raped when she was 12.

Weight Watchers Cruise: What It’s Like to Diet on Vacation

With “diet” fast becoming a four-letter word (“It’s not about dieting! It’s about health!”), what are you supposed to do if you want to shave off a few pounds? According to Weight Watchers, there’s no better answer than packing your bags and shoving off on a week-long Caribbean cruise—along with 600 fellow fitness fanatics who like you seek to attain their goal weight cooped up aboard a massive ship. This delightful first-person piece follows author Leah Prinzivalli and her battles with the bountiful buffet and the program’s weight loss coaches, who ask typical coachy questions like, “What are you noticing?” and my favorite, “How does that make you feel?”

Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age

The weight-loss industry is quickly gaining steam as a popular topic in The Highlighter. Here’s a full-blown magazine article about Weight Watchers and its attempts to stay relevant in our anti-dieting age. Being thin is out; being healthy is in. Calling someone fat is not OK; calling yourself fat is. What is a weight-loss company to do when it knows how weight loss works but can’t tell its customers the truth?

No Fatties: When Health Care Hurts

Our country doesn’t like fat people: They’re lazy, indulgent, and greedy. It turns out that doctors don’t like fat people, either. “A fat person walking into a doctor's office can expect lectures, condescension, and misdiagnoses from a medical culture that chalks every health issue up to weight,” author Cary Purcell writes. In other words, it may not be obesity that leads to worse life outcomes. Rather, it may be the scorn and contempt.

Diet and Exercise Don’t Work. To Lose Weight, Surgery is the Best Option.

After a season of cookies, cakes, candies, and pies, January is the time for resolutions involving weight loss. But bariatric surgery turns out to be the best treatment for obesity. Why do so few people — just 1 percent of eligible patients — get the procedure? And why is surgery even rarer among teenagers? Read what happened to 18-year-old Jewel Francis-Aburime, who weighed 394 pounds before doctors removed 80 percent of her stomach, and maybe there’s your answer.

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

It’s the New Year. How’s your diet? Are you doing the Whole30? The DASH, or maybe the Flexitarian? This article debunks our obsession with clean eating and warns against orthorexia nervosa. “Clean eating,” author Bee Wilson argues, “confirms how vulnerable and lost millions of us feel about diet — which really means how lost we feel about our own bodies.” Maybe my diet, The Intermittent Cookie, isn’t so bad after all.

What Fullness Is

In January 2018, Roxane Gay decided to get a sleeve gastrectomy, which greatly reduced the size of her stomach. “As a fat person,” Ms. Gay writes, “I am supposed to want to lose weight. I am supposed to be working on the problem of my body.” She told no one, not even her family, about the operation. Now she’s losing weight — but isn’t any happier.

Everything We Know About Obesity Is Wrong

Kids as young as 3 describe their larger classmates as “lazy” and “stupid.” Nearly half of 5-year-old girls worry about being fat. Doctors cut their appointments short for their obese patients, telling them to eat less and go on a diet. But diets don’t work. For too long, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence and has instead waged a futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives.