Dear Weight Loss Industry (diets, exercise programs, supplements, plastic surgery, hollywood, you-know-who-you-are, etc.):
When I follow your lead, I feel like a monkey on a leash, grasping at the newest and best banana that gets thrown in my direction. Nothing is satisfying, everything is depriving. When I listen to your sweet whispers, I think not of romance, but of weakness—my own bone-gnawing weakness. I see my flaws in every detail, as if they are stuck on the repeat cycle of an Ipod shuffle. When I see the images you put on the screen and the false promises behind which you stand, I feel a desperate desire to prove myself even knowing I will fail.
When I follow you, I tie my own hands behind my back, place the blindfold over my eyes, and walk docilely to the hangman’s noose. My nostrils fill with the scent of failure, a stale stench of rotting vegetation and human waste. My ears pick up the pitiful sounds of carrion birds mournfully raising their song to the still air. But as they cease to call, the only sound that breaks the silence is my heavy footfall as I walk steadily to the noose. Something inside of me screams to get out, to fight back, to not give in, but still I walk toward the inevitable. It is second nature to quell the battlefield raging in my head because I have completely fooled myself into believing that walking towards this death will actually bring me the happiness I crave. I ignore health and sickness; I ignore friends, family, and God. In fact, as I place my neck inside the noose, my last thought is if I had only tried harder, then perhaps I might have achieved your impossible standard of beauty.
But no more. I have had enough. Blessedly, I have not hung myself with rope made from your empty promises. I managed to escape through the trapdoor at my feet. And now, I raise my voice, as small as it may be, in defense—no—in offense of your message and your tactics. I despise that you thrive on pointing out our perceived flaws and insecurities, that you use guilt and shame to sell your products. I despise that you decide the standard of beauty and health just because your voice is the loudest and the most funded. I despise that you literally lead people to the slaughter in pursuit of superficial goals that promise happiness but deliver failure. And most of all, I despise the fact that somehow you manage to convince us that your failure is our failure, that your empty promises are a result of our lack of willpower.
I say enough is enough. Although I hope to end my personal fight against you and find peace, I will never stop fighting for all those who are still walking towards the noose. I do not pretend that this world will ever be free of you in my lifetime, but know this, I will fight until my dying breath, and my words will fight long after that. I look towards our own noble history and see that one voice is powerful enough to stand in opposition your reign of manipulation and artful deceit. I am not a utopian, but I see potential—the great, godlike potential of men and women to lift up what we have been given to something greater than what it was at the beginning.
I see a world where we are accepting bodies of all shapes and sizes as beautiful and encouraging health at every size. I see a world where magazines feature stories of human greatness rather than the newest bikini-ready body or crash diet. I see a world where women can sit down together to eat and converse and not feel the need to mention the nutrition or calorie-count of their food, or enter the shark-infested waters of communal body bashing. I see a world where we enjoy food for its satisfying quality and energy value rather than its scientifically proven nutritional value.
I see a world where we move our bodies and exercise, not out of envy, or guilt, or feelings of personal disgust, but because we recognize the strength of muscles, and the graceful movement of limbs. The movement enlivens us as we praise the bodies we have been given. I see a world where we can drive down a street littered with advertisements and have companies trying to sell retail with quality items not half-naked airbrushed objects. I see a world where confidence comes from knowledge of our inherent worth as human beings rather than our body’s health or size.
I raise my voice against your world. You better watch out because my voice is small now, but it won’t be for long. I have had enough. Haven’t you?